Some of the most spectacular scenes of Netflix hit Outlaw King, like the famous Loch an Eilein castle battle scene, were filmed in the Cairngorms. We spoke to a few local experts who worked behind the scenes to find out how visitors to the area can recreate Robert the Bruce’s world for themselves on their trip to the area.
1. Where should you go to retrace Robert’s steps in Outlaw King?
Rothiemurchus, with its true turbulent past and royal connections, is a perfect start to step back in time. Head for the iconic Loch an Eilein – which means ‘loch of the island’ – and you’ll see the ruined 13th century castle where the gruelling attack by the MacDougalls was filmed. Then, just a short drive (or longer bike/walk) up the ski road, amble along the stunning, award-winning freshwater beach at Loch Morlich. See if you can spot, too, the road to Bruce’s castle used in the film and the setting for the de Burgh carriage scene.
A good second stop on the film trail is Glen Feshie, south west of Rothiemurchus. Stand here and take in the awe-inspiring view up the valley of mountains, moorland and pine forest and you’ll quickly see why film directors chose this spot. In Outlaw King it is referred to as the ‘Great Glen’, which is certainly a fitting title as it’s a landscape worthy of any king.
Then be sure not to miss the third key film set destination at Loch Laggan. This beautiful location boasts Britain’s largest freshwater beach which, in the film, played host to two large boat loads of landing men ready for battle. This area is no stranger to the lights, camera and action as it was the landscape used in BBC TV series Monarch of the Glen.
2. What should you wear?
For the film, costume makers made bespoke ‘gambesons’ for actors, which are jackets worn under chainmail (if you were rich enough, that is; poorer folk couldn’t afford chainmail). If you want to recreate this look today, then fashioning a jacket out of an old potato sack would work well, or even just taking a hemp shopping bag and making a sash from it. Remember that, back then, they didn’t have our bright, often synthetic colours, so keep it natural. Purples and greens, stained by the heather and foilage, were about as colourful as clothes got. Stand at any one of the sites outlined in 1) and wield a wooden sword in the air, and you will look quite the part. If you don’t have a sword to hand, a stick will do and there will be plenty around for little Bruce-wannabes (or bigger ones, too).
3. What should you eat?
There were no supermarkets in the 13th century so a truly authentic recreation of the Outlaw King’s life would not include Haribo (sorry mums and dads, if this is your bribery of choice). Instead, people lived off the land, foraging for food. The art of foraging is undergoing a renaissance in the Cairngorms, so why not look for blaeberries, brambles and rowan berries for a real flavour of 13th century life? If you lack confidence to do this yourself, particularly picking things like mushrooms where a wrong move can be dangerous, then consider joining a local guide or Ranger, or one of the many expert guides in our area that can share their specialist knowledge, such as Andy and Rebecca at Scot Mountain Holidays. They will also know the ins and outs of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, too. For more on foraging, see this blog.
4. What should you do?
As already mentioned in 1), standing in any of the iconic film set locations and wielding a wooden sword in the air, while shouting ‘I am the Outlaw King’ would be a good way to really channel your inner Robert the Bruce. As would jumping out from behind pine trees to scare your walking companions, which is always a hit with the kiddies.
Other things you could do would be, hire a canoe and paddle around one of the many gorgeous Lochs; apparently something that actor Chris Pine spent much time doing while taking up his role as Robert the Bruce. Canoes can be easily hired from Loch Morlich or Loch Insh. The actors also spent a lot of time in the water in full attire including chainmail, awaiting battle scenes, especially at Loch an Eilein. And, indeed, wild swimming is a glorious and increasingly popular thing to do here in the Cairngorms. However, local wild swimming expert Alice Goodridge, Cairngorms Wild Swimmers founder and adventure co-ordinator at travel brand Wilderness Scotland, advises wearing a wetsuit “or maybe just a swimsuit, but definitely not chainmail!”. She also recommends wearing something on your feet, “much better for getting into stony or squelchy lochs!”, she says.
5. What should you say?
Robert the Bruce was the person who, apparently, coined the phrase: “If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again,” which, fable goes, he said just before beating the English at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. So, this seems a fitting phrase to ring out while you’re wielding that wooden sword we mentioned earlier. One thing you should definitely try to pronounce in Scots, though, while on your travels in the Cairngorms is ‘loch’: it is not ‘lock’ but more like ‘lokh’(for more on how to say this word, see this youtube video). Oh, and just don’t say ‘lake’. That would have really provoked Robert’s wrath!’
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