Today is a new day! It’s a Tuesday morning in Edinburgh. After running (or rather driving) around the day before to several Outlander locations, like a squirrel I intermittently munched on a banana and granola bar for breakfast while in the car. Now I take the time to sit down and eat breakfast at my B&B like a civilized human being.
Enjoying my French pressed coffee as it steams in a cup between my hands, chomping on sunnyside eggs, toast, and Linda McCartney’s vegetarian sausage, I glance at my watch and sigh. Time to move the car. The leisurely breakfast I pine for is slipping away.
The plan for today: Midhope Castle or “Lallybroch” then drive north to Tibbermore Church aka “The Witch Trial” and Drummond Castle aka “Versailles”. I gotta get on the road!
Well not so fast. The night before I realized that it’s my last morning in Edinburgh and I have not visited the Royal Mile. Unfortunately (and much to my host Sharon’s dismay) I hadn’t spent a lot of time in the city in my short two-night stay.
“I guess that’s another reason to visit again, right?” I laugh nervously to no one in particular.
My idea is to quickly visit the Royal Mile before I drive outta town. Sharon thinks I’m crazy: I only have about an hour to spare and between trying to find parking, walk 15 minutes to the Royal Mile, walk around, and come back…The clock is ticking.
“Well you seem to be Wonder Woman anyway after yesterday!” she marvels.
To top it off, I have to meet two of my accomplices from the 3 Day Outlander Tour, Barbara and Dave. Barbara, like any true Outlander fan, needed to see Lallybroch and since I rented a car and we were all in Edinburgh, I am meeting them at about 11am so we can see it together.
It’s about 9:30am. Minutes pass and I need to find a parking spot. Like any urban city, Edinburgh’s parking options are limited. Sharon assures me there is parking down the street from the B&B but when I arrive there (of course) is none. Panicking, I drive further. Where can I park in this unfamiliar city?! I take a left onto Paddington Place and like magic there is a space. A sign states that I can park for an hour without paying the meter…? I am suspicious. A small part of me says, Just dash over to the Royal Mile. You’ll be quick! Then the Voice of Reason appears (on my other shoulder) and says If you leave and then come back with an expensive ticket on your dashboard…I pop into a small café and ask the owner.
“Yes it’s true you can park for about an hour at no cost just make sure you come back.”
Scots are so trusting!
“Could I ask you a real touristy question?” I sheepishly inquire to the owner.
“Yes! I would love to answer your tourist question!” This tall, lean man jumps out from behind the counter and dashes over to me. “I love tourist questions!”
I smile at his enthusiasm and ask with a squint in my eye, “How do I get to the Royal Mile?”
While walking over I marvel at how friendly most Scots have been so far on my journey. The level of enthusiasm the owner has is unmatched in my part of the world. I feel like most people in New York City are less enthused to give directions to tourists. Don’t get me wrong! We’re happy to help but ya know be quick about it.
Finally I arrive. There are many a tourist shop on this street and I only pop into two – Thistle Do Nicely (c’mon that pun alone is worth it) and Hamilton & Young for a fun certificate commemorating my voyage to Scotland and small gifts.
For Season 3, Outlander shot along here but unfortunately I don’t have time to see the locations that a Scottish friend had conspicuously slipped in a folded map to me across a dinner table (yes just like the movies).
Midhope Castle aka “Lallybroch”
It’s time to race back and meet Barbara and Dave. We gotta head to Lallybroch!
Fast forward thirty minutes later aaaand we’re lost.
Know Before You Go If you’re using your phone, Google might pick up Midhope Castle better. If you type in “Midhope Castle” into a GPS, it won’t recognize it. Type in Hopetoun House and it might take you to the Duke of Sandringham’s estate (bonus!) which is what happened to us. My advice is to type in Hopetoun Farm Shop in your GPS. You’ll have to pick up the £5 parking pass to visit Lallybroch anyway! From there they can give you directions. It’s easier to get there from the A904 since there is a sign on the road. I picked up the pass the day before and on this day I went on a different route hence the confusion.
I kinda felt like it was going to happen. Why be easy when you want to visit one of the premiere spots of any Outlander fan’s list? The castle in on an estate of about 6,500 acres! This was Barbara’s dream (and mine)! I certainly was not going to let the GPS kill our dreams and screw it up for the both of us.
After driving past row upon row of green fields and yellow flowers with a dash of quaint cottages along the way, we finally arrive. Like a beacon of light at the end of a dark tunnel, Barbara and I gasp as we see the unmistakable peaked roof and stone edifice of Lallybroch.
It’s a strange sensation seeing a place that holds so much meaning to fans of the show and books. By strange I mean thrilling! You’ve seen the place over and over on the TV screen. You remember all of its key moments – Black Jack and Jamie meeting for the first time, Claire’s terse introduction to Jenny, Jamie and Claire returning after France to heal, Claire “seeing” Jamie in the entrance in Season 2—and the dream becomes a reality as you walk down the path leading to the location. All those iconic moments culminate into this exhilarating visit at this small castle.
You can’t go inside as it’s completely dilapidated. One of the writers of the show, Matt Roberts, was correct in saying that there is a lumberyard right next door. The Director of Photography and camera operator have to perfectly frame it out! Curiously there is an inhabited cottage right next to the castle but even more mysterious are run-down buildings right behind Midhope. This place has a history and as tourists we surely don’t know all of it. Which brings me to another curiosity – Midhope is a castle but it’s certainly not a traditional looking one. It’s a shame that they haven’t cleaned it up inside (yet) for I imagine there are both literal and figurative keys to unlocking it’s mystery.
I imagine its decades of loneliness out in the estate surrounded by fields, a lumberyard, and a quaint cottage next door. Only recently in its history has it become a mecca for fans. People are making the pilgrimage and the inundation has demanded a mere £5 parking pass only in the past year.
As we leave, Barbara, Dave, and I chat up the “guard” at the door. Though he dutifully asked if we had our parking pass when we arrived, he certainly didn’t check (Scots are so trusting!). He’s incredibly nice and has no clue what Outlander is. Well he knows it’s a show and a book that has brought all these people to this wee place but he doesn’t know how Midhope fits into it. Ahhh to not know what Outlander is…Remember? Do you remember what your life was like before you read the books or watched the show?
I bid Barbara and Dave a farewell at Linlithgow train station. We met on the 3 Day Outlander Tour in the Highlands and it’s been grand. They’re heading back to Edinburgh and I must go north to see a few more Outlander locations and then head west to spend a night in Glencoe. As I get my phone and GPS together in the parking lot, I see them across the way waiting for the train. It’s fun to share special moments with new friends who were total strangers a week ago.
“Looks like I’m going to a F*ing barbecue!” Tibbermore Church
The drive from Linlithgow train station to Perthshire is about an hour without stops. Tibbermore Church is the set where Geillis and Claire are tried for witchcraft in Season 1. This wee medieval church is off the A9 on private property (this is a slight misnomer as Scotland has a “Right to Roam” law which means you can walk wherever you like so “private” doesn’t really exist as it does in the states). I say private because the lady who lives next door has a key to the church and you’ll have to knock on her door or call if you’d like to take a peek inside. She’s very nice.
The location fee the church received from the show went towards repairs and a new roof. The church has been inactive for a few decades so it stands as a historical landmark entrusted to the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust (whose name makes me chuckle). Please leave a donation when you visit Outlander friends! It’s quite a remarkable little place.
Bienvenue à Versailles
Drummond Castle is the location for the Versailles gardens in Season 2. It’s located in Creiff which is less than a half hour from Tibbermore Church. How convenient!
The garden has French and Italian influences. It was abandoned after the ’45 Jacobite Rebellion and not restored until the 19th century. Queen Victoria visited in 1842 and planted a tree that still stands.
Believe it or not but the castle is currently occupied by Lady Willoughby. Well half occupied when she’s not at her other castle in Lincolnshire, England. When you turn onto the property and before getting to the car park, you will drive up beech avenue which is quite dramatic
Drummond Castle has a small shop but no café. You can bring a picnic if you’d like but eat it at the tables by the parking lot. Admission is £6 for adults.
Well I’ve hit three Outlander sets today – “Lallybroch”, “The Witch Trial”, and “Versailles”! It’s time to drive to Glencoe (another 2 hours) and spend the night. Then I’ll be over the sea to Isle of Skye for a few days.
Delicious Place to Eat
Gloagburn Farm Shop – Tibermore, Perth – Right down the road from Tibbermore Church is this wonderful restaurant/gift shop filled with local produce and gourmet foodstuffs. It’s a great place to pick up some gifts (like heather honey with whisky) and take away lunch if you’re heading to Drummond Castle. Or sit at the restaurant if you prefer to stay for a spell.
Know Before You Go
Scotland’s highways do not have many any fast food or “take-away” coffee places a là Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. As I drove from Linlithgow up north I was hankering for an iced coffee. Really bad. I pulled off into a place that had a bathroom facility and a small coffee shop tucked within a 7-Elevan type place. A wave of relief washed over me as a cold coffee cup was placed in my hands. But make no mistake! This place was a unicorn (name and location escape me) for I never saw these fabled “take-away” coffee shops along the highways again. Scotland really is mysterious.
Check out my video of the day!
Missed the first part of my trip? Check them out here!
Urban in Scotland Series – The Urban Outlander
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