Daniela's Blog - Outlander Tours Schottland
Daniela's Blog - Outlander Tours Schottland

Friday, September14th - Aberdour Castle, Loch Leven, Culross, Falkland, Edinburgh


On Friday, we had the destinations north of  Edinburgh on our agenda. Since we had to make a reservation for the boat transfer to Loch Leven Castle, which is located on an island in a lake, we were relatively busy. Before that, after breakfast, Aberdour Castle, located at the northeast side of the Firth of Forth and only 20 minutes from our accommodation, was the best choice, in terms of time and geography. It was founded around 1200 by the Mortimers and came through Robert the Bruce into the possession of the Douglas. When they built a manor next door, Aberdour House, 300 years ago, the castle was empty and finally partially decayed. It belonged to the castles included in our Explorer Pass, so I only had to show the pass and we got tickets quickly. Karin bought a glossy guide for her collection and we started to explore the old castle. On Aberdour, they shot for the abbey, where we fled with Jamie after his liberation from Wentworth prison and took care of him. We came through the former stables and the kitchen to the large terrace, a lawn with a view over the countryside that everyone of us immediately recognized. We took a few photos and set out to explore the castle. One part is a complete ruin, which wedges parts of the walls in such a way that one wonders how that could have come, the middle part is unthatched, the main part very well preserved and also furnished, but rather sparse, not in noble style. We discovered some nice rooms, where they had filmed as well, and made our way to the next location of the day in time.

Loch Leven Castle is located on an island on Loch Leven, near Glenrothes. We arrived there about 45 minutes before our boat would depart. Actually, I had briefly thought about using the time in between for something else, but I couldn't find another destination in proximity to fill in between without missing the departure time. Loch Leven Castle is included in the Explorer Pass and was therefore free of charge for us, but we had to reserve the departure time online in advance and set a time for it. So we didn't have time for Dysart Harbour anymore, not on that day an not later. The wind was quite fresh, so we rather stayed inside, in the gift shop, in the neighbouring boutique, there was also coffee to go in the café around the corner. When we got our tickets, Sabine could immediately mention her problem that she could only enter the boat from its right side because of her handicap with the left arm and the captain promised her to dock from the other side, so that she could hold on accordingly (it was quite deep down) and to make sure his colleague for the return trip would know. The water level was relatively low because the outflow of the lake had been left open during the previous days.
So we were finally a group of about a dozen people who set off for the island in sunny but very windy weather. A very pleasant, slightly humid passage of about 10 minutes and the jetty was already ahead. The wind on the small island was constantly strong, only inside the castle it got bearable and we had more of the beautiful sunshine. The castle was built in the 13th/14th century, partly dilapidated in the 18th century, owned by the same Douglas family as our previously visited Aberdour Castle. In this castle as well - as in so many others - Maria Stuart, here called Mary Queen of Scots, had been visiting or was here in captivity (1567/68). In the long years before her execution on the call of Elizabeth I, she had been imprisoned in several castles, but from Loch Leven Castle, despite the water around it, she managed the escape with the help of a boat captain. The castle itself is preserved, except the five-storey defense tower, mostly only in wall fragments, and it was explained very well with information boards. We had a three-quarter hour time until the next boat drove back; this time those became wetter who sat astern, the stern waves threw water in the boat now and then.

And then we went on to another highlight of our tour, to the small coastal town of Culross, further west and inland on the north side of the Firth of Forth, but due to the tides, it felt as if it already lied by the sea.
In total, this was my 5th visit to the Royal Burgh of Culross, but I always love it to come here again. Sabine didn't want to go on tour with us in the village, but to meet with a photographer instead, so we dropped her off in front of the Town Hall, where his exhibition room was located, she wanted to got to a café later and meet again with us there.
In Culross, they shot for the first three seasons of Outlander, in the Palace (which was actually only the house of a wealthy merchant and is not comparable with a "palace" in the narrower sense), in the terrace garden above for the first meeting of Claire and Geillis, on the market place further uphill for the market place scenes in the fictitious village Cranesmuir and on the outside area of the West Kirk, an old Worldwar cemetery, for the Black Kirk, where little Thomas poisoned himself. We paid our entrance fee - Culross Palace does not belong to the Trust and therefore not to our Explorer Pass - and at first, we watched the about 15-minute film about the history of the place in the basement of the Palace on the left side, the film running in an endless loop. Culross had its golden age in the 15th/16th century thanks to the merchant Sir George Bruce of Carnock, who introduced new technologies in mining technology and thus helped the village to prosperity and development within a very short time. With the decline of mining in Victorian times came the economic decline and Culross fell into a state of hibernation. The characteristic historical beauty of the village has been preserved to these days because hardly anything has been renovated or changed in the centre of the village over the centuries. The Outlander production was not the first to shoot there, other well-known films and series have also been made there. Although no one is allowed to take pictures inside the Palace, I was allowed to take a picture of the big table that is right in the first room (where they shot the Jacobite meeting), the supervisor only said that as long as I photographed from outside the door, I wouldn't be inside the Palace and that's how we did it. She also told us in which other rooms the series had been shot, namely the bedroom of the Laird, where we would go last. An early morning bed scene was staged there, which we all certainly still remember very well. We had to skip the cemetery because of the previous rain of the last days, the way there is muddy on a good day, because it leads over a dirt road. On this day, we could only see the terraced gardens from below, because it was raining heavily again. Too bad, we had paid extra for it. So we went directly to the north building, the kitchen downstairs, which was prepared as a tavern and upstairs, where we found more rooms with two beautiful old robes (although not sooo old) and the room of the Laird, where we could take some nice pictures while unattended. In a smaller room, there was a scene where Jamie met Claire and the yard in front of the palace was transferred to a camp in the Jacobite War, with the help of a cobblestone "carpet" and computer technology.

We decided to start looking for Sabine and to find out in which café she might sit. Unfortunately, it was not possible to contact her via mobile phone, as she had left it behind when getting out of the car quickly and we'd been carrying it with us since. We took pot luck and entered Town Hall, where we found the showroom of the photographer Graham and very a happy Sabine, new owner of some wonderful pictures, which she had sent straight home for the sake of simplicity. Most of the motifs were Outlander related and just beautiful, we had some trouble resisting the temptation. From Town Hall, Sabine wanted to proceed to the café next door, but we wanted to explore the little town, in front of all I wanted to show the girls the market place area. We looked for an alley to the top and found instead a steep staircase that led along the right edge of the garden to the top. If we had known before how many steps it had... But so we reached, most of us completely out of breath and eshausted, but still satisfied with our performance, a lane at the outermost corner above the terrace garden with a beautiful view over the garden and the almost directly behind it lying waters of the Firth. We had found the upper promenade and took some pictures. I searched the way to the market place with the help of Google Maps, we actually had to go uphill to the highest point of Culross until we found a steep lane downhill to the market place with the mercat cross in the center, typical for a Scottish market place of this time. In the series, here stood the pedestal where the poor tanner boy's ear was nailed on and to the left of it is the staircase where Claire visited sick Thomas. Above to the right were the windows from which Claire and Geillis watched the spectacle from her rooms. The houses had been painted dark for shooting, according to the authentic condition in 1743 and afterwards, the inhabitants got their houses painted white again, completely free of charge, now everything now looks so fresh and neat. We briefly enjoyed the hospitality of the Admiral's Café to use the toilet there, a wonderful place, small but cosy and very friendly run, we can only recommend this, too!
So we met Sabine again, went together to our car which stood on the big parking lot at the entrance of the village.

Our way led us a bit to the north, to the penultimate destination of the day, Falkland in Fife, which meanwhile will be known to every Outlander fan for the small town which was and is used for Inverness of the 18th and 20th century. They shot there was already multiple times, also for season 4. Let's see what we will recognize in November 2018! The simple reason why they use Falkland instead of Inverness is that in today's Inverness there is simply nothing that looks like in old times, so they have found another place in Falkland. Already in 2013 for the first season, antennas and signs were dismantled, facades painted differently, the rest modified by computer technology, but in Falkland, there is not much that needs to be retouched.
First of all I wanted to go to Falkland Palace urgently, here I had always had bad luck in the past years and it had been closed each time I arrived, because of the advanced time. Fortunately, we found a parking lot right opposite the entrance and I immediately went in to ask for tickets and opening hours. We were lucky, it was short to 4 pm and open for about one hour. We were informed that the gift shop at the exit had exceptionally closed at 2 pm that day, but that was no problem for us at that time. I had been told that they had shot in a room season 2 for a pharmacy, when Claire visits Inverness to stock up on her supplies and where she met Mary again, so we were quite excited about that upcoming room.
Right up the first spiral staircase, we found stately apartments. The room was dominated by a massive royal bed made of dark wood with impressive carvings. The guard present explained that this was a royal travel bed, to be dismantle with only a few moves and packable in boxes, like the noble people actually did in former times, if they visited another of their houses. This bed was built for the king, but he probably never slept in it.

Meanwhile, I tried to reach the owner of Balgedie Castle by phone to possibly arrange a visit for that day, but unfortunately, nobody answered the call although I tried several times.

Falkland Palace was built as a residence of the kings James IV. and V. at the beginning of the 16th century, as a hunting lodge, among others inhabited by his daughter Mary Queen of Scots (yes exactly, she was really almost everywhere!). Meanwhile the biggest part is a ruin, the main building can be visited. We walked down the spiral staircase floor by floor, through the impressive large castle chapel, where Christina and I deciphered a Latin inscription, until we reached the basement and  other lower rooms nearby, where we finally found Claire's "pharmacy". The actual exit from the plant would have led through the gift shop (well, we should buy something on the way out), which was closed however as announced and thereby the exit, too. With the help of the map and our cell phones, we searched for an alternative, we found with some search the way around the big hedge in the garden, around the facade ruin and outside. I couldn't resist to give a hint to the supervisor who could just let us out through the main exit in time. After all, we had been told that the gift shop was closed, but without mentioning the consequences.

Finally back in freedom, I showed my friends the Town Hall of Falkland, where Claire searched for documents about Lallybroch in the sixties, then we went to the small market place with the world famouis fountain called Bruce Fountain, where Frank meets the ghost of a Scotsman, the Covenanter Hotel, which stood for Mrs. Baird's Bed & Breakfast and where you can stay overnight even nowadays. There are a few shops behind it, which can found both in the 40s and in the 60s, one as the household shop, Claire ponders about owning a vase in front of it, in the café next to it they just shot for season 4. We're looking forward to seeing it onscreen!
A little bit down the street to the left, there is the alley that Claire walks down towards the end of season 2 with Murtagh and Jack Randall, a picturesque place that makes it easy to travel back in time, unfortunately in modern times there is usually a car in the middle of the picture...
Falkland is also one of the villages where time seems to stand still. You can walk the village with a little more time and find many more nice places, it doesn't always have to be about Outlander. But we had something important in mind, our evening program for this Friday, Gillebride's concert in Edinburgh.

That's why we drove to our apartment not far away and managed to change all 5 of us within half an hour and dress up! Gillebride had given me more information about the exact address at our meeting by hazard in the open-air museum in Newtonmore, the rest I found on Twitter and Google and could run our satnav with the details. It led me into the middle of the city on the Royal Mile to The Canon's Gate at Canongate 220, where I found a parking place just opposite the entrance of the pub. It was already after 19 o'clock, thus I was allowed to park there free of charge. However, the pylons with printed "no stopping" signs kept worrying me. Right at the entrance, I asked the landlord Chris, with whom I had booked a table for the evening by phone, he assure me that the stopping restrictions were only valid for the next day and therefore my car was safe that evening. It turned out that I had parked right behind Gillebride MacMillan. We got a nice big table in the middle of the restaurant and ordered our dinner, while the installation for the music was set up, there was no stage, just some space in the backside. A sign at the bar indicated that there was a Gaelic music evening once a month. Gillebride finally greeted us exuberantly, apparently a little surprised that we had actually com. The restaurant quickly filled up with guests and we were really happy about the reservation. Gillebride took me out to his car, he wanted to give me something special, it turned out to be a big book by a friend of his, an illustrated book about manhole covers of various kinds, actually with something special, and on each page a suitable poem in Gaelic, English, and - German! I cannot say how surprised and delighted I was at his generosity. Meanwhile, I had time to look into the book and the idea alone is prize-winning, the poems are funny to touching, even the English, while the Gaelic we unfortunately can't be understood.
I was more than overwhelmed by the fish soup I had ordered, which turned out to be the best I had eaten in the last 30 years in quality and taste. And the main course, a mixed fish platter, turned out to be just first-class - the others felt similar about their food - we would never have expected in such an optically simple pub like that. And all the time, there was Gillebride's wonderful music, after he had finished, some other artists and also simply people from the audience who played a song, all wonderful singers, who were also well acclaimed. In short, we had the most wonderful evening, which could only be topped by the following evening, the Highlander Fling, the highlight of our journey, around this date we had planned the course of our journey.

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