Tucked behind the historic facade of the beautiful Scottish capital's Royal Mile, in the passageways and closes, a little filming magic was happening on Tuesday 18th January. It's not everyday that you get the opportunity to watch a hit show like Outlander being filmed on location in Scotland. For those who don't know, Outlander is a British-American TV adaptation based on a series of books written by Diana Gabaldon, produced by Sony Pictures Television and Left Bank Pictures for Starz and airs on Amazon Prime in the UK. When I learned that they were shooting a part of Season 3 in Edinburgh, it made perfect sense to try to find them. I met up with Outlander France member, Severine, at the Waverley train station and we headed straight to Bakehouse Close on Canongate, part of the Royal Mile.
We decided to walk round the area to understand the layout. Whole pedestrian areas were blocked off with security in situ. The Museum of Edinburgh had been closed for the week - a very old building overlooking the wider area of the Close being used for filming. The Close access from the Royal Mile was totally blocked off with black boarding covering the entire entrance. At the filming location there was a little activity going on, finishing touches to the set behind an archway at the top of the open area.
We then took a walk down to Holyrood Park for a peek at the Outlander base camp. A large area had been fenced off across from the Scottish Parliament building and on the opposite side of the road to Arthur's Seat. The camp was very busy with Movie Maker trailers and vehicles. On walking back up towards the Close we learned, via a Scottish Sun Twitter post, that filming was currently taking place very near to The World's End pub. We could see a small group of people just up from there at the Tweeddale Court entrance, another close-type area. A few folks were peering past the crew down the passageway into the main body of the Court. At the end you could see suspended cloths, period dressed actors/extras, and crew busying themselves on step ladders, fixing hair and make up, and creating that smoky atmosphere - after all Edinburgh didn't get the name Auld Reekie for nothing - thought to originate from the mix of sewage stench and smog which plagued the Old Town area.
Tweeddale Court Lowdown: The narrow passage off High Street on Royal Mile, leads you into the courtyard of Tweeddale House. Thought to have been built in the 16th Century it has undergone numerous changes throughout the centuries. It was named in 1670 after the buyer, Marquis of Tweeddale. The name etched into the front door lintel, Oliver & Boyd, belonged to Edinburgh printers who combined printing, publishing and binding under one roof. It is still connected with it's printing past today - home to Canongate Books, independent publishers. So it is not surprising that the production team should choose this for a location in season 3 where 'A Malcolm' maybe spends some of his time!
There was no sign of the main cast members. If they were there, they were further round into the Court out of sight. Each time they did a take the crew would shout 'Rolling'. The crew asked us to move back from the Court entrance so it was totally clear and to be silent. On finishing the take they shouted 'Cut' and then everyone could talk and move about again. A funny incident: an old chap pitched himself with his collection tin across the road near the entrance and burst into drunken Scottish song. One of the crew ended up popping across the street to ask him to stop singing, donating money into his tin. We thought he might actually contribute a bit of authenticity to the atmosphere lol!
While we were at the Court we met other Outlandish UK members and decided to walk round into Cowgate to see if we could see anything from the other side. We found an access where we could see a lot of extras in costume standing about, eating their lunch, at the top end. Having seen this we decided it might be the right time to return to the Bakehouse Close location.
We had only been standing at Bakehouse Close location for about half an hour, watching the area get busier and busier, when Sam Heughan, the lead actor playing the part of Jamie Fraser, arrived in the Land Rover, driven by Davie Hollywood! They were waiting for something to move and Sam sat waving from the car. Suddenly, out he got, knocked his Tricorn off (takes time to get used to a hat with corners!), picked it up, popped it back on, slammed the car door, turned round and we all cheered! Smiling, he walked over and took time to speak briefly to each of us - around 10 people at that time. Sam was as lovely as you would expect him to be! Then off he went - up the slope into the cordoned off area to 'work his TV magic'. Sam did say that Cait was there somewhere but we never saw her or any of the other well-known cast or crew. Caitriona Balfe (Cait) plays the lead role in the show, Claire Fraser, to whom Jamie is married.
Bakehouse Close Lowdown: The Close takes it's name today from the bakers' quarters that were on the west side. The Close has seen many different types of occupants and businesses throughout its life though. The deep archway dates back to 1570 when 3 houses were joined into one at the east end to create Huntly House, now the Museum of Edinburgh. The Close is thought to be the best preserved example of an Old Town close and gives a good impression as to what it would have been like to live in the city at that time, so a good choice for the show producers. (Photos to follow once the film crew have cleared out!)
I stood till 4pm just watching the process, similar to the previous location, and chatting with the other fans. It felt quite a surreal experience - certainly felt very privileged to witness Outlander 'on location'. I have a new found respect for the cast and crew when you see what it entails taking production out of the studio and on the road. So many vans, so many crew, so much cabling and equipment. When you see this firsthand you understand the complexity and therefore why we get 13 episodes now instead of 16 - quality not quantity! Hat off to them....wait...maybe that should be a Tricorn!
Hope I have created a little of the atmosphere of watching Outlander film on location in what I have written here and given you an insight into the history behind the areas used...after all... it's all about spreading the love...right?