Scotland in the Movies

I think that it would be fair to say that one of the main reasons that people from all over the world have been inspired to visit our country is because of Scotland in the Movies. Scotland in the Movies can encompass a whole range of genres. So, rather than throw a whole mix of movies at you, I have decided to split this up into different genres to be covered in different articles as follows:

  • Scottish History
  • Scottish Contemporary Culture
  • Music in Scottish Movies
  • Scottish Popular Fiction
  • Scottish Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Sport in Scottish Movies
  • Bollywood in Scotland

Scotland is very fortunate to have some of the most beautiful and picturesque but at the same time wild and rugged scenery that you can find anywhere. It has a land mass of just over 30,000 square miles which is comparable with countries like Austria, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. For many people who visit Scotland for the first time, when they look at a map of our tiny island, they could be mistaken for thinking that Scotland is just this wee plot of land on the very northern fringes of England. In fact, Scotland is almost exactly a third of the area of the entire UK. 

So, why have I rambled on about the size of Scotland? Despite its size, Scotland punches way above its weight if we look at the range and depth of filming that has taken place here. Believe it or not, the first moving picture was shown in Scotland on 13 April 1896 at the Empire Palace Theatre in Edinburgh. However, the very first Scottish made film ‘ The Departure of the Columba from Rothesay Pier’ was screened in the same year at the Skating Place in Glasgow. In the early to mid 20th century, for many people throughout Britain and the rest of the world, their only impression of Scotland was what they saw on the big screen. 

So, over the next couple of weeks, I am going to post an article on each of the genres listed above. Because a couple of the genres have so many films to choose from, I will choose the top five in each. I know that this will invite comments of why didn’t I include ‘such and such’ a film. However, there have literally been hundreds of films and movies made over the last 100 years, so please forgive me if your favourite doesn’t appear in any of the top 5. 

In this first article, perhaps not surprisingly, we are going to look at specifically Scottish history in the movies. Scottish history is generally what inspires people to visit Scotland particularly if they have some family connection. This connection may be from two or three generations back when their ancestors emigrated from Scotland to make a new life in another country. 

However, we find that in most cases it is the locations that are used in the different movies that really draws visitors to Scotland. It is hard to deny just how breathtakingly stunning the view of Glen Etive is when James Bond makes the journey back to his family home in Skyfall; or perhaps, it is the backdrop of some of our most historic castles and palaces as used in the most recent Outlaw King. However, just to get the movie and location juices flowing, here are our top 5 Scottish history movies. 


Braveheart was released in 1995. If you haven’t heard of Braveheart, where have you been? This movie directed by Mel Gibson was based on one of our most iconic heroes William Wallace. It won five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography.

The various backdrops used in the movie are a feast for the eyes. However, some of the filming took place not just in Scotland but also Ireland. The main locations used in Scotland were Glencoe, Glen Nevis and Mamore Mountains

Now it is just worth pointing out for those that are not aware that although Mel Gibson won Best Director, he took a bit of a liberty with our actual history. Factually, chunks of the storyline were inaccurate but overall the content painted a true picture of a subjugated nation fighting for its rightful freedom from the tyranny of England. 

When my wife and I went to watch this movie at the cinema, we lived in England. At the end of the movie, I think that the largely English audience were so stunned that you could have heard a pin drop. The movie deservedly has to be in the top 5. If you haven’t yet watched it, do it now!

If you want to visit locations linked to William Wallace, we can customise a tour for you or build it into our Edinburgh & Stirling Castle Tour. For further details go to our Tours page.


There have been two versions of the legend that is Rob Roy. The first was a Disney produced film released in 1953 called Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue. However, we think that the 1995 version is more authentic despite portraying Rob Roy as a real life hero. 

The movie itself was never going to be able compete with the box office success of Braveheart. However, Liam Neeson gives a very credible performance as the 18th century Rob Roy who takes every opportunity to give every Englishman he meets a good kicking. For us Scots he is revered as our own Robin Hood. For the English, however, he was the Rambo of the day. Even when it looked like the game was up he would miraculously manage to escape their clutches to fight another day. 

Yet again it is the Highland scenery which steals the show with filming again taking place in Glencoe, Glen Nevis and on Rannoch Moor.


Released in 2008, this is based on a true story. The Stone of Destiny is believed to be the stone which all Scottish monarchs were crowned on going as far back as the mid 9th century. However, the stone was stolen by King Edward I of England during the Scottish Wars of Independence and taken to London where he had it placed under the English throne at Westminster Abbey.

Fast forward to 1950 and we find ourselves following the plans and the final execution of taking back the stone from Westminster to Scotland by a small group of idealistic Scottish nationalists. 

The film uses a number of locations including Arbroath, Glasgow University, Paisley Abbey and Glenfinnan Viaduct as well as locations in England. 

Having succeeded in their plan, the stone was eventually handed back over to the authorities and the stone was returned to Westminster. It wasn’t until 1996 that the then Prime Minister John Major decided that it should be returned to Scotland. If you visit Edinburgh Castle, you can get up close and personal in the vault where it is held along with the Honours of Scotland.


This was released in 2018 and much to the surprise of many Scots actually turned out to be a good watch about our other iconic hero Robert the Bruce. It does not cover the entire period of his reign but only from the period commencing in 1304 up until his first major successful battle in 1307 at the Battle of Loudon Hill. Chris Pine who played the part of Bruce delivered a superb performance depicting well the pain and the agony that this King had to go through before finally achieving the first of many victories. 

It follows the Bruce’s guerilla war against the much larger and better equipped English army led by King Edward I. The producers did not shy away from using as many locations as possible in the making of this film. Doune Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Dunfermline Abbey, Craigmillar Castle, Glasgow Cathedral, Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Loch Lomond and many more get to take a bow in this tour de force of a film. 


Coming hot on the heels of Outlaw King is this movie following the bleak struggle of Scotland’s Queen Mary played convincingly by Saoirse Ronan. 

Upon her return from France following the death of her husband Mary takes up her position as the monarch of Scotland. The movie loosely chronicles her attempts to retain her grip on power whilst ruling over a country that has reformed itself from a Catholic to a Protestant nation. 

In addition, we see how her choice of husband does not help her cause as well as the constant plots by her enemies to bring her down. Overriding all of this is a suspicion by Queen Elizabeth of England that Mary also has her eye on the English throne. 

Again it is the locations that are amongst the biggest winners of the movie with scenes at Blackness Castle, Glencoe, Glen Feshie, Linlithgow Palace and coastal scenes in East Lothian.


Macbeth 1997 I

vanhoe 1952

Bonnie Prince Charlie 1948 – pretty dire and bombed at the Box Office

Robert the Bruce


The Eagle

The Queen

Mrs Brown


Valhalla Rising

The Railway Man

To End All Wars