If you can believe it, I wanted to visit Scotland after only reading Outlander. Once I saw the first season of the show on Starz though, that is when I knew I had to visit. Read this post to learn how to visit all the must see Outlander sites in Scotland!
The way that Diana Gabaldon describes Scotland and the Scots is simply beautiful. She has a very engaging style that makes you feel like you’re there with Claire and Jamie. Personally, I think they’ve done a wonderful job adapting the books to television. My only wish is that they could do more! The books are LONG and full of gorgeous details. The show is lovely, but just a snippet of the world created by Gabaldon. If you’re a fan of the books or the show, you must visit these Outlander sites in Scotland!
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The Magic of Scotland
The first book and first season of the show are set in Scotland. Although the series moves on through nine books to other lands (no spoilers!), Scotland will always hold a bit of the Outlander lover’s heart. I think Scotland itself is magical, but getting wrapped up in a story in Scotland is extra special.
On your trip to Scotland you can visit real life inspiration for the stories and also filming locations. Many of the characters, villages, and events were inspired by the real thing. The show is full of stunning landscapes and historic locations all in Scotland!
The Outlander Series
I don’t remember who recommended Outlander to me, but I picked it up from the library in 2013. Maybe I had heard they were making a show? Not sure. Regardless, I read it in record time. Like, one weekend. I immediately ordered the other six books and started devouring them. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood came out in 2014 and I read that just as quickly. In 2021, Go Tell the Bees That I’m Gone was released – and you best bet I preordered it! I’m currently about 70% done and am trying my best to savor it. Diana Gabaldon has also written several novellas and short stories – I’ve read and loved them all! She has already announced that she is working on book ten and I know I cannot wait.
You can rent Outlander from your library or buy it here. If you’re a show-watcher but haven’t read the books, give them a try!
Must See Outlander sites in Scotland
My solo trip to Scotland was very heavily an Outlander and Harry Potter fan adventure. Although I did some other historical and hiking activities, a lot of my itinerary was driven by visiting the below locations. I did visit all of them except Hopetoun Estate, which I’ll go into more below.
Note: I had a rental car for my trip and have written this guide based on self-driving. Many of these places would be difficult and complicated to reach via public transportation. I highly recommend renting a car – it isn’t scary at all once you try it! You can read my guide to driving in Scotland as an American here. I also recommend bringing a phone holder for the car. This is the exact one that I use daily and I brought it to Scotland with me!
Another note: Many of the tourist locations close or have limited hours in the winter. Please check before you plan around something to make sure it is open!
In April 1746, the Jacobites (Stuart supporters) lost in a decisive and bloody battle on the moor at Culloden. It marked the end of the Jacobite rebellion and in some ways, the Highland way of life. The years that followed saw some of the harshest restrictions on the Scottish people, including the ban on wearing tartan! Today the battlefield is home to a beautiful monument and there are stones marking the loss of the clansmen. A visitor center and museum are also onsite.
In Outlander: The entirety of the first two books and seasons of the show lead up to Culloden. Claire knows it is imminent and what happens to the Jacobites. In the last episode of Season 2 (Dragonfly in Amber, also the name of the second book), Claire visits the memorial in 1968. The first episode of Season 3 depicts the actual battle, filmed at the battle site memorial.
How to visit: Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Center is located five miles outside Inverness. The visitor center and museum is open 10am – 4pm. Book your ticket in advance and don’t skip the museum! It is very informative and interesting. Parking is free, but they do close the gate after the visitor center closes so don’t linger. You can park outside the main gate and access the battlefield at any time, it is open 24 hours. The stone marking Clan Fraser (depicted in the show) is just across the path from the memorial tower. I recommend planning to spend 2-3 hours here, particularly if it is a nice day. Walking through the beautiful fields of heather is an extremely humbling and thoughtful experience, considering what happened there so many years ago.
The graves in this prehistoric cemetery are over 4,000 years old! A combination of standing stones, stone piles, and other various cairns form this historical site.
In Outlander: Although not exactly in Outlander, the standing stones here are easily accessible! There are a few upright ones like the ones depicted at Craigh na Dun. I’m not sure if they were inspirational, but it’s one of the largest stone sites on the mainland. To get the huge stone circles and massive archeological sites you need to travel to the Hebrides.
How to visit: Clava Cairns is open 24 hours and there is ample parking. I recommend going during the daylight, but it probably has a special magic at dusk or dark, too. You will have to drive on a few single-track roads to get there but it is worth it. It is only a 5 minute drive from Culloden Battlefield, so you can easily do these things together.
Craigh na Dun
The standing stones that transport Claire to 1743 unfortunately do not exist. They were created from styrofoam for the television show. However, you can visit the filming location and experience almost the same level of magic. It is instantly recognizable, even without the stones!
In Outlander: Craigh na Dun in the books is a stone circle where Frank and Claire Randall visit on their honeymoon in 1948. Claire returns to the site to pick some flowers, then hears a buzzing and touches one of the standing stones. She wakes up in 1743 and from there the story begins! They created faux stones for the show, but it is featured in several episodes throughout the series. This was one of my favorite Outlander sites in Scotland!
How to visit: Although simple enough to find, it is pretty remote. This is a link to the exact location of the parking area. Luckily (and strangely?) there is a Google Maps location for Craigh na Dun so you can literally just google maps it. It is about 2 hours from all the major hub cities – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fort William, and Inverness. I stopped at Craigh na Dun on my drive from Fort William and stayed the night in Aberfeldy. In the morning I continued on to Stirling for the day. It is not really “easy” to get to, but I knew I wanted to see it and I am SO glad that I did!
It is located on private property, so please please please be respectful. There is space for several cars to park at the base of their driveway. Follow the instructions listed on the sign and go through the walking gate rather than the drive-thru gate. I visited just before sunset and there was no one else there – just me and the sheep!
This 500-year-old medieval castle is an amazing historical site. In ruins now, it was once the seat of extreme power on Loch Ness. The visitor center and what remains of the castle is a great way to spend a few hours.
In Outlander: Although it is not featured in the show at all, it is in the book briefly. I had actually forgotten about it until I arrived in Scotland! So, a funny story. I actually downloaded the Outlander audiobook to listen to on my road trip. On my second day (first full day) in Scotland I started the hour drive to Urquhart and pressed play…and Claire and Frank were headed to Urquhart Castle, too! Very early in the first book they take a boat across Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle. As I expected, listening to Outlander while driving through the Highlands was quite an experience but I could not have planned that one better!
How to visit: Located on the west side of Loch ness, it is an easy drive to visit Urquhart Castle from Inverness (20 miles) or Fort William (50 miles). Book your tickets in advance on their website to make sure you get a time slot. Although there are ramps, it is a significant hill down to the castle itself from the visitor’s center. Keep that in mind if you have difficult walking or are traveling with folks with mobility considerations.
Highland Folk Museum
Originally opened on the island of Iona in 1935, it was moved to the mainland a few years later. Additional buildings and collections were continuously added over the years. You can read more about the history here.
In Outlander: Several scenes from Season 1 were filmed here. When Claire goes out with the MacKenzies to collect rents, this is where she works wool with the local women.
How to visit: There is an entry fee to visit the HIghland Folk Museum and I recommend booking online in advance. Free parking is available right on site and there is plenty of it. They also have a cafe and gift shop, which was nice because I did get hungry and there wasn’t much else around. Be prepared for a lot of walking outside. I think it is something like 2 miles end to end.
Built in the 14th century, this castle has seen a lot! Passed through the Scottish royal family until King James I. Roman fort ruins can be found nearby, indicating that this site was home to structures even earlier.
In Outlander: Doune Castle is Castle Leoch in the Outlander show. The outside and courtyard areas are all featured in the show over multiple episodes. It’s also Winterfell in Game of Thrones and the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail!
How to visit: Unfortunately, Doune Castle is closed indefinitely for repairs. They discovered some pretty serious issues during an inspection and deemed it unsafe for visitors. However, you can still drive up to it and walk around the outside. There was an attendant in the parking lot when I arrived letting guests know. Without being about to go inside I only spent about 20 minutes here. It is about 15 minutes north of Stirling and there is plenty of signage.
Set in a little village in Fife, this bed and breakfast is everything. It only has five rooms, a small restaurant and bar, and a little bakery. When the weather is nice, sitting outside on their patio is a must!
In Outlander: The Covenanter was the setting for Mrs. Baird’s B&B – where Claire and Frank spend their second honeymoon. The village of Falkland with it’s monument in the square was supposed to be 1940s Inverness. Although there is a pergola over their patio now, the Covenanter looks much the same as it does in the show.
How to visit: I found Falkland absolutely charming and cannot wait to return. It is about an hour north of Edinburgh and 30 minutes east of St Andrews. Although I recommend staying there if you can, you should definitely make a stop.
The Outlander Room, with views of the square, runs about £155/night for weekends in the high season and £110-120/night in low season. The other rooms are slightly less. Book well in advance because they only have five rooms!
If you cannot stay overnight, you can still visit the restaurant. Enjoy a nice whiskey on the patio and watch the bustle of the small village.
The Hope family has lived on this estate outside Edinburgh for over 300 years! The house and grounds are beautiful and show so much Scottish history.
In Outlander: The house and surrounding buildings were used in filming for several scenes. In Season One it portrayed the Duke of Sandgringham’s home and two fighting scenes (including a duel!). A courtyard was used as a Paris street in Season 2.
How to visit: Although it is only 30 minutes outside Edinburgh, this is not easily reached without a car. The nearest bus stop is almost 2 miles away! Book your tickets online in advance to make sure they are available when you plan to visit.
Midhope castle (Hopetoun Estate)
Midhope Castle has been rebuilt and added onto several times, but is about 450 years old. It has been uninhabited for over 100 years and unfortunately has deteriorated significantly. Today it is on a working farm as part of the Hopetoun Estate.
In Outlander: Some of the most iconic scenes, and certainly some of the most heartwarming and wrenching, were filmed outside Midhope Castle. It is used as Lallybroch, Jamie’s home, in the series. The trails and buildings around Midhope Castle are also used for several scenes.
How to visit: Like many other places, Midhope Castle is closed for winter so plan accordingly. It costs £4 per person to access the land. There is a small parking area here and a gate keeping you from driving past. Book your entry online in advance and then just tell your name to the gate attendant. I highly recommend booking the earliest time and getting there a little early. Because I did that, I had nearly 20 minutes of uninterrupted exploration time! As I was leaving though, there were tour groups showing up and people EVERYWHERE walking up the path. The gate attendant was also super nice and pointed out some lesser known filming locations on the property. This is also private land and a working farm, so stay alert and get out of the way of any vehicles or equipment.
The Royal Burgh of Culross is on the Firth of Forth about 45 minutes drive from Edinburgh. Culross Palace was built by a merchant and businessman at the end of the 16th century. Once a bustling port, now the village is much slower paced with only a few hundred residents.
In Outlander: There are so many! The Palace has been used many times for the show. As you tour, there are little signs noting what scenes were filmed in what rooms. Additionally, the whole town itself was the village of Cranesmuir in season one, where Claire and Geilis Duncan are tried as witches! You can visit the square (Mercat Cross) and also the exterior of Geilis’s house (Tanhouse Brae). Outside Culross about a mile is the West Kirk, which was the Black Kirk in the show. I highly recommend reading Sophie from Third Eye Traveller’s guide on Culross here. That is where I got all my information!
How to visit: You can take the bus from Edinburgh (1 hour 45 minutes) or train+bus from Stirling (1 hour) if you must. However it is only a 45 minute drive from Edinburgh, so again I recommend a car. The town itself is very small. There are two free car parks on either end of the town. I parked in the west car park. From there you can walk anywhere within just a few minutes.
The West Kirk is up the hill and down a walking path about a mile north of the village. I just used Google Maps and it led me there. The walking paths also had signs at intersections. If the weather has been nice, you could drive to this location but I wouldn’t park and leave your car there for long. I believe it is an access to the fields, so it could be illegal to park there.
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is the street running from Holyrood House to Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh. It is also known as High Street. Although touristy now, it holds a significant place in history as the main route through the city. Today you’ll find restaurants and shops all along the street.
In Outlander: Claire mentions High Street several times while she is in Edinburgh with Prince Charles and the Jacobites. In Voyager, Jamie’s print shop is in Edinburgh – in Carfax Close. For filming, they used the real Bakehouse Close as the location for A. Malcolm’s Print Shop. They also mention The World’s End in Voyager, a real pub on the Royal Mile.
How to visit: No trip to Edinburgh is complete without a stroll down (and maybe back up?) the Royal Mile. This is the entrance to Bakehouse Close. It is just to the right of the Museum of Edinburgh. If you just Google Bakehouse Close it will try to take you around the back way to the “center” and that gets confusing. The steps leading to A. Malcolm’s print shop is immediately when you come out of the tunnel. The World’s End is about halfway between Holyrood and Edinburgh Castle. If you want to eat there I would prepare to wait or go at an off time.
There you have it – my must see Outlander sites in Scotland! I mentioned earlier in this post that my itinerary was Outlander and Harry Potter focused…you can read my Harry Potter’s Scotland post here. I’ve also written detailed one-day guides for Inverness and Edinburgh. Have you been to Scotland? Are you an Outlander fan?
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