Travel Through the Stones: An Outlander Guide (Part 2)

‘The sight of the stones was fresh in my mind. A small circle, standing stones on the crest of a steep green hill. The name of the hill is Craigh na Dun; the fairies’ hill. Some say the hill is enchanted, others say it is cursed. Both are right. But no one knows the function or the purpose of the stones. Except me.’

stonehenge at sunset

This is part 2 of the Outlander’s location guide. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

EDINBURGH: WHERE CLAIRE AND JAMIE REUNITE

edinburgh statue

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. It is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth’s southern shore. Edinburgh’s Old Town (medieval) and New Town (18th/19th century) together are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are several parts of Edinburgh named in the books, especially in Dragonfly in Amber during the Jacobite occupation and in Voyager when Claire reunites with Jamie after 20 years apart. There we can trace the character’s steps through the Royal Mile or even visit The World’s End, one of the taverns mentioned frequently in the books.

jamie fraser painting at rabbie's cafe

Look who I found inside Rabbie’s Cafe.

One of the few scenes shot in Edinburgh is the exterior of A. Malcolm press in Carfax Close. This site is located in Bakehouse Close, in the heart of the Old Town. Other points of interest mentioned in Dragonfly in Amber are the Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.

edinburgh castle

‘The weather was unseasonably warm for November, and the omnipresent clounds had broken, letting a fugitive autumn sun shine briefly on the grayness of Edinburgh. I had taken advantage of the transient warmth to be outside, however briefly, and was crawling on my knees through the rock garden behind Holyrood, much to the amusement of several Highlanders hanging about the grounds, enjoying the sunshine in their own manner, with a jug of home-brewed whisky.’

CULLODEN BATTLEFIELD

The Battle of Culloden was the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745 in which the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart were defeated by the Duke of Cumberland.

culloden battlefield flag

During season 2, episode 13, Claire visits Culloden moor in 1968 and she finds the commemorative stone of Clan Fraser. In the book, Roger and Brianna are the ones who visit the battlefield and the visitor center.

culloden battlefield fraser stone

‘They sat on patches of smooth grass, widely scattered near the edge of the moor. Each one bore a single name, the carving so faded by weather as to be nearly illegible in some cases. MacGillivray. MacDonald. Fraser. Grant. Chisholm. MacKenzie.’

How to get to Culloden Visitor Center:

Visiting Culloden Battlefield is quite easy from Inverness. It’s only 30 minutes away by public transportation. You can take the bus in front of Marks and Spencer (Academy St.) to the parking lot of the visitor center. Bus tickets cost £4 (return) and you can buy them inside the bus. Once you arrive you should check with the driver when to take the bus back to Inverness (there’s often a bus every hour).

culloden visitor center entrance

Culloden visitor center’s tickets are £11. The audio guide is free and available in every language. Visitor’s hours are normally from 10 am to 4 pm.

My pick:

The visitor center has a nice food court and a big gift shop with official Outlander merchandising.

isle of Skye

Immortalized by the by the modern Scottish song The Skye Boat Song, the Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides archipelago.

isle of skye from the storr

The lyrics tell the story of how Flora MacDonald rescued Prince Charles Edward Stuart from the Hanoverian troops after the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, dressing him as a maid and taking him to Skye by boat. The fragment of the song that appears during the opening credits of the series derives from the Robert Luis Stevenson poem written in 1892:

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,

Say, could that lad be I?

Merry of soul he sailed on a day

Over the sea to Skye

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,

Mountains of rain and sun,

All that was good, all that was fair,

All that was me is gone

In the modified version by Raya Yarbrough and Bear McCreary featured in the show, the word “lad” is replaced for “lass”.

How to get to the Isle of Skye:

From Inverness to Portree (Skye’s most important city) it is a 3 hour and 30 minutes ride by bus with amazing views of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, and Eilean Donan Castle. I highly recommend checking bus timetables and purchasing tickets at the Citylink website.

portree isle of skye

What to do:

From Portree, there are several attractions easily accessed by bus such as The Old Man of Storr and Fairy Pools.

the storr

I highly recommend visiting the village of Uig (less than a half hour from Portree by bus). This picturesque village offers several accommodations with incredible views of the bay. From here it is possible to visit Fairy Glen, a magical landscape of green hills and rock formations.

fairy glen

Where to stay:

The Portree Youth Hostel is right in front of the main square where the bus stops and it’s a low-cost option.

The Cowshed Boutique Bunkhouse is a high category hostel that offers both rooms and pods with a mind-blowing view of the Uig bay.

cowshed boutique bunkhouse

Where to eat:

In Uig, The Sheiling & Ella’s Café is an excellent place for lunch. The food is delicious (you certainly cannot miss the brownies for dessert) and in addition to the restaurant, the place has a second-hand shop with books, vinyl’s, vintage clothes and other interesting stuff.

ella's cafe uig

My pick:

In Uig, right by the pier, you can find the Isle of Skye Brewing Co. where you’ll find a wide range of craft beer -the best on the Highlands- and maybe get some cases for your loved ones at home.

finding craigh na dun

stonehenge at sunset

Well…actually…Craigh na Dun doesn’t really exist. The stone circle that crowns a hill near Inverness and transports Claire back in time is a fictional place created by Diana Gabaldon based on several megalithic monuments spread across Great Brittain. The scenes of Craigh na Dun were shot in Dunalastair estate near Kinloch Rannoch, in Perthshire. Unfortunately, you won’t find any reminiscence of the stone circle.

But as I said before, there are several stone circles and menhirs similar to Craigh na Dun around Great Britain and each of them offers a unique experience. Here are some recommendations:

In Scotland:

Callanish Stones are an arrangement of standing stones placed in a cruciform pattern with a central stone circle. They were erected in the late Neolithic era and were a focus for ritual activity during the Bronze Age. They are near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. It is six hours and a half away from Inverness. You can take the bus from Inverness to Ullapool (one hour and a half). From there take the ferry to Stornoway (2 hours and a half) and from there a bus to Callanish (30 minutes). For bus information visit the Citylink webpage and for ferry tickets go to http://www.calmac.co.uk

To the east of Inverness, you’ll find Clava Cairn, a type of Bronze Age circular chamber tomb cairn. Entrance is free and it’s open every day. You can get there on a bus from Inverness (there is a stop in Academy St. in front of Marks and Spencer) to Culloden Moor and walk 20 minutes to destination.

In England:

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 4 m high and 2 m wide and weighing around 25 tons. Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.

stonehenge inside the circle

I highly recommend applying for a special visit to the circle during sunrise or sunset. It is a unique experience! For that, you have to make a reservation through http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/plan-your-visit/stone-circle-access-visits/#

stonehenge at sunset

If you are taking my advice and visiting the Stone circle during those hours I recommend that you stay the night at Salisbury (there are several nice apartments offered in Airbnb at economic prices). I also recommend you to take a taxi from Salisbury to the visitor center (call Vic, the best taxi service in Salisbury: http://www.vicstaxi.com/)