Everyone who loves the Scottish cult classic Local Hero wants to know, where was Local Hero filmed? Movie fans are eager to uncover which idyllic Scottish village played the fictional “Ferness” town and, of course, where the iconic red telephone box is.
If you’re not familiar with Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero (1983), you’re not the only one. Only a select few have discovered its genius, and others know it as “that Burt Lancaster Scotland movie.” Local Hero is about an oil executive from Texas who travels to a Scottish village on a business trip to scope out the townspeople. His bosses want to buy out the villagers and turn the place into a new refinery. But the astute locals and untouched landscapes encourage Mac to rethink his values and outlook on life.
It’s a true underdog tale that everyone can relate to with a great script and great soundtrack by Mark Knopfler, earning the film a perfect 100% rotten tomatoes score. And while there is no one village that stands-in for Ferness, the Local Hero film locations in Aberdeenshire and east coast make for a great Scottish road trip. So, where was Local Hero filmed? Let’s find out!
Where was Local Hero Filmed?
All of the Local Hero Locations in Scotland
1. One Shell Plaza, Houston
Okay, so this Local Hero location isn’t actually in Scotland, but the rest of them are. The film opens in Texas, as Knox Oil & Gas head honchos sit down to discuss how the coastal town of Ferness is the only possible location for their next refinery. The exterior location used for their office building is One Shell Plaza in Houston, Texas.
I do absolutely love that they choose to send an executive called ‘Mac’ (short for ‘MacIntyre’) purely because his name sounds Scottish. It seems like such a clichéd, American way of thinking.
2. Aberdeen International Airport
Mac arrives into Scotland at the Aberdeen International Airport. There he’s met by a local Knox Oil representative named Danny Oldsen played by a very young Peter Capaldi. Local Hero was his second ever film role!
3. General Wade’s Military Road
The pair visit the Knox Aberdeenshire office to watch the scientists demonstrate how they would replace the tiny coastal village of Ferness with a monstrous oil plant. Afterwards, Danny drives Mac down a long, windy road until they physically hit a rabbit and metaphysically hit thick, Scotch mist.
The men have to sleep in the car overnight on the B862 road near Loch Tarff, which the parked car overlooks. This Local Hero location is otherwise known as General Wade’s Military Road. It’s not far from the southern end of Loch Ness and Fort Augustus.
4. Pennan, Aberdeenshire
This is the Local Hero film location you’re most interested in! The majority of the Ferness-set scenes were shot in the tiny village of Pennan on the Aberdeenshire coast. It’s little more than a single row of white houses lining the beach and harbour. But wow, it’s oh so pretty. You can tell why, out of hundreds of places around Scotland, this village was picked to be the main Local Hero village location.
Danny and Mac almost run over a dog when they finally arrive in Ferness, suggesting it’s a sleepy, monotonous village. The exterior of the Ferness/Macaskill Hotel, where Mac stays, is actually just a private home in Pennan towards the far east side of the street.
There is also a plaque on one of the buildings which reads, “Bill Forsyth’s worldwide success was filmed in and around Pennan.” Don’t worry, Pennan is literally one street. You’ll find all the Local Hero locations here very easily.
5. Lochailort Inn
The interior of the Ferness Hotel is actually the Lochailort Inn on the A861. So, where was Local Hero filmed? A heck of a lot of random places around Scotland!
6. Camusdarach Beach, Mallaig
The next Local Hero Scotland location is Camusdarach Beach in Arisaig near Mallaig. You might notice this beach isn’t anywhere near Pennan. In fact, it’s not even on the same coast. This beach proved to be cinematic and picturesque by the Local Hero production so Ferness became an amalgamation of several, beautiful Scottish locales. Pennan doesn’t have much of a beach, unfortunately.
7. The Ship Inn, 8 Deveronside, Banff
After a romantic stroll on the beach, Danny and Mac head into the pub section of their hotel, the Macaskill Arms, to neck a few pints. Whereas in real life, the Local Hero actors walked into The Ship Inn in Banff, about 20 minutes down the road from Pennan. It’s a cosy pub with dark wood panelling and lots of bar paraphernalia stuck on the walls. Just as you would expect a local, working-class Scottish pub to look like in the 1980s.
8. Pennan Telephone Box
The Local Hero phone box is one of the most well-loved filming locations from the film. I’m sorry to disappoint, but the production team crafted the red telephone box out of wood and placed it there themselves. There is a real-life red phone box outside the Pennan Inn, but the filmmakers wanted Mac to make his call from a more picturesque location.
The upside is that the red phone box outside the Pennan Inn is protected. So hopefully, it remains there for years to come for film lovers like me and you to pretend to make a phone call while posing for a cheesy photo!
9. Polnish Chapel (Our Lady of the Braes Church)
Though you’ll have to double-take, only the interior of Polnish Chapel acted as Ferness’s local church. The exterior was simply a cottage (possibly Rhu Ach Mhor Cottage) next to Camusdarah Beach with a temporary plastic facade to look like a church.
10. Ben Nevis Distillery Warehouse, Fort William
I’m not 100% sure on this Local Hero location, but it appeared in my research so I thought it worth noting. Mac regularly calls the office back in Texas with updates. And apparently, some of the interior shots of his boss Felix Happer (played by Burt Lancaster) on the other end of the phone were filmed in a warehouse at the Ben Nevis Distillery in Fort William.
Again, not sure if this is the case for all of the interior office scenes, but possibly some of them.
11. The Pole of Itlaw
Apparently, even I can’t adequately answer the question where was Local Hero filmed. Again, my research tells me the village shop interior scenes were shot somewhere called The Pole of Itlaw on the B9121 road in Banff. But this really seems like such a random place. There isn’t even a shop address around this part. And the exterior to the Ferness village shop is definitely situated in Pennan.
12. Hilton of Turnerhall, Ellon
A friendly Russian sailor, Victor, drops in on his old pal Gordon (Ferness’ local hotelier/accountant/mayoral figure) for the village’s ceilidh. In the film, the hotel is supposedly the venue but in real life, the building called Hilton of Turnerhall in Ellon (not far from Pennan) hosted the event. It’s now a private home so this is one of the Local Hero shooting locations you sadly won’t be able to visit.
Also, anyone looking for a wedding band? I hear The Ace Tones are Scotland’s next up-and-coming musical act. They have ceilidh experience and have not one, but two accordion players.
13. Loch Ailort
One of the last Local Hero locations in Scotland is Loch Ailort. After Felix arrives from Houston and saves the town, he sends a reluctant Mac back to Texas on a helicopter. The chopper flies over Loch Ailort (which is very near Arisaig) on it’s way over the Atlantic. Some think the helicopter flies over Loch Eilt, which is very nearby so that could be correct, but the number of islands just doesn’t match up to me.
So, where was Local Hero filmed in Scotland? Hopefully, you’ve learned the answer to that question! Have you watched Local Hero? Or visited any of the Local Hero film locations? Let me know in the comments below!