Saturday, September 2nd - Glasgow, Torbrex Farm, Highland Games, Roslyn Glen Park to Cowdenbeath
On Saturday morning, my stay in Albion Hotel in Glasgow ended and I had to get all my things together into my suitcases. I had already ordered my taxi the day before for 8.50 in the morning, made a list of my most important destinations for the day in the night after my return from the pub, this being very important since I had no passenger to assist while driving and I didn’t want to lose time on tour. Therefore, I needed all aimed sites in most accurate order and with their post codes for my satnav. The taxi took me in 20 minutes to the airport, this was where I wanted to pick up my rental car as booked. Of course, I had (once more) trouble, couldn’t open the confirmation document on my cell phone (print out!! next time!) and none of the local rental companies had my name on their lists. The terminal was just a few meters further where I had free Wi-Fi and found out it was Europcar. But there was the next problem, they had prepared my car to be picked up in a station in the city while I had wanted and booked to pick it up at the airport. I’ve absolutely no idea how this could have happened. However, the staff was really helpful and gave me the next best car they had since I insisted on automatic gear and satnav and unfortunately, there was (again) no small car available as ordered, but a Volvo SUV, quite big but ok. I had no much of a choice if I didn’t want to get back to the city and lose another 1-2 hours. A little getting used to the car, satnav was quite complicated to handle with a knob to turn and confirm from one letter/number to the next one, but I couldn’t imagine to drive without satnav. I could have also used Google maps on my cell phone – what I did a few times when post code didn’t work exactly or when I had none – but this was not for permanent use.
Although my main direction for the day was southeast, I decided to start with a shooting place in Glasgow because it was quite close. I started with Dowanhill Street in Glasgow, a line of classy red brownstone houses, standing for the home of the Randalls in Boston. By chance, I met a couple from a house in the neighbourhood who told me about the shootings they had witnessed. The lady even had some pictures on her cell phone, none with actors, but one showing the crew’s illumination in the street at night and another one with a vintage car from the sixties.
After that, I left Glasgow and headed southeast towards Peebles where I liked to see the Highland Games on that day. I wanted to make good use of the good weather foreseen for Saturday; for Sunday, the forecast threatened again with rain and I didn’t want to spend a rainy day outside all day.
On my way, I changed my mind and decided to search for Torbrex Farm first. It was a shooting place for Prestonpans, but I only had an incomplete postcode near Airdrie, eastern of Glasgow. Fortunately, my cell phone GPS could work well with Torbrex Farm and so I found the correct country road, asked a few helpful riders and finally found the farm. It’s practically deep in the countryside, the roads are narrow and windy, it was better no car was coming on. I stopped and met the owner of the farm, his accent was hard and I understood about every 3rd word, but I got his meaning. He sent me to a field with a silver gate that I could find easily and that’s been named Outlander field since then. He didn’t mind my walking across even though it’s private property.
Quite grateful, I continued my way towards Peebles, the minor roads took a lot of time, but eventually I arrived. The games took place in a big park on city borders and a car park was built on a field to the right. I paid the entry fee and found a space far down the hill, by the river. There was a carnival for children on one side, a rectangle for the music bands and a huge square for the Heavy Weights. On both sides of that square were shopping booths and mobile shops and on the back side, they had 2 stages for the dancing competitions. There were children of all ages dancing to the music of a bagpipes player and this also was the only place where there were a few public chairs and benches available, otherwise, there was no tribune or chairs for people to sit down. Most people sat just on the lawn, had brought folding chairs or blankets with them to sit on and since I had none of these, I recognized I would have to stand or walk almost all day. The only Highland Games I had visited before were those in Braemar (please read 2015) which accidentally took place on the same day in 2017, but the way north was much too far for that day and Peebles was a much smaller event. First, I watched a few bands playing, most of them teenagers, and the dancing competitions. The kids were dancing together, but as competitors, not as a group, dancing one handful after another on a flat wooden stage. Each one had a number on and the bagpipes player played the very same song every time. Unbearable for my fine ears...
I was particularly interested in the Heavy Weights, an all-around competition for strong men. They got started with some kind of hammer throw, a big weight on a chain, next was a cannonball on a wooden stick that was rotated overhead and thrown. A huge stone ball for putting the shot, then a metal weight of about 26 kg with a handle that was thrown backwards over a thin wood lath on a rack, remembering of high jump. Each competitor had 3 attempts and the successful ones continued to the next height 1 foot higher. They had quite many replacement laths on the lawn which was absolutely necessary because they were hit and broken really often – firewood!). Finally, what I had been waiting for: Tossing the caber! The thrower, also named tosser, has to take the caper, which is held to him upright by to other ones, all alone up from the bottom and higher, lean it to breast and shoulders, take a run-up and try to turn it end-over-end by an abrupt stop and lift-up, to make it falling away from the him in straight position, ideally. More than difficult, unbelievable strength needed. An end-to-end would be highest score, other scores depend on the angle achieved. They also did a competition in haggis-throwing for everyone at the same time, but I didn’t want to take part in this.
To my greatest pleasure, I met a very old gentleman with a tag naming him clan chief of Black Watch Tartan. I asked him what this meant and he explained that, after the battle of Culloden and the clearances in the Highlands, when tartans were officially forbidden, this was the only tartan allowed. I hadn’t known this before but after all, I own a few garments in this beautiful tartan. Very nice to meet him and listen to him!
Before I left, I bought some homemade fudge for my dear ones at home. This fudge was some kind of caramel, half soft in cubes, after I had tried a mall piece of it with whisky and raisins and it was so intensive, I easily made up my mind and bought two packages and another one with vanilla for my teetotallers.
I didn’t leave too late, I had another destination in my mind on my way towards my next hotel: Roslyn Glen Country Park, northern from Peebles towards Edinburgh and thus absolutely in best direction. But better than the year before, when I had searched there in vain for a shooting place, I had found an exact description on the site outlanderlocations.com, for the scene where Claire and Jamie had that battle royal by the river after her escape from Fort William. Now, I knew that the park has two entries which go to opposite directions! That was new to me. The upper entry, in a hairpin bend on the hill (leave the car about 200 metres below) had an exhibition board and I took a picture of it to use it as a map on my way. There was no other possibility than walking, the road is blocked with posts. In 19th century, there was a gun powder factory, consisting in many stone buildings on about 1 km along the river. Today, there are no more than a few ruins and fragments. My first side trip to the river was without success, then there was another exhibition board on the path, and further on the Old Mill Lade that I had been looking for. These ruins were the background in the emotional scene in episode 9, The Reckoning. Please look yourselves, a very special place and worth the long walk.
For the very last on that day, I wanted to make a stop at Glencorse Parish Church in Penicuik, only a few miles further. Information was contradictory whether there had been shooting inside this church or only on the Glencorse Old Kirk nearby (attention: private property!). Unfortunately, it was closed when I came and for the only worship in the week, on Sundays at 11.30, I wouldn’t have time next day on Sunday. So, I left it to a short walk around the church. I will try to find out more until my next visit. Glencorse old kirk was beneath my way to the main road where there had actually been the shooting for the outdoor wedding scenes. Maybe just a mistake by the tipster.
Now, finally, I drove past Edinburgh on the old bridge across the Firth of Forth northbound to Cowdenbeath, where I had booked a room in the Struan Bank Hotel with Maggie and Peter. It’s a B&B next to the motorway to Perth, only 20 minutes north from Edinburgh, so an ideal start for my jaunts of the following days. I had been there in 2016 following a recommendation of a customer of my company, my boss and colleague had also been there a few weeks before and I liked it very much, so I asked for another reservation by mail without hesitation. They gave me a very warm welcome and the same room I had had the year before.
Sunday, September 3rd - Glasgow, Dunure Harbour, Edinburgh
On Sunday while I had breakfast, Maggie explained to me the way to the next supermarket, an Aldi, that I found without problem. In contrast to ours, Aldi markets in Great Britain and Scotland open on Sundays, only a little shorter than on weekdays. This one opened at 9, the very moment when I arrived and I could buy my provisions for the next days, such as rolls, turkey breast, cheese, apples and raisins. This Aldi was well graded, even more modern then our new ones and had also an alley with housewares, not only special offers. There was no crowd, so I could pay fast and start my tour.
My first destination was Glasgow again. This planning was a mistake of mine, I know, since I had switched to my new hotel near Edinburgh already, but I had booked the bus tour from Glasgow so early in the year and the hotel accordingly, when I didn’t have further plan details yet, not knowing when, where it would be. So, I had a drive of about 1 hour that morning, because I wanted to attend the divine service and the only new apostolic congregation in Scotland was in Glasgow, ironically only 100 metres from the Albion Hotel in North Woodside Road. Well, that’s my own fault, but only mine and since the service was at 10.30 not a big one. I arrived only 10 minutes earlier, got a warm welcome from a young deacon at the door and found a nice place. We had a very pleasant service, the word was from Romans 9, 33 and we sang the hymns no. 286, 330 and 353 in the English hymnal. There was the choir singing in between and an instrumental, presented by two sisters on trumpet and piano. After the service, I had the opportunity of a short chat to the principal, a different one than last year, but he also allowed me to play the organ for a while. In the vestibule, I met two young sisters who also came for a visit from Germany and they told me there also was a young German couple in the congregation, living in Scotland permanently. I really would have liked to stay for a while, but I had a very long list of destinations for the day and it was noon already.
I went for another short stop to Dowanhill Street. Catriona had given me the exact house number that I didn’t have the day before, it’s 124. I took a picture and proceeded to the University, only a few blocks south.
Glasgow University is consisting of a variety of buildings on more than two very big blocks. While driving past, I found no parking space, so I left my car in the Kelvin Way below the University compound and continued by foot with my cell phone GPS map. The location I had said John Black Building, Institute of Chemistry. It was quite a walk past the main building and many small branch-offs until I found the Institute, but the entrance door was closed although I had seen someone going in. So, I went all around the building, but there were dead ends everywhere, site fences and it didn’t look like the sequence in the trailer at all, with medieval archways. I was about to give up and walked back until with good luck found someone show sent me to the main entrance which was open. Yeah! I felt like an intruder, being no student, when I saw my first prize of the day in the concierge’s glass case: Karen! She politely asked my whereabouts (it was Sunday and almost empty) and I honestly explained what I was looking for. Well, be it coincidence or fate, Karen is an Outlander fan, too and she even was present while shooting! Willingly, she led me up the stairs to a conference room and explained what had been short there, standing for Harvard University, Boston.
Downstairs in her small office, Karen enthusiastically showed me the trailer for the new season and what she wanted me to look for. The archway was under the main building and she also had an advice where the bridge would be that Claire walked across, in Kelvingrove Park nearby. I had known about the park, but it was too big to search everywhere, however, Karen knew it was one of only two bridges, just near the University. She also promised to send me an email with many pictures of the conference room, remodelled as 1950’s school room. I got the email only 30 minutes later, you can see the pictures below. If you carefully compare the details, for example the door, you will see it was the same room.
Karen’s explanation led me to the main building, the oldest one of the University, a medieval magnificent building and to its western atrium with pillars and archways, where we had seen Claire and Frank walking. At this time, we had seen only a trailer. This main building from 1451 is well worth visiting for everybody, an architectural piece of jewellery.
I found a small footpath descending towards Kelvin Way where my car was parked and most conveniently, the entrance to Kelvingrove Park just across the road where I looked for the bridge where Karen had sent me to. Actually, Karen had had 2 bridges on her short list, but I could identify the first was the correct one from the trailer.
I was very lucky, the day had been dry until then which was good since I had been all the time by foot, without a jacket or an umbrella and the forecast had promised heavy rain for the day... Well, the rain caught me on my way southwest towards Dean Castle in Kilmarnock, standing for the fox’s lair in episode 208, the place of the old Simon Fraser, nicknamed the old fox, who tried to remain neutral during the rising. He intended to take the winner’s side in order to achieve a duke’s honour finally, sent his son to pretend innocence and eventually was executed as a traitor to the crown in London. I got out in pouring rain and put my plastic raincoat on, over my jacket. Rubber boots would’ve been no mistake, either. Last year I had no access because I arrived to late – nor did I have this year. The visitor centre was but a building site and cut off. There were signs leading to the courtyard “open to the public”, leading to the kitchen that should have been open, however, it wasn’t. I could see light in a tailor’s workroom next to the kitchen, but nobody responded to my knocking. Nobody was to be seen either, so I had to leave undone. I might never understand why there were so many cars in the car park in that beastly weather. This is a look the backside, the gate that Jamie and Claire take to ride in.
40 more minutes to southwest, there was Dunure Harbour, by the sea, like the name says. Dunure is one of these tiny villages with a small old harbour where the production built a few sheds for the shooting, but they weren’t there anymore. I found a parking space in the small harbour road opposite to a small restaurant, went in and asked. Soup of the day was out, but the young waitresses told me willingly about the shootings last year. The restaurant was even closed for two days as the production had asked for. My suspicion was confirmed, this was the harbour where Claire and Jamie embark for Jamaica, searching for young Ian.
They also told me that there had been shooting also on the castle ruin of Dunure Castle, just a few hundred metres uphill, on a tongue into the sea, so I took a few pictures of this picturesque castle and recognized this as estimated as the ruins on the island where Jamie searched for Claire after his escape from Ardsmuir and the castle was artificially put on said island where the English soldiers searched for Jamie (in the background) and where young Ian wants to retrieve the box of jewels from the island and gets captured.
On my way back, through Glasgow, I wanted to search for the place that Catriona had showed me a few days before when I had no possibility to take a picture. It’s the Tennent’s Brewery where Sam Heughan used to make TV commercials for. Ironically, so Catriona had told me, she had absolutely disliked the main actor of the commercials and found out with some delay that this was the very same guy playing the role of James Fraser in Outlander. Thereupon, she revised her opinion, of course... On the outer wall of the brewery, there are many commercial pictures drawn, one of them is Sam. There was not much traffic, so I just stopped my car and took a picture. Meanwhile, I have seen the commercials on youtube, they’re telling stories about a rich, eccentric discoverer in 19th century and they’re quite funny.
Must funny, this was also the day when I first heard a radio commercial for the Royal Bank of Scotland where the voice speaking reminded me somehow remarkably, but this was not the first time I had this impression with voices on the radio or in TV, usually due to the Scottish accent and most usually, I was wrong. But this one, the very unique pronunciation of certain words, “safe” for example, made me sure – this was Sam! During a short stop by the road side, I searched on google and was not only confirmed, but also found the above-mentioned TV commercials. Within the following days, I often heard Sam’s voice on the radio and from then on, I was looking forward to each commercial break and I was tempted to create an account with the Royal Bank of Scotland myself. Sam is really very convincing...
On my way back eastbound towards Edinburgh, Falkirk was no big detour, where I was looking for the Falkirk Wheel, a technical masterpiece, a unique ship lift, constructed like a big wheel, connecting two canals with a difference in altitude of 24 metres. Unfortunately, it would move only when a ship was bound for a ride but there was none currently and it started to rain, so I continued to Edinburgh.
Last but not least was the culinary highlight of the day: The Fisher’s Restaurant in Thistle Street in Edinburgh. As a precaution, I had reserved a table, but this time, it wasn’t crowded. Claire, the restaurant manager (lovely name, isn’t it?), accepted me and lovely looked after me all the evening. She was my replacement for Graham whom I met there the two previous years. Graham has been working as an extra in Outlander and is a really nice guy. Currently, he was working as an actor, too, but for another project.
I chose my favourite spot at the bar, ordered the small bowl of fish soup, very delicious, comprising by half in salmon pieces. And, very British, a pot of tea along with much honey for my still sore throat, this cold of mine being persistent. For the main course, it was difficult to choose, so I ordered a mixed salmon plate, similar to what I had had the year before as I like various dishes. Look yourselves how fantastic it looked like! However, when I took my two first bites, my mouth burnt like fire. Now I have to explain that although I love well spiced food, I cannot eat chili or peperoni since I’m hypersensitive on them. This doesn’t mean I just don’t like it, I simply cannot eat it. I was aghast for the beautiful food and had remorse, I could’ve asked before, but I simply hadn’t considered it since there was no problem about it last year and never had I expected such an experience with salmon. Claire was very solicitous and I was so sad about the confusion, I didn’t want them to throw food away but she simply offered to choose something different what I did: Cod with marjoram spätzle was on the menu. Spätzle with ä - in Great Britain! I must explain, Spätzle is a very special kind of noodle where I come from, some kind of regional food and we love it. Claire made me say it again and again and we laughed a lot because she couldn’t pronounce it correctly, not even approximately. Last, I had crème brulée for dessert. Just look at the pictures and your mouth will be watering!
However, this was felicitous evening and I promised Claire to be back next time I could make it, most likely with a bigger group next year if possible!
Monday, September 4th - St. Andrews, Bothwell Castle, Falkirk Wheel, Dunmore Park, Stirling, Cambusbarron
This morning, I wanted to visit the east coast of Scotland towards St. Andrews. This town is not only famous for the oldest university of Scotland, but also for the place where Prince William met and fell in love with his Kate. Besides, there are the ruins of a cathedral, a castle and many nice old buildings which attract many tourists every year.
Now a took a long way towards Bothwell Castle near Glasgow which Catriona had recommended on our trip from Blackpool. Rainfall started again, the castle was but a small ruin, so I left after a short look-around and spared the entry fee.
On the other side, I was luckier with Falkirk Wheel on that day, it had just started to move and turn. The principle is very simple, there are two gondolas of identic weight, so the drive has no lift work to do, just to bear down friction and thus, can work much more economic than a drive with just one gondola. The weight of the gondola moving downwards lifts the gondola moving upwards, the system is balanced at all times and can also work with one ship only since, due to Archimedes’ principle, floating objects displace their own weight in water and they keep both basins at the same level of water. Just fantastically easy! I shot two short videos, but their quality isn’t good enough for upload. Since a half turn takes more than 10 minutes, I assume nobody would want to look at that, but there are quick motion videos on Wikipedia to watch.
My next try was to visit Touch House where there was shooting for Culloden House. I had been there last year, but only from outside, this year I wanted to get inside. I had a phone number since the building was not open to the public. A lady on the phone promised a call-back, so meanwhile, I would try the next site on my list. Below you can see a picture from last year.
Next and not far away was Dunmore Park, where there had been shooting for Claire’s very first scenes with her assisting on a leg amputation in a makeshift military hospital in World War II, when surprisingly the war is over. This was the place where I had found a sign “private property” and given up the year before, but this year, I wanted to try again after I had been told by several British citizens that it was not prohibited to walk on private land as long as there was no wall or fence around and no other crime was committed. Well, finding the place was easy, but the sign “private property” along with a closed barrier to the access road gave me second thoughts. No possibility to leave my car either, too much traffic on the main road and a “no parking” sign on the country road to the other side. So, I started the GPS of my cell phone, looking for alternative paths. There are not many, one leading to another mansion on the big estate, but this was a dead end. I was tempted to ring their bell and ask, but decided to keep this as my last option. Another path from the backside turned out to be a footpath with no access for my car and way too far to walk. In the middle, not far from the barred road, I found a small country road meeting the barred road from the side after a few hundred metres, so this was my best choice. It was but a bumpy country road with big holes and puddles, but after all, I drove a SUV! The road led into the forest and turned to the right direction, but suddenly, the road was wilfully blocked by two big baulks. I didn’t want to give up so easily and decided to proceed by foot. Due to the high rain level of recent days (how much I would’ve appreciated some gum boots...) I had to set each step most carefully because I absolutely wanted to avoid to slip and fall; and I also tried to avoid those many puddles, my trainers were moist already, not waterproof. By walking so unusually careful, I was quite slow and it felt like eternity until I finally reached the asphalt street. Looking back, I really had regrets not to walk past the barrier and take the asphalt street from the beginning, it would have been so much easier and faster… After a few hundred more metres, there was a house next to some barns and a walk prohibition sign, but I hadn’t gone that far to turn back now, the historic Dunmore Park was online clearly described to be open to the public. Unfortunately, it was not the older building next to the barns as expected, but then I glimpsed another building far behind to the left, almost hidden in the edge of the forest, with nothing but a muddy grass path leading to it. Well, I’d bet three years ago, the production team drove by car! As described online, the old building is left to ruin, bushes, trees and weeds growing everywhere, also inside the building or what’s left of it. The former beauty was almost gone and there’s only small hope somebody will take care and preserve it shortly, otherwise, it will be gone soon. Carefully, I took a few pictures since I absolutely didn’t want to hurt my ankle or rush in this lonely place with no internet access, then started my way back. Me feet had been wet for long now, so, when I reached my car on the very place I left it (fortunately), I changed trousers and shoes before I turned to the main road again. The success of having found a shooting place where not many had been before was most satisfying!
On my walk back to the car, I had got a phone call telling me that Touch House could not be visited if I didn’t want to rent it for shooting or an event, but since I didn’t want to lie about that, this was over, no chance.
Next was Stirling, in only a few miles distance. There had been shooting at the university for scenes in the 1960s with Roger, Brianna and Gillian (and my tour guide Catriona as an extra in the background), so I made a short visit. There were the steps, standing for the access to the college in Inverness. I was curious to know whether Inverness had a college at all, but yes, they have one, founded in 1960, that’s a match.
My next and last destination for the day was Cambusbarron, a small village next to Stirling, where the production asked for shooting permission for season 4 already months before and I didn’t want to leave the region without trying my luck once more. The advice given mentioned Murray’s Woods and Murrayhead Quarry and guessed this was meant to be Fraser’s Ridge which would suggest shootings within the next few years as this location is part of all the books to come. I surmised while not all, but some of the inhabitants should know at least something, particularly people in a pub or a shop with gossip going around. The first person I met on the road was I lady who sent me in the right direction, to a car park on a hiking trail where I found an exhibition board. Fortunately, the map on it showed where Murrayhead Quarry was, but at first, I had problems to identify where I was since there was no indicator on this map. From this car park, there were only footpaths leading into the wilderness, the quarry was quite far to go and I assumed there had to be another possibility, there was no way the production would take all the equipment by foot. I checked on google maps and searched for the road leading to the quarry, marked in red on the board. No information on Murray’s Woods available. So, I took the road by car and found the access to the quarry without problem, but unfortunately, the last part of the road was blocked with a locked barrier and I took the road left, leading to a valley. At the next crossroads, I searched for a possibility to leave my car, but there was none, but two nice men and their dogs, enjoying themselves in a creek. The men sent me back to the last crossroads where I squeezed my car to the side as much as possible and once again took off by foot. As usual, I walked fast, but there were a handful of joggers running past me on a rise to the quarry which was fully equipped with machines and facilities that didn’t look like they had been used shortly, but no sign of current operating. The countryside behind looked quite wild, rough rock faces, the open sides overgrown with trees and bushes and a true paradise for birds. However, no sign of any building or shooting activity, so I returned to my car. In the small shop in the village, a Hindu man standing behind his counter had no idea either, just heard the same rumours about a permission, but nothing precise. I took a few pictures in the quarry, let’s wait and see! I did have quite a lot of outdoor exercise on that day!
Tuesday, September 5th - Glenrothes, Hopetoun House, Craigmillar Castle, Britannia, Edinburgh
Weeks ago, I had had an invitation from a good customer of our company to visit him whilst being in Scotland. He had been the one with the good advice for the Struan Bank hotel and now, he wanted to show me the Scottish branch of his company. I had met him the other day when I returning to our hotel in the evening, this morning at breakfast and next, I was looking forward to seeing our machines at work, not only in construction and test run in our facilities. For discretion, I don’t want to go into detail but who’s interested can look up www.euroquilt.co.uk, it was no state secret.
After one and a half hour we finished the tour, this was going to be my last complete day in Scotland and I had pretty much on my list.
First on my list was Hopetoun House near Queensferry/Edinburgh which stood for the Duke of Sandringham’s estate in season 1. I had visited the place two years ago and learned later that there had been shooting for season 2 Paris and season 3, too. From my last visit, I remembered that satnav and reality had not really been consistent and I wanted to try another road this year that my current satnav showed me, but however, it proved to be what it was characterized – a dead end! The way indicated was but a footpath and prohibited by car. On the small crossroads, I met a couple taking pictures of the new bridge, got out of my car and did the same, but the distance was way to long for pictures with my cell phone, I would have needed a telephoto lens. There was another car coming, a young Brazilian couple in a rental car and now that I knew how to drive (I just had hoped to find a shorter way), I invited them to follow me and they did. We found our way through construction sites and along numerous bumps. At the castle, we left our cars on the free parking on the lawn next to the car park which costs per car, I didn’t want to spend money since I planned on a short stay only. We walked together past the right side of the main building and found a small yard with two passages, the right one being the staircase that stood for Madame Elise’s in Paris. And when I left, I found the small lane behind the main building, that Ronald D. Moor mentioned in his podcast to episode La Dame Blanche as the place where they shot the attack on Claire and Mary. I saw my new Brazilian friends off and promised to send them a detailed email about all the shooting locations (what I did).
I continued eastbound to Craigmillar Castle, south from Edinburgh, an impressive castle, unfortunately mostly ruined, standing for Ardsmuir Prison in season 3 where Jamie met his old acquaintance Lord John. We hadn’t seen much of this in TV then, so I carefully looked all around and took quite a lot of pictures. Already in front of the castle, there were many big, brighter rectangles on the lawn, this is where the containers of the production team have been standing recently. The castle was really big, with a big forecourt, built in 14th century. About 200 years later, Mary Queen of Scots lived here for a while, but she couldn’t find peace in this place, she hated her life. In 18th century, the inhabitants moved over to the more comfortable Inch House and Craigmillar developed into a romantic ruin in the south of the big city.
Further to the east, there is Gosford House beneath the North Sea where they shot scenes for Paris in season 2, but also in season 3 for Helwater Estate (where Jamie is exiled to work as a groom after leaving prison). Unfortunately, the gate was closed, no bell to ring and a huge wall all around the estate. Although a sign allowed dog walking on the grounds, there was no access and no chance to do so. I checked up online and learned that the estate currently was closed and would not open for visits until spring 2018. So, either I had badly researched or this wasn’t known months before when I put this place on my list, however, no luck on that day, it wasn’t worth staying any longer. I returned and made only a short stop on a beautiful beach to make the trip not completely pointless. Most certainly, I’ll be back next year.
Next was now the Royal Yacht Britannia, lying in the sea harbour of Leith (suburb east of Edinburgh). The new shooting places in Edinburgh being more important to me, I had been pondering all day what to visit first and where to leave my car since I was already behind my schedule. Finally, I decided to continue with the Britannia first since it would be close sometime, parking was free and next door to the yacht.
Nowadays, the yacht is a museum, the entry fee is only used for preservation and welfare. The voucher I had spared me 10 % discount on 15 pounds entry fee and I received an audio guide. Every visitor can walk at its own pace, there are no tour guides for the 28 stations, from upper level downstairs, meaning from the bridge to the engine room, with an external staircase. In the bridge, we could see the complete technology from the fifties. We could take as many pictures as we wanted, many rooms were closed by thick glass panes that allowed us to see quite well. Following the rooms of the captain, senior officers (they all had to share one bathroom!), rooms of the royal family, a Buick in a show-window and a smaller yacht to the main deck with a huge banquet hall, including an impressive, sumptuously set table. Setting took 3 hours; each part was set by the help of a ruler. On the other side, the big salon with space for another 100 persons. On the lower decks, the rooms of the junior officers and the “common” crew. Laundry, infirmary with operating room und on the lowest the engine room. I’ve been told, this engine room always used to be so white and clean, not only since the yacht was out of service.
When I left the main building of the museum, I actually wanted to take a cab downtown, but we were so far outside from city centre, no one was to be seen and I was short of time. So, I changed my mind and took a bus line 35 which was not only much cheaper, but also not much slower, because soon, we were caught in the traffic. The bus driver advised me where I should leave the bus for the best, since all my destinations were on the Royal Mile, crossing Edinburgh from the castle in the west to the palace downhill in the east. It’s consisting of 4 street names: (The Hub, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate), all together named the Royal Mile.
In total, the bus ride took half an hour, limiting the rest of my available time since I would have to drive back to the harbour, back home by car to my hotel where my customer expected me at 7 for dinner. Eventually, I left the bus at South Bridge, this station being the last one on the Royal mile before the bus turned left. I walked uphill to the big square around the Cathedral and asked a man in a small shed for the Signet’s Library and he explained this was just a short walk over the West Parliament Square, a line of buildings in classic style all around the Cathedral. I entered the door and first thing I saw was a reception area with an impressive staircase to the left and the entry to the library to the right and – wow! The first impression was just breath taking, absolutely worth an ambassador’s mansion in Jamaica, since this was the library standing for in season 3. Almost profane to be just sitting here, drinking tea or coffee, but this is exactly what I’m going to do next time I’ll be there! I will just need a little more time next year. I took a chance and got a short look-around upstairs where the big hall was being prepared for an event in the evening. I’m looking forward to seeing this wonderful place in TV!
Next was the Cathedral St. Giles, dominating the West Parliament Square, an impressive brownstone building (like all the buildings on the square, they’re all built of old, weathered, greyish brownstone), not as old as it’s looking like, built only in the late 19th century.
Fortunately, I instantly found the correct shop on Lawnmarket where I could buy myself a new Fraser needle (with the family motto Je suis prest – I am ready), like the one I had lost in Blackpool, then I started my way downhill. Near the famous Knox House, one of the oldest buildings in Edinburgh, I found what I had been looking for, Tweeddale Court, one of the shooting places in season 3.
Most of the side lanes from Royal Mile are named Wynd or Close. Close for those which had a door in old times that could be closed at night. As the Royal Mile actually is on the ridge of the hill, all the lanes to the side turn downhill, many of them quite steep. A little further downhill, I found the World’s End Pub next to the close with the same name. This name has its origin in the old times when this was city limits with a city wall around, so for many people who never left their town, this was the proverbial world’s end.
A little further, just next to the Museum of Edinburgh that can be visited without paying, illustrating life in a citizen house in old times, finally: Sugarhouse Close and Bakehouse Close, including the famous steps to the printshop. For all non-fans or not-yet-fans: When Claire finds Jamie after 20 years of separation, he’s working as a printer in Edinburgh and the highly expected reunion takes place in his print shop.
Now that I had collected as many motives as possible – season 3 had not aired yet and we hadn’t yet seen many details, just the trailers – I searched for the next bus stop on my way back to the harbour. Fortunately, the bus came almost immediately, but the ride uptown took even later than the way downtown. The parking deck was almost empty, parking really was free as promised and my car next to the exit, so this didn’t take too much time. But the journey home, usually possible within half an hour, took me more than an hour, I stood in traffic jam and called the hotel and my customer, Colin, to let him know. Eventually, I arrived at the hotel, jazzed up within 10 minutes and we left for the Balgedie Toll Tavern in Kinross, a quaint restaurant in an old toll station from 1534, so compared to this one, the Drover’s Inn would be a new house. This also was a very recommendable restaurant, the food delicious and inexpensive, I’m looking forward to coming back next time.
Wednesday, September 6th - Tullibardine Chapel, Deanston Destillery, Loch Katrine, Pollock Park, flight home
This day was finally my very last day and with some melancholy, I had to say goodbye to Colin at breakfast and later to my hosts Maggie and Peter. I promised that, if I were able to, I’d come back in any case possible. The Struan Bank Hotel is conveniently placed and conducted by family, therefore inexpensive and my hosts meanwhile became friends. Our customer Colin stays there every time he’s in Scotland for business, about 3-4 times a month.
I got my suitcases into the trunk and the list for the day on the front passenger seat. My main direction was Glasgow where my flight was leaving in the evening, and a few interstations before.
My first destination was named Tullibardine Chapel, being the place where Jamie, Claire and the others sought refuge after the battle of Prestonpans and where Claire was delivered to the English, pretending to be taken hostage. This chapel is located in the Ochill Hills, a beautiful forest area with much agriculture, difficult to find, there was only one sign at the very last junction. I could leave my car just next to the chapel, in the middle of some fields and was very astonished to find the chapel open. Inside, it was completely empty, just some posts explaining medieval life and worship. I could look around everywhere, carefully cross a door lintel with a plaque Tower, to look up, with the help of my cell phone light, to the inside of a bell tower, without stairs or ropes that must have hung here in old times. The main room’s roof was made of beautiful old oak woodwork, still softly smelling, and the chapel was quite big, bigger than you’d think from outside.
On the lawn outside, there were only a few remaining old tombstones and when I walked all around, I found groups of mushrooms or toadstools, most of them thick brown ones, three others looking like fly agarics. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea which kind these mushrooms were, I even have some more pictures, so if anybody has a clue, let me know!
Next on my list was Deanston
Distillery where they shot the scene in season 2 with Jamie and Fergus, when Fergus prepared the wine couriers’ clothes with poison. This distillery is within view of Doune
Castle next to Stirling. Fortunately, I arrived just in time for a guided tour. They had a very appealing salesroom and a café with rustic furniture, made of old whisky
We started our tour behind the café with a short movie about the history of the building. There had been a cotton mill in 19th century, just next to the river that they used for water power. In its best times, the mill employed more than 1000 people. After the shutdown of the mill, the building stood empty for a while until it was reorganized to a distillery in the 1960s. They’re still using water power and inject the spare of the energy to the power grid. Even though it looked antique in many parts, the distillery works wonderfully. Well, after one tour I’m not a specialist yet and I didn’t have a clue before (be honest: who knew that they brew beer first?), but this is approximately the procedure: They use malted barley (germinated and dried), roughly milled (in the red mill). They verify the fine grad of the milling, the material continues into big mash tubs where they add water, three times in different temperatures. After that, the mixture proceeds one floor higher to fermentation in more tubs. A few days later, it has transferred into some kind of very strong beer that then is distillated twice in big copper stills and filled into their big old barrel no. 1, from where they fill it with a pump nozzle into big barrels of white oak. These can be filled several times, then they can be sent to a special company to check and refurbish them and can be re-used another few times. Last, we saw a one of the big warehouses (like the one shooting had taken place) and saw an uncountable number of barrels. The oldest barrel I could see was dated 1974 and contained whisky only by 1/3 left. One barrel loses about 2-4 % per year of the liquid inside (called Angels' Share), so you can estimate why an old whisky is so expensive, it’s not only about warehouse charges, no, it’s only a small quantity that is left. Whiskies do not mature in the bottle, only in the cask, so the "age" of a whisky is only the time between distillation and bottling. I bought a few gifts in the shop and continued my trip.
My next destination as again in the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, this time to Loch Katrine, searching for Brenachoile Point, a small tongue into the loch, which is the place where Brianna and Roger talked about her parents’ secret.
In Aberfoyle, I used my cell phone for guidance because I had no detailed postcode or street and house number for my satnav. My phone led me on many miles on the B829, for more than a half hour, along two lochs (Loch Ard and Loch Chon), in many turns, at least as many hills and finally over a mountain through the forest until, finally, I got an open view to a fabulous wideness between Loch Arklet and Loch Katrine, nearby the place where the legendary Rob Roy (also known as „Scottish Robin Hood“) was born. Finally, I got to an inn by the lake, but this proved to be a dead end. The friendly innkeeper let me use his Wi-Fi and I found out that, while I was at the correct loch, annoyingly, I was at the wrong end of it and the only way to the other end was to take all the road back where I had come from, to Aberfoyle, so another half an hour...
Quite frustrated, I drove all the way back to the town and had to stop at a gas station, carefully avoiding to run out of gas in the loneliness as gas stations are few and far between in the countryside. Then I took the road to the right, leading uphill in serpentines on Duke’s Pass through wild hills on many small turns and windings, ups and downs, down to Trossachs Pier. Here was the landing place for a boat tour on the beautiful „Lady of the Lake“, which already inspired the famous poet Sir Walter Scott. Tourists can also walk along the lake or rent a bike. This was the advice given by said innkeeper and I asked for a bike without further ado. It was much later than I had hoped to arrive there. New bikes always feel strange, but after a few hundred metres I thought I wouldn’t have hurt to put the saddle higher and after a while, the bike was creaking, but I didn’t feel like turning back, no time for that. Actually, I had considered to get close enough for a good picture, but I changed my mind and continued until, after 15-20 exhausting minutes (no, the road along the lake was NOT even!), I finally reached Brenachoile Point and it was worth all the pain! A great view all around, even though the wind was blowing strong, the weather was just wonderful. After a few minutes of enjoying, I took the exhausting way back and when I arrived at the landing point, I kocked the bike renter off to 2 pounds, I had had the bike only for a bit more than half an hour (a whole day was at 8 pounds) and it really needed an overhaul.
Eventually, I had to go towards Glasgow and the Pollock Country Park in the southwest. The satnav sent me on a road over the pass again and southbound then. I saw the visitor centre to an old battlefield, but unfortunately, there was no time left for a stop. Unfortunately, the way also led through Glasgow and the early-evening traffic jam, one single jam throughout the city, actually, so I lost a lot of time again.
Pollock Country Park is quite big, but not as big as I had feared and expected. It’s streaked with a few roads that I just tried, one after another, checking my environment, but nothing looked familiar and most people along the road whom I asked for shootings, didn’t know anything or nothing concrete at least. I knew there had been shooting in the forest, mostly for season 2, horse and carriage rides, the attack on the wine transport and the duel of Jamie and Jack Randall. But trees in the woods are hard to identify. Eventually, I met a young woman jogging who sent me to Pollock House, where I found the terrace garden where Jamie and Murtagh did fight training and the bridge to the left looked familiar. So, this trip had been worthwhile, too. Now it was about time to leave and get packed for the airport.
Fortunately, the park wasn’t far from the airport, both in the southwest of Glasgow. After filling up my car, I passed (by hazard) the stadium of the Glasgow Rangers und returned my car at the car rental, directly next to the airport. One of the advantages of small airports are such short distances, from the car rental to the terminal it’s just 30 m. Unfortunately, they found two small damages in the left front tyre that I’m responsible for, but fortunately, I have an insurance from the rental contract to cover it, without excess. The friendly manager who had already helped me when I picked up the car, consulted me for next year’s car, maybe an VW Sharan, with enough space for 5-6 people and their luggage. Let’s see what happens. Well, I’m already looking forward to my next stay – maybe with you?
Check-in and flight back with Ryan Air was trouble-free, no special incidents, only the aircraft was almost empty, occupied maybe by about 1/3 of its capacity and I had the whole row for me alone!
For all those who made it and followed all my travelogs until now, I wish to tell you that I’m grateful and hope you had some fun with me and my stories about Scotland. Now I eventually made it to finish 2017 in English, too and I will edit all my sites as good as possible.
If you liked it or not, if you have any idea or suggestion, just let me know!