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24 Jan 2024

On location with The Buccaneers

Written by Anna Rathband, Filming Manager
A view of Culzean Castle on top of the cliffs, seen from the sea. It is a sunny day and the castle and cliffs are reflected in the calm blue water.
Culzean Castle in Ayrshire
Let your favourite films and TV shows inspire your next great day out!

Apple TV+’s The Buccaneers, based on Edith Wharton’s final unfinished novel, is a thoroughly modern adaptation of a literary classic. The series takes place in the 1870s and follows the lives and loves of a group of young women from America’s nouveau riche as they travel to England for the London Season to find titled husbands. As the tag line reads, lock up your lords!

Filmed entirely in Scotland but set in New York, London and Cornwall, filming took place between June and December 2022 and included several National Trust for Scotland locations. Culzean Castle & Country Park in Ayrshire features as part of Wharton’s Tintagel Castle; Newhailes House, our stately home in Musselburgh, provided the interior of Brightlingsea Townhouse; and St Abb’s Head doubled as the Cornwall coast. As the Trust’s filming manager – alongside our conservators, curators, Buildings team and location staff – I worked closely with the crew to facilitate the filming.

Extensive and detailed set dressing at Newhailes saw the Library transformed into an ornate, wood-panelled dining room. The Round Drawing Room at Culzean Castle was used for perfect golden hour filming, while the Camellia House was turned into an artist’s retreat. And the dramatic coastline of St Abb’s Head was brought back to the 1870s when the production used gravel to cover the modern tarmac access road. Maintaining the care and integrity of our locations is always our upmost priority – detailed discussions were had to ensure that the gravel used was specially sourced from a local quarry. This meant no foreign components were introduced to the National Nature Reserve, which is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It’s not the first time that National Trust for Scotland locations have doubled for places not in Scotland.

  • St Abb’s Head has also starred as New Asgard in Avengers: Endgame. If you’re more a Harrie than a Marvel fan, this coastal location featured as the fictional island of Eroda in Harry Styles’s music video for ‘Adore You’.
  • Newhailes became a Governor’s house in North Carolina in season 4 of Outlander.
  • Glencoe is the setting for the laboratory in Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
  • Preston Mill features as a location in the fictional English village of Wychwood under Ashe in the BBC adaptation of Murder is Easy.
  • The centre of Glasgow, including the Trust-owned Hutchesons’ Hall, became New York in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
A view of the exterior of Preston Mill on a sunny day, showing the water wheel at the edge of the brick building. The mill has an unusual Dutch-style conical roof.
Preston Mill in East Lothian

The National Trust for Scotland has a long history with cinema. Here are a few more films that have used our locations:

  • Kidnapped, starring Michael Caine, was filmed at Culross in 1971. The village was also used in The Little Vampire in 2000, Kyun! Ho Gaya Na in 2004, Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, and Christmas in Scotland in 2023.
  • The Wicker Man, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2023, used Culzean Castle in 1973 as the home of Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle.
  • Castle Fraser featured as Balmoral in 2006’s The Queen starring Helen Mirren.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail filmed scenes at Glencoe in 1975, with the dramatic glen also being used in 2018 for both Mary Queen of Scots and Outlaw King. And of course, James Bond’s Skyfall filmed at Glen Etive in 2012 – visitors can park in the same lay-by as Bond and M and look out across the ruggedly beautiful surroundings, even if you don’t arrive in an Aston Martin!

Attracting feature films and drama TV series to the locations in our care has many benefits, from the initial income of filming fees to a lasting legacy of film tourism. Filming at our locations helps to keep our charity sustainable, with all income generated going directly back to the featured location to aid its conservation. When Netflix’s Love Sick filmed at Ben Lomond a few years ago, the filming income paid for a new tool shed, which was very much needed and is now a well-used part of the estate for staff and volunteers. When season 1 of Outlander filmed at Preston Mill in 2014, the scene required Sam Heughan’s Jamie Fraser to climb the mill wheel. The production paid for the mill paddles to be replaced by specialist contractors to make sure that it was safe for the action.

A Land Rover is parked at the grassy side of a single-track road running through a glen. A man and woman stand in front of the Land Rover, admiring the view.
Admiring the Skyfall view in Glen Etive

The lasting legacy of film tourism is also hugely significant. Screen Scotland, the national body that drives development of all aspects of Scotland’s film and TV industry, estimates that screen tourism contributes £55 million to the Scottish economy. VisitBritain research shows that 20% of international visitors have visited a film or TV location whilst on holiday abroad. This means that the locations in our care are inspiring people all over the world to visit Scotland. It’s also a wonderful way for people who have ancestral connections to Scotland to engage with their heritage in a fun and accessible way.

And it’s not just films and drama TV series that inspire visitors. We also welcome lots of national and international factual programmes and travel TV series to our locations, such as Landward, Countryfile, Secret Scotland with Susan Calman, Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers, My Kind of Town, Four in a Bed, The One Show, Winterwatch, Antiques Roadshow, Scotland’s Sacred Islands with Ben Fogle, and many more. Recently, we have welcomed travel TV series from Australia, France, India, Korea, the Netherlands and Spain. Working with these factual productions is fantastic because they feature our places, our people and our projects, which helps to promote our charity’s key purpose of nature, beauty and heritage for everyone. Whether it’s focusing on our woodland restoration projects, the pioneering conservation project at the Hill House, or the wildlife that call our locations home, having our places on TV shows can help to promote the projects that we are passionate about, helping us to share Scotland’s heritage for future generations.

As a film tourism fan myself, I recommend visiting a location because of your favourite movie or TV show –it can lead to an incredible adventure as well as learning about new places and cultures. So, whether The Buccaneers inspires you to visit Culzean Castle or Dougie Vipond and the Landward team motivate you to explore Ben Lomond, I hope that you are able to visit some of the amazing locations that we care for. And please do tag us on social media to share your film tourism adventures!

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