Lallybroch – How a forgotten castle turned into a tourist attraction

Once upon a time there was a small forgotten castle, which was first refered to as Medhope in the year 1458. Built in the 15th century the five storey tower house called Midhope Castle is part of the Hopetoun estate. Regularly altered over the centuries it was among others in the possession of the families Lindsay, Drummond, Livingstone (Earls of Linlithgow) and Hope families. As early as 1710 it was one of the seats of the Earls of Hopetoun. A few stones still commemorate the previous inhabitants. When the Earls of Hopetoun built the nearby Hopetoun House, which was much grander, the castle was used to house farm workers until far in the 19th century. In later years it became forgotten and the place deteriorated. The castle was restored on the outside in 1988 and is located on a working farm nowadays.

And then in the year 2013 Midhope was chosen as a film location for the TV series Outlander. Based on a series of books by Diana Gabaldon, it turned out to be a very popular tv program. Although the crew also filmed at many other locations, including inside Hopetoun House and the grounds itself, it was Midhope Castle that became a star. Daily hundreds of people from all over the world come and visit. Funny enough Diana Gabaldon is an American author, who had never been in Scotland when she wrote the books, but my Scottish guide said that she did her research amazingly well. And it brought many tourists to Scotland also.

Midhope Castle is the fictional Lallybroch, the Fraser family home halfway the 18th century, that featured in the first four seasons of “Outlander”. From what I understood there will be more filming in season 5. Although only filmed on the outside, fans know exactly which photos they want to have: one at the gateway, and one on the stairs. The series was filmed at almost 30 locations in Scotland, from castles and palaces to lochs and towns. The series received nominations for the Golden Globe and Emmy awards.

The castle is situated not too far from Edinburgh, and close to Hopetoun House itself. As the interior is derelict and unsafe, one can only view the outside of the castle. Visitors can purchase a vehicle pass at Hopetoun Farm Shop – that also sells Outlander souvenirs – and you’re not allowed to enter without one. There is a small kiosk where you can buy a ticket (£3.50) and a few postcards. The castle can be visited from 1 April to the end of December. You can also like me join an Outlander tour from Edinburgh (or Glasgow) and spend about 20 minutes in the grounds.

In case you haven’t read the books yet and haven’t seen the tv series, I can highly recommend both. Starting in 1946, right at the end of World War II, the young married doctor Claire Randall disappears through the standing stones and ends up in Scotland in 1743. And there she meets Jamie Fraser, an Highlander, and falls in love. While the story itself is fictional, the surrounding (partly royal) history surely isn’t: rebellion against the English, Jacobites and Bonny Prince Charlie, King Louis XV of France’s court, the battle of Culloden, the American colonies in the years before the American Revolution, it is all there.

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