EDINBURGH EXPERT WALKING TOURS - BLOG
With this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival opening this week, what better time to look around the city to find some of the locations which have featured in films over the years.
Ironically, many films made in Edinburgh were often set elsewhere, and films set in Edinburgh were filmed elsewhere - so for a long time Edinburgh didn't appear as itself on screen very often! In recent years that has changed. So here are just a few film locations around the city, with some clips of the films that featured them.
THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE (1969)
The film which won Maggie Smith her first Oscar, for Best Actress, in this iconic adaptation of the novel by Muriel Spark. Set in Edinburgh in the 1930s, Smith plays a teacher at a girls' school, inspiring (and endangering) her pupils with a combination of art, history and politics.
Several locations from around the city were used during the filming, including the village of Cramond, the Meadows, Bruntsfield (Where Muriel Spark had lived) and the Edinburgh Academy building (which stood in for the film's setting of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls). But a series of steps called the Vennel, with views across to Edinburgh Castle, featured in a particularly memorable sequence, and have latterly be renamed The Jean Brodie Steps.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)
A more recent blockbuster had a crucial sequence set in 'Scotland' and filmed in Edinburgh - Avengers: Infinity War saw a sprawling fight sequence take place in the streets and skies over the Old Town, and recognisable features from the film include St Giles' Cathedral, the Mercat Cross and the Royal Mile, Waverley Station and Cockburn Street.
It's a rather nice example of Edinburgh not being represented in a historical context, but rather a modern setting - when you find films of Edinburgh in the traditional Hollywood fashion they very often focus on the cliche and stereotype of Scotland, so it's refreshing to see the city represented as a contemporary, living city too!
GREYFRIARS BOBBY (1961)
Here's one of those 'traditional' movies, with all the cliche and stereotype preserved intact! In 1961 Walt Disney made a film version of the story of Greyfriars Bobby, helping to make it one of Edinburgh's best-known local legends. The film takes a few liberties with the reality of the story (of course!) but was filmed partially in Edinburgh, including on the castle esplanade, and in Greyfriars Kirkyard itself.
Films like this helped to build Edinburgh's profile as a visitor destination, as well as proliferating the Bobby myth, and today the city is still attracting thousands of people who come here specifically to see the statue and the grave of this tiny local hero. All we ask is that you DON'T rub the nose of the statue - it won't bring you good luck, and only damages the statue itself.
Another recent hit, this adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel (who also wrote Trainspotting, one of the best known modern films set in Edinburgh) showcases something of the Scots' reputation for dark humour. The first scene of the film features the main character, played by Scottish actor James McAvoy, walking through streets of the Old Town, including the front of Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, West Bow and Grassmarket.
Novels like Trainspotting (and the film in particular) show a very different side of the city from the tourist imagery, and are a reminder that every city has its public and private faces, and that the surface experience of a city like Edinburgh isn't necessarily the whole story or the whole experience of the people who live here.
CLOUD ATLAS (2012)
This adaptation of David Mitchell's genre-defying, galaxy-sprawling epic set part of its characters' story here in Edinburgh, and featured the Scott Monument among other locations for its filming.
This film is a good example of how Edinburgh doesn't always feature as Edinburgh, and how many times the city serves as a backdrop for all kinds of non-Scottish stories.
These are just a handful of the films that have taken Edinburgh as an inspiration for setting or story - there are many more!
Explore of Edinburgh's inspiring settings and landscapes with my private city walking tours!
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth, an adopted native of Edinburgh, with over 20 years experience of living and working in the city...
Search the blog archive...
© COPYRIGHT GARETH DAVIES 2014-21