The year is 1975, farm animals are being catapulted at King Arthur, with insults such as 'your mother was a hamster' (Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Fast forward to 2011 at the same location, the courtyard is filled with the Starks (Game of Thrones). By 2014, it was transformed into Castle Leoch for Jamie and Claire (Outlander). I am, of course, talking about Doune Castle.
Found in Stirlingshire, with a 100ft gatehouse and views of Ben Lomond and the River Teith, is it any wonder that film production teams keep returning? Dating back to the medieval period, the castle was damaged during the Scottish Wars of Independence but rebuilt by the 1st Duke of Albany, a grandson of Robert the Bruce.
By Tudor times, the castle was used by Margaret Tudor as a dower house; her granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots also visited several times. In 1570, John Moon was tortured within the castle walls for carrying letters for Mary while she was in captivity.
Mary's son, James VI would surprise two conspirators at Doune before they could carry out their plots against him. So the castle has seen lots of drama on and off screen. Today the castle is under the protection of Historic Scotland, gifted by the 20th Earl of Moray. The 14th Earl is responsible for the panelling found in the Lords Hall. The courtyard, gatehouse and staircase immortalised in film are worth the visit alone, but the Great Hall is also fully intact and a sight to see. Book your visit.
Another Outlander photo op is Blackness Castle, renamed in the show as 'Fort William'. The Bruce (1996) and Hamlet (1990) with Mel Gibson, were also filmed here. Known as 'the ship that never sailed' due to the location, jutting into the waves of the Forth.
In the 16th century, the castle was property of the Crown and the most advanced artillery fortifications in Scotland. This was due to the Earl of Arran's illegitimate son, Sir James Hamilton of Finnart. He toured Europe and used his own castle, Craignethan, to showcase new ideas and technological advancements. He would eventually be executed for treason, the castle would still fall to Cromwell in 1650, as the advances were then outdated, but today Blackness is only one of three still to have a caponier at the entrance.
Over the centuries the castle was used as a prison and many famous ships would have been seen at its docks. A prison cell that held Cardinal Beaton can still be seen today, as a member of the clergy his imprisonment would not have been as uncomfortable as lower class prisoners or indeed poor Jamie's stay there (if you know, you know - #FreeJamie). Visitors can enjoy a walk around the battlements and soak in the views over the water and more than likely some cool Scottish drizzle. Book your visit.
A Scottish castle not to feature in Outlander, is Culzean Castle, probably due to the castle being built in the late 1700's and thus after the Outlander timeline. In saying that, what historical show doesn't have inaccuracies, so watch this space... It can be seen as Lord Summerisle's home in the cult classic The Wicker Man (1973), it was used to film a few episodes of Antiques Roadshow and had a visit from Derek Acorah and Yvette Fielding on Most Haunted due to the ghosts that keep visitors company. The castle is now in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland after being gifted by the Kennedy clan in 1945. It has a military history so plenty of weapons and artillery are on display as well as a room used by President Eisenhower on his visits.
Eisenhower was given an apartment in the castle for his personal use, as recognition for his role in the Second World War. The connection to the president, the oval staircase and a beautiful oval sun room with a terrace area overlooking the sea have all contributed to the castle being seen as the 'Scottish White House'.
Caves below were once used to smuggle in contraband goods from Ireland and are open to private tours during the summer . A gift shop, cafe and secondhand bookshop are also available within the grounds and if you hear a piper, it's just one of the ghostly residents still looking for his faithful dog, before they both disappeared from sight forever. Book your visit.
Guest Blog by Gemma Lynn
Photographs by Natalie the History Buff