Scotland’s scenery is world-famous, with spectacular hills, glens and ruined castles that captivate the imaginations of thousands of tourists each year. The movie industry is certainly not immune to this appeal, and every year Hollywood comes to Scotland in search of unique locations for a variety of feature films. Film buffs who are visiting Scotland may wish to get in on the action (and re-enact some favourite scenes) by checking out these famous Scottish film locations.
St Andrew’s – Chariots of Fire, 1981
Long before Prince William met Kate Middleton, this university town achieved fame through its cameo in the film Chariots of Fire. The film’s iconic opening scene – in which the university running team races down a broad, sandy beach as the inspiring theme tune plays – was filmed on St Andrew’s own West Sands Beach, with a glimpse of the town in the background.
Now a favourite summer hangout for local students, this Blue Flag beach is a great place to seek out some of that elusive Scottish sunshine. West Sands stretches for two miles, so pop on your running shoes and go for an invigorating jog as you enjoy the views of sand dunes and golf courses.
Edinburgh – Trainspotting, 1996
Glasgow loves to play other cities on film, and it played Edinburgh in most of the scenes in this edgy Brit flick. However, there is one area of the capital that Scotland’s second city simply couldn’t replicate: Princes Street. Edinburgh’s main shopping thoroughfare sits under the shadow of Edinburgh Castle and boasts a unique view of the skyline and gardens.
Fans of the film will remember Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller legging it along thereafter shoplifting from John Menzies’ newsagents. You can follow in their footsteps with a stroll east along Princes Street, then turn left at Leith Street and continue on to the Black Bull pub at the bottom: this is where McGregor’s character was accosted by the police.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 2002
All aboard the Hogwarts Express! The steam-powered Jacobite Train played a starring role in the Harry Potter films, appearing as the magical train that shuttles young wizards and witches between London and the famous School of Magic.
The real train doesn’t go to London, or, alas, to a wizarding boarding school. Instead, it takes an 84-mile round trip through some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery; including the iconic arched Glenfinnan Viaduct, where Ron and Harry finally catch up to the train after stealing Ron’s dad’s flying car in the second film. It’s a great journey if you’re visiting the Highlands, and Harry and friends would certainly approve of a fish and chip lunch during the one-hour stopover in Mallaig.
Rosslyn Chapel -The Da Vinci Code, 2006
This mid-15th-century chapel is just a short drive outside of Edinburgh and has traditionally been associated with the Knights Templar and the Masons. This didn’t escape the notice of novelist Dan Brown, who wrote an action-packed scene set at the chapel in his book The Da Vinci Code, which was subsequently turned into a film starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.
The chapel is still a functioning place of worship, but it is also open to visitors for a £9 entry fee and well worth a visit for its mysterious carved symbols and intriguing architecture, including the famed Apprentice Pillar.
Glasgow – World War Z, 2013
For two weeks in 2011, people leaving Glasgow Queen Street Station by the George Square door were probably confused to see American-style signage all over the place. They were likely even more confused when a horde of zombies led by Brad Pitt started running towards them.
Due to complicated scheduling and budget issues, the World War Z team were unable to film their Philadelphia scenes in Philly: so they hopped on a bus to Glasgow and set up shop in George Square instead. This delighted Glasgow’s office workers, who could sneak a peek at Brad during their coffee breaks.
What other great Scottish film locations would you recommend visiting?
About the author: Stella Connor is a UK-based freelance writer who has lived in Scotland, England and Canada. She loves to travel, technology, food and the outdoors, and blogs about her adventures for a variety of clients, including Megabus.com.