Last week was a busy one for Cinematic Scotland. Not only did the site make its first tentative steps into world but we also announced the start of our first Scottish location tour on the trail of Disney Pixar’s latest blockbuster, Brave.
Keen-eyed readers may have noticed a slight flaw in our plan; Brave, set in 10th Century Scotland and featuring a young princess, adventure, feuding lords and a bit of magic, is a computer generated animation and wasn’t actually filmed here.
Thankfully, the team at Disney Pixar are known for their research and it was back in 2006 and 2007 that they took trips to Scotland to discover the reality behind their script. Co-writers/directors Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews were among those who ate haggis, lay in the heather, visited castles and met faeries in the glens… Well, three out of those four.
After watching and reviewing Brave, and in partnership with Scottish tour company Rabbie’s Small Tour Groups, I hitched a lift to follow in the footsteps of Brave’s creators, taking a few detours to see which parts of Scotland could have inspired them. I couldn’t have been in better company, as Rabbie’s take visitors around most of the country throughout the year.
My first Highland stop was at Urquhart Castle, just past the village of Drumnadrochit on the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland’s largest freshwater loch. The castle dates from the 13th Century and, although now in ruins, has a turbulent history as various noblemen tried to gain ownership through the centuries.
Urquhart Castle was fought for by the English and the Scots and at one time even owned by Robert the Bruce when he became King of Scots. Now managed by Historic Scotland, the castle’s story is told through video in the visitor centre and numerous plaques dotted around the castle.
In Brave, the family of Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), including King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), live in the heavily fortified DunBroch Castle. Although DunBroch is set higher up a hillside than Urquhart Castle, walking over the now-dry moat and inside the castle walls it’s easy to see that the remains of the Great Hall, kitchen and tower were inspiration for Disney Pixar’s animators.
I spent some time walking around the castle trying to picture where various walls would once have been, with the jail cell part of the building not seen in the family-friendly Brave.
Perhaps the most impressive aspects of Urquhart Castle are the views from the battlements atop Grant Tower. These look down on other parts of the castle as well as over Loch Ness and are memorable whatever the weather.
Urquhart Castle was the perfect start to my Brave-themed tour and, for anyone looking to get a taste for the world of Merida, I’d suggest it’s an excellent place to begin your journey.
In the next post I’ll be stopping briefly in Ullapool before heading to the Isle of Lewis, where ancient standing stones and more await me.
Urquhart Castle is open all year round, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with full details available on the website.