Finding Jamie Fraser (Outlander Tour)

By | Category: travel, Travel destinations

By Nemma Wollenfang

Copyright Channel 4 Outlander Press Pack

My mum and I have been big fans of the Outlander series since Season 1 (well, since Cross Stitch for my mum, she read Diana Gabaldon‘s books before they were “cool”), and as a published author I have a particular interest in the saga, so this year we decided to do an Outlander Tour and visit the film sites, cramming as much as we could into just three days.

Now, when planning the trip, we had a glance at some of the ‘official tours’ on offer, but several were in excess of £1500 and only covered a portion of the good stuff, so we designed our own agenda. Much cheaper and we could take our time. We also picked and chose what we wanted to see. Our specific itinerary is included below.

The Wedding Church (Glencorse Old Kirk)

Photo credit: Nemma Wollenfang

Photo credit: Nemma Wollenfang

This was our first stop. The charming little church is where Jamie and Claire ‘tie the knot’ – a must-see site for any Outlander fan and a personal favourite for me. It is nestled in the grounds of Glencorse House, which is privately owned and a popular wedding venue, so to visit the Old Kirk we emailed the owner in advance. She took us on a private tour, which included many amusing tales about the time the cast and crew spent filming here. There are some beautiful historic headstones in the surrounding grounds too, with carvings of skulls, hourglasses and angels. Which is what gave it the nickname, the Pirates’ Graveyard. Robert Lewis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island) also frequented this church.

Sat Nav is okay for this site. There is a bit of a steep slope up to the church, so take care if you visit. Contact: sarah@glencorsehouse.com (Tours: £10 per person)

Lallybroch (Midhope Castle)

Photo credit: Nemma Wollenfang

Midhope Castle was our next site. Known, more commonly to us fans, as Lallybroch. The castle itself is derelict. You can’t go inside. But a walk around the exterior is still worth it. You can sit on the steps Claire sat on, place a hand on the archway Jamie rode through, and by doing so touch on the magic of the series. A parking permit needs to be purchased (£10 per car). You can get this from the Farm Shop nearby; the staff there provide directions. If going to the castle, don’t rely on the Sat Nav – it’ll lead you on a wild goose chase. And KEEP YOUR PERMIT. It gave us a discount at our next site, which Midhope sits in the grounds of.

Note: keep an eye on the website for closures. Midhope isn’t accessible for a portion of the year.

Sandringham’s Estate & Others (Hopetoun House)

Photo credit: Nemma Wollenfang

I highly recommend this location, as this splendid manor featured as various places in seasons 1, 2 & 3. The back featured as the front of the Duke of Sandringham’s stately home, whereas the front played a role as the impressive Ellesmere manor. The red drawing room appeared as Sandringham’s abode; the grounds as Helwater land; the exterior as Parisian streets; the internal rooms as Jamie and Claire’s Paris apartment; and the back of the café even featured as the front of Maison d’Elise (the infamous French brothel).

We ate lunch there without realising! Luckily we saw it before leaving. There are many friendly volunteers on site and all are eager to offer directions and information. A free Outlander map of the filming spots is also provided on request. Later this year, a Bonfire/Fireworks Night (3rd November) and a Christmas Fair (30th November – 2nd December) are scheduled here.

Sat Nav takes you part way, recommend you follow the signs.

Photo credit: Nemma Wollenfang

Fort William (Blackness Castle)

Standing sentinel over the Firth of Forth is this impressive edifice – which substituted as the setting of Fort William, Black Jack Randall’s headquarters. It appeared in the heart-wrenching scene where Jamie is flogged. We were running late when we got here. It was near closing. So we only did a fly-by visit. Drove up and away. Still, we recognised some of the building from the series. 

Wentworth Prison (Linlithgow Palace)

We didn’t get to go inside here, as we arrived at closing, but we did see the exterior and, had we had more time, we would have returned. Despite being ruined, the palace still seeps charm and character. Linlithgow featured as Wentworth Prison in Season 1, where Jamie was imprisoned. The entrance and corridors were used in filming. The palace is also well-known as the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, so it has a wealth of history.

Stirling Castle

This is where we began our second day. While not actually an Outlander site, it is in the area and well worth a visit. If, for nothing else, the stunning panoramic views – which include the William Wallace monument. The castle is situated atop a vast intrusive crag, and a number of Scottish Kings and Queens were crowned here, including Mary Queen of Scots. Inside, much of the medieval wall art has also been restored in vibrant colour. If visiting, I’d recommend arriving early, as it quickly became crowded while we were there. There’s a car park at the top (£4). But back to Outlander… 

Castle Leoch (Doune Castle)

Photo credit: Nemma Wollenfang

A definite must-see location. Doune Castle was also used as Winterfell in Game of Thrones, and in Monty Python. It featured largely in Outlander’s first season as the fictional Castle Leoch. Here you receive a free audio tour – which includes an excellent section by Sam Heughan (our Jamie). The internal stairs are quite steep, so I recommend comfortable footwear. My mother didn’t visit the upper floors here

as the climb was a bit daunting.

 

Versailles (Drummond Castle Gardens)

Photo credit: Nemma Wollenfang

The Castle itself isn’t accessible, but the ornate gardens – which are known as one of the finest examples of a formal garden in Europe – are truly outstanding and stand in as the Gardens of Versailles in Season 2. A leisurely stroll around these, with ice-cream purchased at the gift shop, made for a splendid end to our second day. It appeared to be dog-friendly as several people were walking theirs. Keep an eye out for the peacocks.

1940’s/1960’s Inverness (Falkland)

Photo credit: Nemma Wollenfang

We loved this town. Falkland was a lovely beginning to our final day. It also had the advantage of being free to visit and easily accessible. It features largely in Episode 1. The Covenanter Hotel stands in as Mrs Baird’s Guesthouse, and Fayre Earth Gift Shop features as Farrell’s Hardware and Furniture Store (where Claire contemplates the vase). There is also a lovely cafe, which doubles as Campbell’s coffee Shop in the show. The central fountain is a must-see for any Outlander aficionado – where ‘ghost Jamie’ leaned while observing Claire. Falkland Palace is also situated on the main street and features as a back-drop in the series. 

Le Havre French Port (Dysart Harbour)

Photo credit: Nemma Wollenfang

This picturesque harbour was used in Season 2, when Jamie and Claire disembarked from their ship into the French port of Le Havre, where St. Germain’s warehouse is based. While the harbour is walled, the tip had the potential of being treacherous in high winds (so if visiting, take care) but it was ideal for a quiet, leisurely stroll. For a bit of lunch we stopped by the Harbourmaster’s House, which offers a variety of appetising hot sandwiches or soup. The Sat Nav stopped several miles short here so it took us a while to find it. If visiting, I’d recommend using the Harbourmaster’s House’s postcode.

Fictional Monastery (Aberdour Castle)

This twelfth century castle stood in as the fictional monastery where Claire and Murtagh bring Jamie to recover after his mistreatment at Black Jack Randall’s hands in Wentworth prison. The long gallery and kitchen were used in filming. It was a lovely, quiet location to conclude our tour before travelling home. The stunning aged paintwork on the wooden ceilings was particularly breath-taking – if visiting, make sure not to miss it.

 

Other Sites we didn’t visit:

Further North: Culloden & Highland Folk Museum.

Culloden is the famous battleground much of the story revolves around, and the Highland Folk Museum was used in the Season 1 Episode ‘Rent’. Together, these are an extra 4 hour drive away – which is probably why they are not included in general tours.

There are a number of other locations but the main ones available are above.

Main lessons learned from this tour:

  • Follow signs and take a map! The Sat Nav will get you lost.
  • Wear sensible shoes!  Good footing is essential in and around some of these locations.

The entire trip was thoroughly enjoyable and I would recommend the trek for any fan, especially while we all wait on tenterhooks for the beginning of Season 4.

 

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