Scotland is a land of myth and legend, and its rich history and stunning landscapes have inspired countless films. From the epic battles of Braveheart to the magical world of Harry Potter, movies set in Scotland have given us a glimpse into the country’s history and culture.
Planning a trip to Scotland? Or, maybe you’re just looking to get whisked away to the Highlands in a good film? We’ve compiled a list of nine must-see movies that effortlessly capture the beauty and spirit of the country in all its glory.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011)
Despite having a lot of scenes shot in London and Morocco, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was also filmed in Scotland. The movie is based on a 2007 novel of the same name by Paul Torday.
The film follows fisheries expert Alfred Jones, who lives in the Highlands. Alfred is brought to Yemen to bring fly-fishing to the region, the project financed by a wealthy Yemeni Sheikh. With the help of businesswoman Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, they work to make the Sheikh’s dream come true. And, romance blossoms between Alfred and Harriet on the way.
The filming in Scotland was at the Ardverikie Estate near the Cairngorms.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Amr Waked.
One of Mel Gibson’s most famous films, Braveheart, follows Scottish warrior Sir William Wallace, who led the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England. While the film was inaccurate, it’s another movie that was filmed in several locations in Scotland. The landscapes of Braveheart were filmed around Loch Leven and Glen Coe, as well as the Glen Nevis Valley, Edinburgh, and Mamores mountains.
Braveheart also stars Sophie Marceau, Angus Macfadyen, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, Brendan Gleeson, Peter Hanly, Sean McGinley, and Brian Cox.
Harry Potter (2001-2011)
The widely celebrated series of films is based on the popular books by J.K. Rowling. All eight Harry Potter films had Scotland as the backdrop despite not being about Scotland. The movies showed off Scotland’s landscapes across the glens in the Highlands and Edinburgh’s alleyways. Hagrid’s home in Prisoner of Azkaban was filmed in Clachaig Inn, and Steall Falls was where Harry faces off against the Hungarian Horntail in The Goblet of Fire.
The most famous of all? The West Highland Line that passes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct is the same route the Hogwarts Express takes on the journey to and from the wizarding school.
The films star an ensemble cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, and Robbie Coltrane.
From Daniel Craig’s era of James Bond, the film sees the famous spy return to his Scottish roots. This was due to James Bond author Ian Fleming liking Sean Connery’s portrayal of 007 so he decided to give the character a Scottish heritage. The film follows Bond investigating a series of coordinated data leaks as well as attacks on MI6 led by a former agent Raoul Silva.
Most of the scenes were filmed at Skyfall Lodge, featuring the landscapes of Glen Coe and Glen Etive. Skyfall also stars Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, and Berenice Marlohe.
But Skyfall isn’t the only Bond film that’s filmed in Scotland. Scotland also appears in From Russia With Love (1963), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), The World is Not Enough (1999), and No Time to Die (2021).
Out of all the movies set in Scotland, this iconic scene above from Skyfall is one of the most stunning and memorable.
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
The 2006 movie The Da Vinci Code is based on the book of the same name by Dan Brown. The film also has Scotland as a key location. The movie follows symbologist Robert Langdon, who investigates the murder of the Louvre Museum curator Jacques Sauniere. With police cryptologist Sophie Neveu, they begin their quest to find the Holy Grail, leading them to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.
The Da Vinci Code stars Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Paul Bettany, Jurgen Prochnow, Etienne Chicot, and Jean Yves Berteloot.
Out of all the movies set in Scotland, not many have filmed at Rosslyn Chapel. The venue itself is one of the country’s most stunning churches.
One of Shakespeare’s most famous works, and the subject of some theater superstitions, was also filmed in Scotland. Macbeth follows a Scottish lord’s rise to power after getting a prophecy from a trio of witches that he will become King of Scotland. The Macbeth movie is filmed on the Isle of Skye, in Glen Brittle forest overlooking Cullin Ridge, the Sligachan Glen, and the Quiraing.
Macbeth stars Michael Fassbender, Marion Cottilard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki, and David Thewlis.
This animated Pixar movie brought Disney fans a new princess in the form of Merida. While Brave is set in a fictional place in Scotland, many scenes are based in real places in Scotland. The story follows Princess Merida of DunBroch who defies a longtime family custom. Merida’s clash with her mother Queen Elinor leads the latter to fall victim to a curse that turns her into a bear.
The DunBroch castle was inspired by Scotland’s Dunnottar Castle. Other locations included are The Royal Mile, the Calanais Standing Stones, and Glen Affric.
Brave stars Kelly McDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson.
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
A movie about the Scottish queen, Mary Stuart, who returns to Scotland to take her place on the throne. However, Mary is faced with a challenge as Scotland and England are under the rule of Mary’s rival and cousin Elizabeth I. Filming took place at the Highlands, Cairngorms National Park, and Blackness Castle.
The movie stars Saoirse Ronan in the titular role, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, and Guy Pearce.
Similarly, Mary Queen of Scots did leave her mark on many other historical places in Scotland. This includes Linlithgow Palace, the Palace of Holyrood House, Craigmillar Castle, Lochleven Castle, Crookston Castle, and Queen’s Park in Glasgow.
Arguably one of Ewan McGregor’s most famous movies, Trainspotting is based on a novel by Irvine Walsh. The movie follows a group of heroin addicts living in Edinburgh in the 1980s. The film was shot all over Edinburgh, and other locations in Scotland including Princes Street, Calton Road, and Waverley Station. In one of the movie’s iconic scenes, Renton and the group go to Corrour train station in the middle of the Highlands.
The sequel T2 Trainspotting takes place 20 years later. T2 Trainspotting was also filmed in the same locations in Scotland including the top of Arthur Seat.
Trainspotting also stars Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, and Kelly Macdonald.
These nine films are just a highlight of movies set in Scotland. There are countless more, and that doesn’t even dive into the TV series set in the country. From series like Outlander that call Scotland home to others that have filmed in the country, including Game of Thrones, Good Omens, Succession, and Andor – Scotland continues to wow us with its stunning landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture – Making it a perfect setting for all forms of storytelling.