This article has been written with the support of CalMac.

Scotland's west coast islands on film and TV

Islands on the Screen

Outlaw King

From Hollywood superstars to the Powell and Pressburger classics... oh and Outlander, of course

From Stanley Kubrick using tinted lenses to turn Harris into Jupiter for 2001: A Space Odyssey to Ben Sharrock focusing on the Uists to tell a contemporary tale of refugees, Scotland's islands have provided an irresistible backdrop to filmmakers for decades. Ruth Marsh asks you to follow in their footsteps and put yourself in the picture


From the brooding jagged peaks of the Cuillin mountains to the limpid Fairy Pools, the Isle of Skye has an otherworldly quality that seamlessly transfers to the big screen. When Chris Pine became the latest Hollywood A-lister to brave a Scottish accent in Outlaw King, his Robert the Bruce arrived by rowing boat into Talisker Beach, a sheltered bay at the end of Glen Oraid.

The Quiraing is one of Scotland's most iconic sights: part of the Trotternish Ridge formed by a massive landslip, the looped walk takes in staggering vistas of plateaus and rock pinnacles. They appeared in Steven Spielberg's The BFG and housed Michael Fassbender's triumphal coronation in Macbeth.

For serious climbers, the Inaccessible Pinnacle is revered as Britain's most notorious ascent; it was here that 80s fantasy epic Highlander had its cult sword-fighting scene. For those who prefer more pampering, follow the lead of Patrick 'McDreamy' Dempsey and visit the locations of his Skye-shot romcom Made of Honor; there, you'll explore the 18th-century formal gardens of Dunvegan Castle and indulge in some splendid seafood cooking in the pastel-hued houses of Portree.


Islands on the Screen

The time-travelling, bodice-ripping mega-hit Outlander launched a thousand themed tours around Scotland. Pay your own homage by setting sail to the Isle of Lewis and the Callanish Stones. Named in the TV series as Craigh na Dun, this is where WWII nurse Claire is whisked back 200 years into the arms of strapping Highlander Jamie. On the island's west coast, the 5000-year-old Neolithic standing stones were the focus of Bronze Age rituals and pre-date Stonehenge.

The compact Visitor Centre hosts an interactive Story of the Stones exploring how and why they were built (although they remain tight-lipped on the likelihood of you bagging an 18th-century dreamboat). To get the stones at their most atmospheric, insiders recommend visiting at dawn or sunset to experience them looming above the crystal clear saltwater of Loch Roag.

Mussels and scallops from the loch are a renowned local delicacy and available at the nearby harbour village of Miavaig. Stock up and head to one of the numerous white sand beaches that hug the coast (Traig na Beirghe aka Reef Beach is particularly majestic) for an impromptu seaside barbeque


Islands on the Screen

You may feel that a stiff drink is in order after your wee propellor plane makes a landing on Barra, home to the UK's only beach airstrip. The film location for Ealing's timeless comedy Whisky Galore! may not yet be producing its own amber nectar, but you could always head to the main settlement of Castlebay to sample some refreshing Barra gin.

The 1949 movie is based on Compton Mackenzie's beloved comic novel about hundreds of crates of whisky washing ashore when the SS Politician sank off the coast of Eriskay. Whilst the 2016 remake (pictured) was filmed largely on the mainland, the original used Barra as a stand in for Eriskay, shooting at locations across the small island. At just eight x five miles (with nothing but the Atlantic separating it from the US), Barra happily lends itself to an idle day of touring.

Head to the windswept dunes of Allasdale whose huge reef-breaks now make it a popular kitesurfing destination, or strike out across the manmade causeway to another of the film's locations, Vatersay. Come night time, head to Barra's only pub The Castlebay Bar to catch a regular set from renowned local trad act The Vatersay Boys and finally indulge in some whisky galore.


Islands on the Screen

The Caledonian Sleeper, the train which spirits adventurous nocturnal Londoners to the far north, has scrubbed up nicely since Wendy Hiller boarded it in the opening sequence of Powell and Pressburger's 1945 charmer I Know Where I'm Going! and makes for an irresistible way to arrive in the Highlands. Hiller is en route to the fictional island of Kiloran when stormy seas and Roger Livesey's dashing young laird force her to abandon her meticulous plans and stay put on Mull.

After 70 years, many of the film's locations are still easily recognisable: Carsaig pier and boathouse is a perfect place to spot wild goats and the red phone box which is not a film prop but a functioning communications device despite being impractically located next to a loud waterfall.

Duart Castle, which stood in for the fictional Castle of Sorne, is an imposing structure dominating the shores of the Sound of Mull and Loch Linnhe and serving up Tobermory fish and Scallastle Farm ham alongside produce grown in their own walled garden. The ruined Moy Castle is closed to visitors but still makes for a worthy photo stop, not least to ponder the fate of former residents including Iain the Toothless and Ewen of the Little Head.

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