‘Mary Queen Of Scots’ Is Packed With Historical Locations You Can Actually Visit

by Danielle Burgos

Her story's been told many times, and likely will be again: the Scottish queen who sought help from England only to spend the majority of her life imprisoned as threat to their throne, Mary Stuart. As a baby Mary was smuggled away from her land to France, where she grew up. The latest film on her life and struggles, Mary Queen of Scots, focuses on the young queen following her return to Scotland to rule at age 19. The period piece is rich and visual; so where Mary Queen of Scots filmed?

Appropriately enough for a story about the Queen of Scotland, the movie was filmed throughout the isle. According to BBC News, the crew was spotted filming in Glen Coe, a location which didn't really have prominence in the real Mary Stuart's life, though it was the site of the infamous Massacre of Glencoe, which in turn was the inspiration for Game of Throne's Red Wedding, according to Scotsman.com. The same goes for Strathdon in Aberdeenshire; though production took place there, per Screen Scotland, it wasn't a major location in the actual Queen's life. According to Condé Nast Traveler, three other prominent Scottish locations appear in the film: North Berwick beach, Seacliff, and Holyrood Castle.

Shooting also took place in East Lothian, home of Dunbar Castle, thought to be an invulnerable fortress and a place Mary escaped (or was abducted to), during important moments in her life, per the same site. According to Marie Stuart, in 1566 while very pregnant with future King James VI of Scotland, she rode five hours alone to escape and re-rally her people after her then-husband Lord Darnley betrayed and murdered a Lord, rousing the ire of all the rest of the Lords.

After the successful rally she returned to Edinburgh and thought it safest to remain there until the birth of her son. Appropriately Scotland's capital was also where filming also took place, also according to Screen Scotland.

The film features Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth, cousin to Mary (Saoirse Ronan) and potential rival for the throne of England, especially after Mary gives birth to a male heir while Elizabeth had yet to marry. As with nearly every historical film taking creative license, the film is already being criticized for historical inaccuracies. Speaking to the BBC, Dr. Estelle Paranque pointed out two of the major ones, including that the meeting between the two queens that's prominently featured in the trailer never happened. Also Mary, who was raised in France, wouldn't have had a Scottish accent.

Update: Arborfield Barn, the location where that meeting takes place in the movie, does exist and is open for visitors March through October, per a spokesperson for the Chiltern Open Air Museum in Buckinghamshire.

Interestingly there's no official word on whether Loch Leven Castle was a location, though according to Historic Site Scotland, the famous site of Mary's year-long imprisonment is available for filming, though only allows a select number of visitors per day for preservation. Courier UK notes that whether or not the film actually shot at the castle, Historic Site Scotland is gearing up for an increase in tourism following the movie's release.

The site will be closed through March 31, 2019, but a spokesperson said to Courier UK, "We are developing a 'Mary Queen of Scots trail' that will map the adventures of Mary and inspire visitors to follow in her footsteps." Mary Queen of Scots opens widely on Dec. 21. And even though the film doesn't feature all the prominent historical locations in Mary's life, many of them are also popular tourist attractions you can actually check out in person.