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Article published 04/11/2022

New look Set in Scotland

Some of the world’s biggest film franchises have chosen to come to our shores in recent years, from Batman to Avengers. This not only boosts the local economy in the short-term, which is particularly important for the recovery of tourism, but can provide an ongoing presence in popular culture – and streaming services – that can continue to reach new audiences and lead to visits long after a film’s release. 

We've launched a new-look guide to big screen locations across Scotland.

In this article you will find:

  1. Acting legend James Cosmo launches new look Set in Scotland
  2. Set in Scotland guide
  3. The launch
  4. The importance of screen tourism
  5. Screen tourism case studies
  6. Further information


1. Acting legend James Cosmo launches new look Set in Scotland

Scottish acting legend, James Cosmo, has spoken of the “magical quality” of films shot in Scotland as we launch our new-look guide to big screen locations.  

The star of iconic Scottish films, Highlander, Braveheart and Trainspotting, and TV fantasy series, Game of Thrones, pens the foreword to our revamped guidebook, Set in Scotland. 

Acting legend James Cosmo launches new look Set in Scotland

Throughout my career I have been privileged enough to be involved in many [films] that have made a real connection with audiences worldwide.

People still come up to me while in Scotland and tell me they are here because they watched Scottish films such as Braveheart or Highlander.

And what is wonderful, is that the films are only the starting point. They then form a strong connection with the real country – it may be because of their ancestors or the feeling they get while they’re here. That stays with them.

Actor James Cosmo, whose film career has spanned six decades, writes in the foreword

2. Set in Scotland guide

Set in Scotland covers the last 90 years, from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 version of The 39 Steps, in which UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Forth Bridge, appears, to The Road Dance, which was filmed on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides during the pandemic and released in May this year. 

Alien, Avengers, Batman, Fast & Furious, and James Bond, are among the global film franchises to have come to Scotland. 

The 52-page guide features more than 150 films which have been shot entirely or partially in Scotland – 46 more than the previous version first published in 2015 – and details more than 100 film locations.

As part of the redesign, the guide labels each film by genre, features QR codes with links to film-themed content on, and contains a new section, Monarchs of the Glens, which focuses on those films linked to Scotland’s kings and queens, from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the Oscar-winning The Queen

The guide is available in VisitScotland iCentres across the country and can be downloaded from 

3. The Launch 

Set in Scotland was launched by James Cosmo at Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway, which runs steam and heritage diesel train journeys along its tracks, and has appeared in several film and TV productions including Outlander, Cloud Atlas and The Railway Man.

The heritage railway is operated by volunteers of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, along with the Museum of Scottish Railways, Scotland’s largest railway museum which is also on the site. 

Read the full press release.

4. The importance of screen tourism

£55 million

to the national economy

Creates 1,220

full-time jobs

16-18% of visitors

from Scotland’s top international markets visit a film or TV location when here

Screen tourism – or set-jetting – is a global trend in which film or TV fans are inspired to visit a location after seeing it on screen. It comes in the form of visiting the exact filming location or providing the general motivation to book a holiday to the destination. 

The trend is long-term, with many visitors citing film titles released long before their trip as motivation, and so can provide ongoing financial support to the regions and businesses linked to popular locations.  

We hope the new-look guide will offer further inspiration for visitors to explore across the regions, while providing a resource for the industry to create new experiences as part of Scotland's national strategy to rebuild the visitor economy and ensure sustainable tourism thrives. 

Previous research has shown that 17% of visitors from Scotland’s top international markets (the US, France and Germany) visit a film or TV location while on holiday in Scotland.

A recent Screen Scotland report valued screen tourism at £55 million to the national economy, based on those visiting film and TV locations, creating 1,220 full-time jobs. 

To date, Scotland has appeared in five of the top 30 highest grossing films of all time, which have brought in a total of $10.6 billion at the box office worldwide.

Among them are Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which showed off Edinburgh’s gothic architecture and the quaint fishing village of St Abbs, respectively.  

5. Screen tourism case studies

  • New Asgard aka St Abbs in the Scottish Borders

    Nature reserve, St Abb’s Head in the Scottish Borders, cared for by the National Trust for Scotland and accessed by the village of St Abbs, saw a 25% increase in visitors, to 63,721, following the release of Avengers: Endgame in 2019.

    In the two years prior to its release, the attraction had on average 49,000 visitors. Last year’s visitor numbers remained above pre-Avengers levels at 58,862, despite the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The National Wallace Monument in Stirling

    After the release of medieval epic Braveheart (1995) about Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, the National Wallace Monument in Stirling reported visitor numbers leapt from 80,000 a year to nearly 200,000 in 1996.

    For the 10-year period from 1996 to 2005 the average annual number of visitors to the National Wallace Monument was 135,000, and it has remained above 100,000 over subsequent years. 

  • Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian

    Dan Brown’s 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, had a huge effect on Rosslyn Chapel. Visitor numbers increased by 72%, from 68,603 in 2004 to 118,151 in 2005.

    In 2006, following the release of the film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, visitor numbers reached 175,053, providing a major cash injection for conservation work at the site. 

6. Further information

Jenni Steele

Film & Creative Industries Manager - VisitScotland

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