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Where is Craigh na Dun?

A Visit to Outlander’s Craigh na Dun at Kinloch Rannoch

 

where is craigh na dun

After a lacklustre summer, Highland Perthshire’s early autumn colours roar as we take the road up country into the very heart of Scotland in search of the hallowed ground of Craigh na Dun.

Now, you don’t want to be taking a work of fantasy fiction too seriously, even one as meticulously researched as Diana Gabaldon’s.  But happily for the small but growing band of home-grown followers of Outlander, the Great Outdoors of Scotland is where much of the action happens.  And fans will endure and inflict almost anything to track down where the real-life locations and the fictional drama collide, and the alchemy immortalising characters takes place.

Today’s mission is the weather-tangled stand of trees jauntily perched on the crest of a lofty hillock where Claire Randall, the heroine of this spell-binding saga, goes time-travelling; Craigh na Dun.  Minus the buzzing rocks, in case you weren’t aware and go looking for a mighty ring of standing stones crowning the spot.

Where is Craigh na Dun?

A tip-off on the Craigh’s location finds us heading up the A9 towards Kinloch Rannoch.  Highland Perthshire boasts many fine forests, peaks and lochs and, without as much as leaving your car, this busy route up the spine of Scotland presents you with an admirable foretaste of the grandeur awaiting when you take the turn-off south of Killiecrankie onto the B8019 and what turns out to be a round-trip studded with scenic gems.

This undulating rural but well-beaten road parallels the northern shore of mighty Loch Tummel to Tummel Bridge.  The Forestry Commission car park at the Queen’s View is at boiling point.  This famous view looks westwards along the loch as far as the unmistakable profile of Buachaille Etive Mhor (1110 metres) in distant Glencoe, and was originally named after King Robert the Bruce’s second wife, Isabella.  We can only guess she must have been a stunner in her day because this place really pulls the crowds year-round.  The spot is a honey pot for the Forestry Commission who work hard to entice folk into the countless forest landscapes they manage, providing sustenance as well as useful shops stocked with information resources and souvenirs.

The road snakes on into Scotland’s vast, increasingly remote interior past Tummel Bridge where it becomes the B846 feeling, unsettlingly, not much more than a car and a half wide at times.  Where the trees part and Loch Tummel opens out, it’s hard to resist a photo, even if there’s clearly little room for manoeuvre between passing cars, less still for pulling up to drink in the atmosphere of the landscape.  It’s then you wish you’d taken advantage of the excellent facilities beckoning at Queen’s View for the taking of reels of film at leisure.

If you do press on regardless, visual rewards aplenty do await on the shores of Dunalastair Reservoir.  It is a picture of utter tranquillity on the day we roll by, situated between the jewels of Lochs Tummel and Rannoch, dwarfed by the beguiling ‘Fairy Hill of the Caledonians’, Schiehallion, at 1,083 metres.

Our first ‘sighting’ of the tree-topped goal is definitely the product of over-excited anticipation.  We crowd round postage stamp-sized images of the sacred fairy place, but this spot just isn’t convincing on closer inspection.  A second sighting comes dangerously close to a match.  From a distance.  We tramp across a field, mindful of the Country Code, and look for the sure signs of space for the fabled ring of stones and assess the trees like we know what we’re about.  There’s no space for one 15 foot stone never mind a ring of the blighters so, no, it seems we’re wide of the mark.

Insidiously aware that our search could end in futility because of the massive area we’re searching, we use the heid and seek advice from a local on the Dunalastair estate who is more than acquainted with Outlander galavanters and the filming extravaganza which apparently lit up the sky with its arch lights; on the other side of the reservoir.  We thank our knowledgeable and lovely guide for this precious nugget of information.

Following the road to Kinloch Rannoch, we cross the bridge heading for Tempar and Lassintullich on the south of Dunalastair Reservoir, fired up with that thing we didn’t possess when we set out; certainty.  Certainty certainly courses through the team car and hopes soar high like the blue, blue Highland skies above.

The car climbs up to the top of a steep, wooded brae and, would you believe it, there she is.  That idea of the mind made real on the shadowy northern flanks of Schiehallion.

A moment to relish reaching our destination, then the urge to revel in its earthly presence takes over.  The mind fires up in sync.  Imagine the glow that ignites the location team on first sighting that ideal piece of turf, derelict historic pile or mouldering mercat cross?  This, the perfect setting for falling through space and time.  No need to imagine it any longer.  If there’s a word, euphoria covers it.

Stay awhile if the weather allows to muse over the mystical site with its aging oak and Scots pines tenaciously gripping the earth, and its classic Highland view overlooking the etchings of ancient glaciers before the vista straggles towards Loch Rannoch, of lyrical fame.  This land’s intrinsic, raw beauty is stupefying.

We can sense the haunting beauty of Craigh na Dun in our minds’ eye as the pages turn.  Its allure is made real then deafeningly amplified in the dramatisation.  But, as you the fan can imagine, it is in the flesh that the place truly casts its spell.  Perfection without embellishment by anyone.  Not even the fabulous Outlander production crew.

Seek her out, and it’s a wrap for you, too.

 

To make the round-trip and a half-day outing from Central Scotland, leave Craigh na Dun travelling east by Braes of Foss re-joining the B846 towards Aberfeldy and then south towards the A826.   Kinloch Rannoch is roughly 1.5 hours by car from Muckhart, Clackmannanshire.

You can read more about Outlander filming locations in this blog by Travels with a Kilt.

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