Mary Queen of Scots was one of my favourite films of 2018. Two ginger female monarchs, Scottish history, not to mention all the gorgeous Mary Queen of Scots filming locations… What’s not to love?!
Mary Queen of Scots follows the entwined lives of Saoirse Ronan’s Mary Stuart and Margot Robbie’s Elizabeth I in the latter half of the 1500s. It’s definitely not the first film about Scotland’s favourite Queen and probably won’t be the last. Critics, erm, criticised the film for historic inaccuracies but they were over frivolous details, in my opinion. Totally different to Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995) which rewrote giant swaths of treasured Scottish legends and decimated them…
Anyway! You’re here to learn all about the beautiful Mary Queen of Scots filming locations in Scotland, with a few in England. So let’s track them down. I’ve pinned all the locations on a google map in case you fancy visiting any of the Mary Queen of Scots film locations too.
Mary Queen of Scots Filming Locations
Mary Queen of Scots Filming Locations in Scotland
1. Seacliff Beach, North Berwick
The year is 1561 and Mary arrives back from France very unceremoniously on a windy Scottish beach. This Mary Queen of Scots filming location is Seacliff Beach in North Berwick, East Lothian. Just slightly down the coast from Edinburgh. The beach also featured in Outlaw King (2018) which Netflix happened to release in the same year as Mary Queen of Scots.
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2. Blackness Castle, Linlithgow
Mary journeys to Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, which is where Scottish monarchs resided back in the day. A lot of the Mary Queen of Scots movie locations are set here.
In reality, these locations are a mix of sets at Pinewood Studios and Blackness Castle near Linlithgow on the Firth of Forth. Blackness Castle is nicknamed “the ship that never sailed” because it’s built in the shape of a ship and sits right on the coastline. The production team behind Mary Queen of Scots chose somewhat aggressive and wild Scottish landscapes to represent Mary’s Scotland to juxtapose Queen Elizabeth’s sheltered and comfortable existence in England.
Blackness Castle also appeared in Outlaw King as well as the hit TV show Outlander.
3. Glen Coe
The Earl of Leicester rides through snowy Glen Coe, which hilariously stand-in for the Scottish borders, on his way to offer his hand to Mary in Edinburgh. Mary also rides back through the borders (which is Glen Coe, again) in the next scene to meet up with Elizabeth in York, and later in the film when Mary attempts a second meet up. It’s supposed to be spring, so all the snow has melted.
Glen Coe is famously in the highlands, not the Scottish borders. This iconic valley and the mountains that surround it have featured in a ridiculous number of films at this point, particularly as establishing shots. Just some of the films that have shot scenes there include Skyfall (2012), Made of Honor (2008), Braveheart (1995) and Highlander (1986).
4. Glen Feshie, Cairngorms National Park
After Mary decides to wed Lord Darnley, she rides with her half-brother and the rest of her court through the Scottish countryside. This Mary Queen of Scots location is Glen Feshie in the Cairngorms National Park. I’m not sure exactly where, though you can see River Feshie in the background. It’s an absolutely breathtaking place! But you could say that about approx. 156,000 places in Scotland.
5. Poldullie Bridge, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire
Thanks to Mary’s new marriage, Scotland and England are at war once again. Mary marches with her army and Lord Bothwell, her most trusted aide, tells Mary of a bridge in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway where they can ambush the enemy.
In reality, this bridge is Portdullie Bridge just outside of Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. And those are all the Mary Queen of Scots locations in Scotland!
Mary Queen of Scots Filming Locations in England
6. Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire
Now, let’s get to the Mary Queen of Scots filming locations in England. The movie begins where it ends, with Mary’s execution in 1587. It’s a fleeting scene at the top of the film but slightly more fleshed out at the end. In it, jailers escort Mary from her prison cell to the place of her execution. Her cell is one of the crypts in Gloucester Cathedral.
Gloucester Cathedral’s Cloisters also stand in as Hampton Court Palace’s corridors/hallways towards the beginning of the film. They’re also Harry Potter locations and stood in for Hogwarts Castle’s corridors! The white, domed and elaborately decorative stone hallways are unmistakable.
7. Penshurst Place, Kent
Mary’s actual execution is set in a totally different place. Penshurst Place in Kent is a historic building once owned by Henry VIII, so it’s very fitting to the period of the movie. Elegantly manicured gardens with a traditional Tudor design surround the old stately home.
8. Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire
This next English Mary Queen of Scots film location is another Harry Potter throwback. Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire was Malfoy Manor in the wizarding franchise but it stands in as the exterior for Hampton Court Palace in this historical drama.
9. Haddon Hall, Derbyshire
Hampton Court Palace‘s interior is a blend of some studio sets, Gloucester Cathedral as mentioned earlier and Haddon Hall, another stately home in Derbyshire. The production team used the mansion as the location for some of the smaller rooms such as Elizabeth’s bedroom and where she creates her papercrafts. The Princess Bride (1987) also shot scenes here.
10. The Divinity School, University of Oxford
After Mary falls head over heels for Lord Darnley, Elizabeth I (now recovered from smallpox) meets with her Privy Council around a large, black granite table. This room is The Divinity School at the University of Oxford. Yet another Harry Potter location…
11. Harmondsworth Barn, Middlesex
Shortly after Mary becomes with child, Elizabeth visits her stables where she gently strokes a new foal. Elizabeth’s barn is Harmondsworth Great Barn in Middlesex.
12. St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Albury, Surrey
David Tennant’s character John Knox (leader of the Protestant Church of Scotland) gives a rousing sermon at a Scottish church shortly before Mary gives birth. He brands Queen Mary with various colourful titles like “servant of Satan”, “Queen Strumpet” and “fornicator with monstrous lust.” I don’t think many Catholics have been accused of those too often.
But this church with the huge stone cross in the centre isn’t actually in Scotland, it’s St Peter & St Paul’s Church in Albury, Surrey.
13. Chiltern Open Air Museum, Buckinghamshire
This is the fictional meet a few select silly biscuits/critics were up in arms about. No, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth never met in real life. Apparently. But what do we know, eh? In the film, they chat in a cottage full of drying laundry somewhere in Northern England. In reality, the Mary Queen of Scots filming location is one of the thatched cottages at Chiltern Open Air Museum in Buckinghamshire.
It’s like a small village with old, historic buildings and staff dressed up in Ye Olde costumes reminding us of simpler times where the death penalty was entertainment and we didn’t have penicillin.
And those are all the top Mary Queen of Scots filming locations in Scotland and England! Have you watched the movie or visited any of the Mary Queen of Scots movie filming locations? Let me know in the comments below!
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