At Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Scotland’s tragic Mary, Queen of Scots, the volunteer guides and workers are preparing for a tourist surge.
This 15th-century palace, a bulwark of the Stuart dynasty, is astonishingly well preserved and already draws visitors who walk among its stone halls and ramparts and admire its little loch.
But Frances Murray, tour guide and shop manager, knows there are more on the way. Why? Because last week Netflix launched Outlaw King, a production about the life of Robert the Bruce, filmed in part at Linlithgow. And, following the huge success of the Outlander TV drama series, filmed in several Scottish locations, the country knows a thing or two about the TV effect.
“The uplift places such as this get from television shows like Outlander is amazing, and we’re expecting the same from Outlaw King,” said Murray yesterday. “Sometimes, though, we get tourists from overseas who ask to see specific rooms where some of the scenes were shot, and we have to explain that they don’t actually exist. But this is such a beautiful and interesting building that they soon get wrapped up in it.”
The West Lothian palace was only one of several Scottish locations for the new film, which stars Chris Pine as the warrior overlord. The others read like the index of a tourist brochure: Borthwick Castle, Dunfermline Abbey, Glasgow Cathedral and Doune Castle near Stirling. And the beautiful landscapes of Skye are already upstaging the principal actors.
VisitScotland, the national tourist agency, has produced two glossy and substantial brochures that chronicle some recent world-class productions. On the cover of one of them a moody Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall stands beside his silver Aston Martin with the mists of Glen Coe gathering behind him. In 2015 an online poll conducted by USA Today voted Scotland the world’s best cinematic destination. The country’s filmic credits include well-known movies such as Braveheart, The Da Vinci Code, The 39 Steps and Whisky Galore. But it also makes atmospheric cameo appearances in movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the ethereal beauty of Harris was deployed by Stanley Kubrick to realise his imagined Jupiter.
Next year another major historical drama built around this nation’s vivid and bloody history will be released in British cinemas. This time it will be Mary, Queen of Scots herself who will get the Hollywood treatment in a film starring Saoirse Ronan as Mary and David Tennant as John Knox .
Tourism, along with whisky and salmon, forms the cornerstone of the Scottish economy. In a recent interview Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “Tourism is integral to sustaining communities across Scotland by generating income, creating jobs and stimulating social change – and it generates around £11bn of economic activity.” He also reckoned that one new job is created in Scotland for every £60,000 spent by visitors.
VisitScotland has calculated that, taken together, the value of direct and indirect spending represents 4.5% of the Scottish economy, and that visitors’ spending accounts for almost £9bn per year. But recent analysis by the Scottish government suggests that a lot more growth can still be found from the tourism sector’s productivity, and that it was the lowest of six sectors targeted for growth in the national economic strategy. Film and television tourism will be vital components in achieving this growth.
Fiona Hyslop, culture and tourism minister in the Scottish government, yesterday spoke of her delight that the world’s top film and television producers are now making Scotland one of their first destinations. “Producers now know that when they choose Scotland, as well as magnificent scenery and locations they’re now getting highly-skilled and professional technical crews to go with them,” she said.
Crucially, too, the long wait for a world-class national film studio could soon be over. At last week’s Bafta Scotland awards first minister Nicola Sturgeon referred to the need for a national film studio, saying: “Watch this space.”
Yet some would say that with its remarkable scenery and stunning vistas, Scotland already possesses the best natural film studio in the world.
Take a tour of The Outlaw King film locations in Scotland , featuring Blackness Castle and Linlithgow Palace . Phone 07305-294773 for more details. Starring Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce the lavish Netflix production was filmed at 45 different locations across Scotland .
- Blackness Castle
- Linlithgow Palace
- Doune Castle
Robert the Bruce was born on the 11th of July 1274 in Turnberry Castle and died in 1329 in Cardross. Bruce’s body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey and his heart is buried in the ruins of Melrose Abbey.
The Outlaw King Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland at Scone Palace on the Stone of Destiny.