Scotland has a lot to offer in terms of film locations. It has the rolling countryside, icy mountain peaks, bustling cities, and charming villages that, through the years, have provided a perfect backdrop for many of the incredible movies set in Scotland.
We love this because one of the reasons we watch movies is that they are a round-about way to travel to different places while being at home. It is what inspired us to visit Germany, New Orleans, and France – and is the reason we were originally drawn to Scotland as a travel destination.
Few countries capture the imagination the way that bonnie Scotland does. Despite the notoriously bad weather, it’s one of the most fascinating places you can visit. And let’s face it, without all that rain, you wouldn’t get those gloriously green mountains in the Highlands and soft, rolling hills in the Lowlands….not to mention the fact that if the weather was better, everyone would be going here!
From jagged mountain faces to rolling hills and white sandy beaches, it has everything a movie director can dream of. It rivals New Zealand, Spain, and Austria as one of the world’s most desirable filming locations, and in this article, we will list ten great movies set in Scotland that make the most of the stunning scenery on offer.
From the rugged Highlands and the magical Isle of Skye to medieval Edinburgh and seaside St. Andrews, these Scottish films will fill you with ideas for things to see when you next visit Scotland!
Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.
You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.
Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best.
While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2001: A Space Odyssey is a science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, and William Sylvester. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke and was inspired by Clarke’s short story The Sentinel, published in 1951.
The film tells the story of Dr. Dave Bowman (Dullea), who, together with his crew, is sent on a mysterious mission into space. The spaceship’s computer system, called HAL, begins to display increasingly strange behavior, leading up to a tense showdown between the crew and the computer that results in a mind-bending journey through space and time.
2001: A Space Odyssey was filmed in the United States, Namibia, the United Kingdom, and of course, Scotland, which we will be focusing on in this article. The psychedelic sequences in the movie were filmed in Harris, the southern and more mountainous part of Lewis and Harris, which is part of the largest island in the Outer Hebrides.
Although not an island itself, Harris is often referred to as the Isle of Harris. Just be aware that some of these shots, which are supposed to be the landscape of Jupiter in the film, were distorted, and you may not immediately recognize them unless you know the area very well.
The Maggie (1954)
The Maggie (also known as High and Dry in some countries) is a British comedy film directed by Alexander Mackendrick and starring Paul Douglas, Alex Mackenzie, and James Copeland. The film was written by William Rose.
The film tells the story of a wealthy American businessman (Douglas), who plans to surprise his wife with a summer residence in the British Isles. He charters a small and rundown transport boat called The Maggie to carry his furnishings to the new property. Captain McTaggert (Mackenzie) desperately needs the money to save his boat, but he and his crew plan to get the most out of Marshall on this most unorthodox journey.
The Maggie was mostly filmed in Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, located in Argyll just southwest of Jura and around 40 kilometers north of the Northern Irish coast. The island is sometimes referred to as The Queen of the Hebrides.
The movie was filmed in various locations on the island and used both real and fictional place names throughout the film. The Imperial Hotel, as seen in the movie, is today the Harbour Inn. Other Islay locations featured in the film are Loch Gruinart, Port Charlotte, and Port Askaig.
Some scenes were also filmed in Glasgow, the most populous city in Scotland.
Skyfall is the twenty-third in the James Bond series of films and was directed by Sam Mendes. It stars Daniel Craig as special agent James Bond and also features Javier Bardem as the villain Raoul Silva, and Judi Dench as M.
The film is about James Bond’s latest assignment going terribly wrong and leading to a calamitous turn of events in which undercover agents around the world are exposed. When MI6 is attacked M is forced to relocate the agency, and with it now being compromised, she turns to the one man she can trust: James Bond.
Aided by a field agent, he follows a trail to a man from M’s past who has an old score to settle.
As is common with James Bond films, Skyfall too was filmed in various places around the world, including Turkey, Japan, Shanghai, and yes – Scotland. Glencoe Village, the main settlement in Glen Coe in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, was chosen as the iconic location of Bond’s childhood home.
The valley where the house is located is actually known as Glen Etive, the turnoff for which is just a few kilometers after the Glencoe Mountain Resort heading towards Fort Williams. It is incredibly scenic and is located just off a major tourist route in Glencoe. If you plan to visit it, you will have to plan a road trip as a car is basically your only option of getting there.
Local Hero (1983)
Local Hero is a Scottish comedy film written and directed by Bill Forsyth and starring Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson, Fulton Mackay, and Burt Lancaster. The film is about the up-and-coming Houston oil executive MacIntyre (Riegert), who gets more than he bargained for when a seemingly simple business trip to Scotland changes his outlook on life.
When his colorful boss (Lancaster) sends him to the small village of Ferness, MacIntyre is looking to buy out the townspeople so his company can build a new refinery. But after experiencing country life, he begins to question whether he is on the right side of this transaction.
Local Hero was filmed in different locations around Scotland. Most of the Ferness village scenes were filmed in Pennan on the Aberdeenshire coast and most of the beach scenes at Morar and Arisaig on the west coast.
Other filming locations include Fort William, a town in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands, located on the eastern shore of Loch Linnhe, along with Loch Eil, a sea loch in Lochaber, and Mallaig, a port in Lochaber.
Braveheart is an American war/drama film directed by Mel Gibson, who also co-produced the movie and played the lead role. The film tells the story of the legendary thirteenth-century Scottish hero Sir William Wallace (Gibson), a late-13th-century Scottish warrior.
After he suffers a personal tragedy at the hand of English soldiers, Wallace rallies the Scottish against the English monarch and Edward I. He tries to bring together a group of amateur warriors that are stronger than any English army.
Braveheart was filmed in both Ireland and Scotland. Some of the openings shots were filmed at Loch Leven, a sea loch near Glen Coe, while some of the landscapes of Glen Coe can also be seen in the movie. William Wallace’s home village of ‘Lanark‘ as it is named in the movie, was filmed in Glen Nevis, a glen in Lochaber.
Other scenes were shot at Am Bodach, a Scottish mountain that lies in the Mamores range, located north of Kinlochleven in the Highland council area. There are many more Scottish locations used throughout the movie; unfortunately, there are too many to list them all here.
Highlander is a fantasy/adventure film directed by Russell Mulcahy and starring Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, Roxanne Hart, and Sean Connery. The movie tells the story of the mystical Connor MacLeod (Lambert), who kills a man in a sword fight in a New York City parking lot. When doing so, he leaves a sliver of an ancient weapon lodged in a car.
After forensics specialist Brenda Wyatt (Hart) recovers evidence of the mysterious weapon, she and her partner start an investigation that will land them in the middle of a centuries-old and dangerous feud between powerful immortals.
Filming on Highlander took place in both New York City and Scotland. One of the more famous landmarks that can be seen in the movie is Eilean Donan Castle in the Kyle of Lochalsh near the Isle of Skye. In the movie, the castle is located in the village of Glenfinnan, but in reality, the village is kilometers away from the castle.
Connor’s first battle scene takes place in Glen Etive, with the Buachaille Etive Beag mountain visible in the distance. Deep into the Highlands, Connor marries Heather, where they live in a remote tower. This was filmed close to The Three Sisters mountains in Glen Coe. The tower was built specifically for the movie and is no longer there.
Other locations that can be seen in the movie are Loch Shiel, a freshwater loch located in the Highland council area of Scotland, Trotternish, the northernmost peninsula of the Isle of Skye, and the Torridon Hills, located in the Northwest Highlands.
What We Did On Our Holiday (2014)
What We Did on Our Holiday is a British comedy film written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, starring David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, and Billy Connolly. The film was inspired by the BBC TV show Outnumbered.
The film tells the story of parents Doug (Tennant) and Abi (Pike), who have three charming and very eccentric children. When things get a bit too much for them, they decide to take the whole family on vacation to Scotland for a big family gathering and to visit Doug’s wacky father, Gordie (Connolly). What was supposed to be a vacation of reconciliation quickly turns into a trip full of feuds, misunderstandings, and bruised egos.
What We Did on Our Holiday is set in rural Scotland and features some of the gorgeous landscapes of the Highlands. The beach where the kids spent a lot of time with their granddad is located in Gairloch, a village, civil parish, and community on the shores of Loch Gairloch in Wester Ross, in the North-West Highlands.
In the scene in which Billy is talking to his grandson, you can spot Loch Katrine, a freshwater loch and scenic attraction in the Trossachs area of the Scottish Highlands. The house that is featured in the movie is located in Drymen, a village in the Stirling district of central Scotland. If you plan to visit there, please be aware the house is a private residence and not open to the public.
Other locations you can see in the movie are the Blair Drummond Safari Park located near Stirling, and Glasgow, the most populous city in Scotland.
The 39 Steps (1935)
The 39 Steps is a British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Robert Donat, Lucie Mannheim, and Madeleine Carroll. It is somewhat based on the adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, published in 1915.
The film revolves around Canadian Richard Hannay (Donat), who is on vacation in London. There he becomes embroiled in an international spy ring related to the mysterious 39 steps. Soon after he meets agent Annabella Smith, she gets stabbed in front of him in his London apartment, clutching a map of the Scottish Highlands.
While being a suspect of the murder and on the run, he tries to stop Professor Jordan from sending secrets out of the country. Hannay is assisted by Pamela (Carrol), an unwilling accomplice who discovers the truth.
Alfred Hitchcock filmed The 39 Steps in various locations in both England and Scotland. For the sake of this article, we will focus strictly on the two Scottish locations used in the film. The first is one of the most famous landmarks of Scotland, sometimes even considered as its symbol: The Forth Bridge, a cantilever railway bridge across the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland, located 14 kilometers west of central Edinburgh. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The second location is Glen Coe, a glen of volcanic origins located in the Highlands of Scotland. It lies in the north of the county of Argyll, close to the border with the province of Lochaber. Hitchcock used some stunning and beautiful scenery from these locations, and those alone are worth watching this black and white classic.
Loch Ness (1996)
You just can’t write up an article about movies set in Scotland without including the famous lake of Loch Ness, now can you? Loch Ness is a family drama film directed by John Henderson and starring Ted Danson, Joely Richardson, and Ian Holm.
The film tells the story of the divorced and discredited American anthropologist Dempsey (Danson), who arrives in Scotland to debunk the legend of the Loch Ness mystical lake monster. But his mission soon turns into much more than that, as the charm of the small town and Dempsey’s dealings with various locals all help steer him in a new positive direction.
Loch Ness was filmed mostly in Diabaig, a remote coastal fishing and crofting township in Wester Ross, located in the Northwest Highlands. Most of the village scenes were shot at this location. Other scenes were shot at Eilean Donan, a small tidal island situated at the confluence of the three sea lochs Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh, all located in the western Highlands, about 1 kilometer from the village of Dornie.
And, of course, scenes of the lake were actually filmed at Loch Ness, a large, deep freshwater loch also located in the Scottish Highlands.
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man is a British horror film directed by Robin Hardy and starring Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, and Christopher Lee. The film tells the tale of Sergeant Howie (Woodward), who arrives on the small Scottish (and fictional) island of Summerisle to investigate the report of a missing child.
As a conservative Christian, the policeman frowns upon the residents’ frivolous sexual displays and strange pagan rituals. However, the more Howie learns about the islanders’ strange practices, the closer he gets to tracking down the missing child, as he begins to suspect this strange island holds a dark secret.
The Wicker Man was filmed in many locations and towns in western Scotland. These locations include The Storr and Quiraing on the Isle of Skye, Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Burrowhead, and other places on the Isle of Whithorn. Other scenes were shot in Plockton in Ross-shire and Gatehouse of Fleet, Newton Stewart, Kirkcudbright, and Creetown, which are all in Galloway.
The Wicker Man is actually one of this author’s most favorite films, and I can highly recommend watching this not so much scary, but very creepy and unsettling classic film. It will stay with you for a long time after the end credits have rolled, and not just because of the beautiful Scottish scenery. Just try to avoid the 2006 remake.
We hope watching some of the great movies set in Scotland on this list will inspire you to one day make the trip to Scotland. And when you do, you will find out the country has much to offer. Beautiful beaches and mountains, highlands, old castles, lochs, and much more await you in this great country.
So sit back and relax, turn on one of the movies set in Scotland on this list, and start your journey there today.