Located just a stone’s throw from Stirling, Doune Castle draws in Outlander fans from all over the world. Although this beautiful castle has played host to several famous productions, it is its feature in Outlander that brings the majority of its current visitors.
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What is Outlander?
For those of you aren’t versed in the time-travelling romance genre, allow me to introduce Outlander. Written by Diana Gabaldon, these books document the story of Jamie Fraser, a dishy kilt-clad highlander and Claire Randall, a married former WWII nurse who gets unexpectedly transported back to Scotland in 1743.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of romance so I didn’t think that this was going to be my kind of thing. It turns out I was wrong! After just a few episodes, I was hooked and spent the whole summer binge-watching all four seasons (so far). I’m now a straight-up fan girl!
What was filmed at Doune Castle?
As you now know, Doune Castle was featured in Outlander, the popular TV series. This is not its only accolade though!
Game of Thrones
Doune Castle was also used as Winterfell Castle in the pilot of Game of Thrones. This much-loved Westeros location attracts plenty of visitors in its own right, especially since the series ended and Historic Scotland agreed to participate in the Game of Thrones takeover, which involved displaying Game of Thrones signage at filming locations all over the UK.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
This famous comedy film released in 1975 is set in the Middle Ages. It follows King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on a grand quest for Holy Grail. Although I will confess that I have never seen it, after listening to the audio guide by Terry Jones, it has made it on my to-watch list!
The Outlaw King
The Netflix Original The Outlaw King follows Robert the Bruce after he takes the Scottish Crown and is made an outlaw by the King of England. Some of its scenes were also filmed at Doune Castle. In the film, Doune Castle acts as the setting for Douglas Castle and Church.
What was Doune Castle in Outlander?
In Outlander, Doune Castle is wonderfully transformed into Castle Leoch, the stronghold of the MacKenzie clan. The castle itself is shown in several scenes and the grounds were also utilised during the production process.
During the filming, Historic Scotland agreed to close the entire castle (which is somewhat unusual) but owing to the ‘Right to Roam’ act present in Scotland, the grounds had to remain open for public use. This meant that during the filming, the surrounding area was often staked out by keen Outlander fans who were trying to catch a glimpse of power couple Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe).
History of Doune Castle
Although now one of Scotland’s most famous filming locations, probably only second to that of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, Doune Castle has a history that dates much further back than Jamie and Claire.
Doune Castle was built in the 13th century. After its initial completion, it became damaged during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Historians suspect that it was rebuilt the following century by Robert Stewart, also known as the Duke of Albany or the ‘Uncrowned King of Scotland’.
In 1425, the castle was passed to the Crown when Robert Stewart’s son was executed. After this, it was used as a royal hunting lodge and dower house (a house available for use by the widow of the previous estate’s owner).
During the 16th century, the castle became an asset of the Earls of Moray and during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the castle saw military action. This wasn’t the only time either. The Jacobite Risings (which Outlander fans will already know plenty about) also saw the castle take a beating and by the 1800s, it stood in ruins.
Luckily for us, restoration works were carried out by George Stuart, the 14th Earl of Moray, prior to the castle being taken over by the state. Currently, it is the Historic Scotland team that run and maintain the castle and its grounds.
How to get a Doune Castle Tour:
Unlike at other popular historical locations in Scotland such as Stirling Castle, it is not possible to be given a tour around the castle by a member of staff. However, audio guides are available for visitors. These do a great job of educating guests about the castle and its history.
The first of these audio guides is narrated by Terry Jones, actor and director of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As well as explaining the history of the Castle and its grounds, Terry also gives an insight into what it was like filming at this iconic location.
Those heading to Doune Castle for the Outlander connection will also be delighted to discover that actor Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) has also recorded a short audioguide, detailing his experience filming Outlander at the location.
Although short and sweet with only around three spots featured, Sam introduces listeners to the courtyard, the kitchens and the upstairs hall. Once you have completed all of the locations on the Outlander audio tour, there is also the option to listen to some extra clips about how Sam learned Gaelic for the role of Jamie Fraser.
Outlander audio guide spots around Doune Caste are marked by numbered signs. I definitely recommend listening to the guide in the area where you found the number for a bit of context. Things can be harder to follow if you wander off into another room whilst still hearing about the last one!
If you do both the standard and the Outlander audio tours, you will need to account for around 2 hours at Doune Castle. This includes time to browse the gift shop and explore the grounds!
Can you go inside Doune Castle?
Yes! It is possible to walk around the castle and explore. Be aware that some areas will be off-limits owing to safety. The castle walls were undergoing maintenance when I visited so there was no access.
Adverse weather conditions can sometimes force the castle to close unexpectedly. Always try to plan your visit in good weather if at all possible.
What Outlander filming locations can you see at Doune Castle?
Front of Castle
Of course, the first thing that will catch your eye is the imposing exterior of Doune Castle (Castle Leoch). In the TV series, the MacKenzie clan head back to the castle on horseback with our heroes Jamie and Claire in tow.
The front of the castle is also used in the scenes documenting Claire’s visit to the castle with her husband Frank in tow. These scenes were set two hundred years later before Claire time travelled back to 1743. In these shots, the castle looks ruined and eerie. The couple goes in to explore but soon their attention turns to other pressing matters…
A popular area for local dog walkers, the grounds of the castle are a beautiful place to visit on a sunny day. Unfortunately during our November visit, we did not get nice weather. That is what you get for planning a trip to Scotland in winter I guess!
Outlander fans will recognise the Doune Castle grounds from the scene in which the clansmen play ‘Shinty’. This traditional highland game is similar to hockey and is still played in Scotland today. Viewers may remember that this game gets a little heated and tempers start to blaze! If traditional Highland games are your thing, don’t miss the Skye Highland games!
After purchasing your tickets, you will be beckoned through into the main courtyard. This is a good area in which to set up your audio guide and take in the scenery. When I visited Doune Castle, there was a lot of maintenance work occurring, particularly in this area.
Although this space was used in some prominent Outlander scenes such as when Claire meets Mrs Fitz and where Jamie and Claire part, it looks almost unrecognisable to how it appears in the series. During the audioguide tour with Sam, he tells visitors how they filled the entire courtyard with mud and stables to try and make the courtyard look buzzing with life.
Doune Castle Stairs
These stairs are where Claire sits in the TV show. You probably won’t get much opportunity to recreate the scene owing to the crowds but there are ways of seeing the castle when there are fewer people. I promise I’ll reveal that secret later!
Perhaps my favourite part of the tour was exploring the grand kitchens of Doune Castle. Somewhat surprisingly, the kitchen couldn’t actually be used for Outlander filming owing to the need for natural light. The production team also had to account for the damage real filming would do to the structure.
Instead, the Outlander team recreated the scene and shot the necessary material in their studios. You wouldn’t guess this if you didn’t already know though, Mrs Fitz’ Castle Leoch kitchens look almost identical to the ones at Doune Castle! This whole process is extensively explained by Sam in the Outlander audioguide.
Keep an eye out for the marks on the walls in the kitchen. These were created when the chefs and staff sharpened their knives, back when the kitchen was in operation!
As I explained earlier, the castle walls were off-limits during my visit. It is from these walls where Claire reflects on her journey so far and steals a few moments to look down on life running its course below her.
How can I see Doune Castle without the crowds?
My top tip for experiencing Doune Castle without the crowds is to visit out of season like I did or head there for opening time, first thing in the morning. As Scotland allows people the ‘Right to Roam,’ it is possible to explore the grounds after the Castle closes to visitors. This is a great opportunity to get photos!
Many people choose to stop at Doune Castle on the way to or from Stirling or Glasgow, so peak time for visitors is around lunchtime and early afternoon.
Where is Doune Castle and how can I get there?
Doune Castle is located 8 miles to the north-west of Stirling. It is also easily accessible from Edinburgh or Glasgow on a day trip. The roads from any of the three cities listed below are well maintained and easily accessible. The journey is also easy to drive (and that is coming from me)!
From Stirling: The journey by car takes around 15 minutes. You will likely travel via the M9 and the B824. An Uber will cost you around £15/$20 from Stirling.
From Edinburgh: By car, you can get to Doune Castle in just under an hour via A904 and the M9. Public transport will take considerably longer (2.5hrs+) so if you don’t have a car, it is worth journeying to Stirling or visiting as part of an organised tour. I’ve included a list of the best ones at the bottom of this post!
From Glasgow: From Glasgow, the journey by car takes around 40 minutes. It is possible to get the line 59 bus which drops visitors at Deanston, Bridge of Teith in Doune. It is also possible to catch a train from Glasgow Queen Street, change to the line 59 bus in Stirling and again, finish at Deanston, Bridge of Teith. Public transport will take longer, totalling around an hour and a half in terms of journey time.
Practical info for visiting Outlander’s Doune Castle:
Doune Castle opening times
Entry times vary depending on the time of year in which you visit. Sometimes, the castle can be closed without advance warning during bad weather. Bear in mind that although the castle has strict opening times, the grounds are available for the public to access at all times, owing to the ‘Right to Roam’ Act.
Summer opening times:
- 1st April – 20th September: Daily, 9.30am – 5.30pm (Last entry 5.00pm)
Winter opening times:
- 1st October – 31st March: Daily, 10.00am – 4.00pm (Last entry 3.30pm)
The Castle is closed on 25th, 26th December and 1st, 2nd January.
How much is it to get in Doune Castle?
In the summer season, it is advisable to book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. The prices are as follows (correct at time of writing):
- Adults: £9.00 ($12)
- Children (Under 5): £5.40 ($7)
- Children (aged 5-15): Free
- Concession: £7.20 ($9.50)
These are the standard prices for entry into Doune Castle. However, travellers who are visiting several historic sites will be interested to learn about the Explorer Pass. This pass will grant you free entry into Doune Castle and a number of other Historic Scotland attractions. It is well worth purchasing this pass if you are heading to other Historic Scotland owned sites in a short period. Explorer passes can be purchased for 3, 7 or 14 days. In the winter, there is a slight discount on the normal price.
Is there a cafe at Doune Castle?
There is no cafe at Doune Castle but there is a gift shop! The Doune Castle gift shop offers the opportunity to stock up on the most popular Outlander merchandise, whether this is outfits inspired by Claire or copies of the books. It also sells the usual Scottish trinkets including hip flasks and different types of tartan, including my personal favourite, Isle of Skye tartan!
They also have a dress-up section where you can get your Outlander garb on before posing for a couple of photos around the castle. As much as part of me thinks this sounds pretty cool, I would be far too embarrassed with all of the crowds. If you’re brave enough, I’d love to see your photos!
Where to stay nearby:
Woodside Hotel: This family-run hotel is the only accommodation option located in the town of Doune itself. It promises a cosy stay with quick access to Doune Castle and Blair Drummond Safari Park. A double room comes in at £45/$60 and includes breakfast. The food served here is also rated highly so don’t miss the haggis!
Willy Wallace Hostel: Travellers looking for a cheap and cheerful stay can’t go wrong with the Willy Wallace Hostel. Located in Stirling centre, this hostel offers clean and comfortable dorm rooms as well as privates. For those not interested in a self-guided walking tour of Stirling, they also run a donation-based one from the hostel. Prices start at just £13/$18.
Golden Lion Hotel: One of the most popular places to stay in Stirling is The Golden Lion. Dine in at the on-site restaurant or sink a wee dram in the bar before bed. A double room begins at around £48/$63 per night.
Where else is Outlander filmed?
Scotland is a must-see destination for many reasons but it is particularly special for Outlander fans. Doune Castle is not the only filming location for Outlander and in fact, there are many others all over the country. Make sure you check out the following on your Outlander tour of Scotland:
- Culross (Cranesmuir)
- Midhope Castle (Lallybroch)
- Finnich Glen
- Drummond Castle
- Godford House and Hopetoun House (Helwater Estate)
Dedicated Outlander tours in Scotland:
If you’re looking to visit a few Outlander sites on your Scotland trip, then check out one of the dedicated Outlander tours below!
Are you an Outlander fan who has visited Doune Castle?
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