Royal Burgh of Culross: on the Outlander trail

  • The List
  • 18 August 2015
Royal Burgh of Culross

Michael Caine on the set of Kidnapped in Culross

Picturesque village has been a magnet for film crews from Hitchcock to Avengers

Fife has more than its fair share of picturesque villages, but Culross is perhaps its most stunning. One of the best preserved examples of a 16th-century town in Scotland, it has been beloved by film crews looking for an authentic backdrop for decades.

Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser have been delighting fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series since the first book was published in 1991. But it was only in 2014 that her much-loved characters came to life on the small screen. The story – in which Claire falls through a time portal in 1940s Inverness and finds herself in 1743 Scotland, where she’s married off to clansman Jamie – is set in Scotland, where filming began in 2013.

Fans of the show will instantly recognise the buildings of Culross, which poses as the village of Cranesmuir in Outlander. In Cranesmuir, Claire (a former WWII nurse) meets and bonds with Geillis Duncan, the procurator fiscal’s wife with whom she shares an interest in the healing power of herbs.

Culross Palace garden also features in the show as the herb garden in Castle Leoch, where Claire collects medicinal plants. In another scene filmed in Culross, Claire and Jamie help to free a young boy who has his ear nailed to a post for stealing.

John Buchan’s thrilling adventure novel The 39 Steps has been treated to numerous adaptations since its publication in 1915, from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll to the long-running West End show. But one version of The 39 Steps was filmed right here in Culross: the 2008 BBC television movie featuring Rupert Penry Jones as its beleaguered hero Richard Hannay. In the film, a political rally is held in Culross, and it’s here that Hannay – unbeknownst to him – meets the traitor he’s looking for.

Avenger Captain America is one of the key characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but did you know that Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) also filmed some scenes in Culross? Culross was used as the backdrop for a Norwegian town in which a battle takes place during World War II, and it features the town’s famous Mercat Cross. This location also turns up in the film adaptation of Kidnapped (1971), featuring Michael Caine, in which Culross plays the role of Edinburgh.

Other films to use Culross as a location include kids’ film The Little Vampire (2000) featuring Richard E Grant and Bollywood film Kyun! Ho Gaya Na (2004).

Royal Burgh of Culross, Fife, KY12 8JH

Follow the Outlander trail

Culross isn’t the only National Trust for Scotland location to feature in Outlander. The village of Falkland poses as Inverness in 1946, where the story opens. Here you’ll see the Bruce Fountain, where Jamie’s ghost looks up at Claire, and the Covenanter Hotel, which is Mrs Baird’s guest house. Across the Forth in East Linton is Preston Mill, which is the mill on Jamie’s family home. Culloden Battlefield, which is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, is key to the story in both the book and TV series. Claire visits Culloden in 1946, and again in 1746 ahead of the infamous battle.
Preston Mill, East Lothian, EH40 3DS; Culloden, Highlands, IV2 5EU. Visit

Near Culross

Royal Burgh of Culross

Hill of Tarvit is popular with fashion photographers, thanks to the Edwardian splendour of its mansion house, croquet lawn and beautiful surrounding parkland. Popular Indian TV chef Saransh Goila filmed at Kellie Castle in 2014, sourcing ingredients from the beautiful castle gardens. Long-running BBC drama Silent Witness has also filmed nearby. The episode ‘In a Lonely Place’, broadcast in January 2014, was partly filmed at Falkland Palace, which is home to Britain’s oldest real tennis court.
Hill of Tarvit, Fife, KY15 5PB; Kellie Castle, Fife, KY10 2RF; Falkland Palace, Fife, KY15 7BU

A Royal Burgh of Culross
Culross, Fife, KY12 8JH
Relive the domestic life of the 16th and 17th Centuries at this riverside Royal Burgh. The old buildings and cobbled streets create a fascinating time-warp for visitors. Explore the beautiful refurbished Palace which dates from 1597 and its model…
B Hill of Tarvit Mansion & Garden
Wemysshall Road, Cupar, Fife, KY15 5PB
Hill of Tarvit is one of Scotland’s finest Edwardian mansionhouses, replete with a splendid collection of antiques, furniture, Chinese porcelain and superb paintings by Sir Henry Raeburn, Allan Ramsay and eminent Dutch artists. The original 17th-century…