Best Books & Films Set In The Highlands
There are so many books and films set in the Highlands that it’s hard to pick a favourite. The landscape of the Scottish Highlands has been inspiring writers and artists for centuries, and it’s easy to see why: the rugged cliffs plunging into the sea, the peaceful glens and the awe-inspiring mountains make for the perfect backdrop for stories of all kinds, from creepy horror to heart-wrenching romance to enchanting fantasy.
To offer some inspiration for your trip to the Highlands, we’ve collected some of the best films and books set in Scotland below. Enjoy these films as you plan your getaway or curl up with one of the books on the list by candlelight in your holiday accommodation on a windy, dark night. Without further ado, here’s what to watch and read if you’re planning a trip to the Highlands.
Films & TV
Brave tells the story of Medieval Scottish princess Merida, a free spirit whose refusal to get married sets in motion a series of events that threaten the peace between the clans. While this beloved Disney Pixar film is animated, many of the backdrops used in the film were inspired by real places in the Highlands.
In particular, Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness was a massive inspiration to the film creators when they visited Scotland for ideas back in 2006 and 2007. The film was a big hit and went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
This 2012 James Bond gets perhaps its most iconic backdrop in Glencoe, where Daniel Craig’s 007 takes M, played by Judi Dench, to his childhood home, the fictional Skyfall Lodge in the Highlands. Interestingly, the lodge itself was a prop built in Surrey rather than real Highland house. The majestic, mountainous landscape has captured viewers’ imaginations and solidified Glencoe as one of the most popular places to visit in the Highlands.
Outlander, 2014 onwards
This beloved TV show needs little introduction. The historical time travel drama details the love story of Claire, a time traveller from the 1940s and Jamie, a Scottish warrior from the mid-18thh century. The show has filming locations across Scotland, but some of the most famous scenes have been shot in the Highlands. Filming locations including Glencoe, the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore and Kinloch Rannoch.
Many of the scenes are set in Inverness but funnily enough, these were filmed in the village of Falkland instead. Regardless, this allows you to get a glimpse of life might have been like in Inverness in the 18th century.
Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire, 2005
All Harry Potter films get a good deal of their beautiful scenery from the Highlands, from the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct to Glencoe. The Goblet of Fire is no different, with views over the Great Glen from the Hogwarts Express and scenes by Loch Eilt, used for exterior shots of the Hogwarts grounds.
Also featured in the film is the Black Rock Gorge, 15 miles north of Inverness. This is where Harry battles the dragon in one of the challenges in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. The location offers a great chance for a picturesque hike for fans of the beloved franchise.
Under the Skin by Michel Faber
This sci-fi horror novel published in 2000 tells the story of an alien called Isserley whose job it is to kidnap hitchhikers along quiet Highland roads to be sent to her compatriots to be enjoyed as a culinary delicacy. The critically-acclaimed novel deals with themes like sexism, factory farming and what it means to be human. It was also adapted into a 2013 film starring Scarlett Johansson, set against a backdrop of the West Highlands, particularly the Loch Lomond area.
An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales by Theresa Breslin and Kate Leiper
Perfect for sharing with the kids, this beautifully illustrated book tells incredible stories from Scottish folklore. From magical, mermaid-like kelpies to the Orcadian sea monster, the stoor worm, this collection written by beloved children’s author Theresa Breslin range from funny and heartwarming to thrilling and enchanting. The book makes sure these fascinating legends get passed onto the next generation and will make you look at the Highlands landscape that inspired many of the stories through a new lens.
Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith
Set in modern-day Inverness, this 2007 novel is a modern retelling of the myth of Iphis from Ovid’ Metamorphoses and was named one of the best books of the year by The Independent. It tells the story of sisters Imogen and Anthea, the latter of whom falls for a female eco-warrior, Robin while working for a bottled water company. The book deals with themes such as gender, transformation and our responsibility for the natural world that surrounds us.
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
This historical crime novel published in 2015 details the case of a triple murder in a small, remote community in the Applecross peninsula in 1869. Told through fictional historical documents, including police reports and the memoir of the young killer, the novel takes a unique form that brings the world of the book alive.
The central question of the book is whether the murderer, Roderick Macrae, was insane or not and whether he should be hanged or institutionalised. The novel was shortlisted for the Booker prize and enjoyed great commercial success as well.
Planning your trip to the Highlands
When it comes to travelling in the Highlands, you have the option of road tripping around the region or using one of the towns as your home base, discovering the wider area around through day trips. Both make for excellent options, whether you want to take on something like the North Coast 500 or stay in a hotel in Inverness and rent a car to travel around.
The Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa is conveniently located in Inverness city centre, on the shore of the River Ness and across from Inverness Castle. “Palace” is a fitting name for the Victorian building, complete with stunning castle-like architectural details like turrets that evoke scenes from Outlander or His Bloody Project. Inside, however, the hotel is sleek and modern, offering comfortable and luxurious accommodation for your Highland adventure. For more information or to book your trip, call us on 01463 22 32 43 or email Palace to book direct for the very best offers. Link here for the latest Palace Hotel & Spa seasonal packages.