James Cosmo launches guide to 'magical' films made across Scotland

Over 150 films spanning 90 years of cinema are included in the new guide from VisitScotland.

Acting legend James Cosmo has launched a new guide to the iconic films made across Scotland.

The star, who has appeared in some of Scotland’s most memorable films including Highlander, Braveheart and Trainspotting, as well as the hit fantasy series Game of Thrones, has spoken of the “magical quality” of films shot across the country.

Cosmo, from West Dunbartonshire, has penned a foreword in VisitScotland’s revamped guidebook ‘Set in Scotland’.

The national tourism organization has created a 52-page guide featuring more than 150 films shot entirely or partially in Scotland.

The guide contains 46 more films than the previous guide published in 2015 and details more than 100 filming locations around the country from the stunning landscapes of the Highlands to the diverse urban areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Set in Scotland has been launched by Cosmo along with Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, which runs steam and heritage diesel train journeys along its tracks and has appeared in a range of film and TV productions including Outlander, Cloud Atlas and The Railway Man.

The heritage railway is run 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.

The global trend of screen tourism – known as ‘set-jetting’- is growing, with film and TV fans taking travel inspiration from the filming locations of their favourite productions.

VisitScotland say the trend can provide ongoing financial support to the regions and businesses linked to popular locations.

VisitScotland's Set in Scotland cover

It is hoped the new-look guide will inspire visitors from across the world as part of Scotland’s national strategy to rebuild the tourism economy and allow sustainable tourism to thrive.

Previous research has revealed that 17% of tourist to Scotland from the top international markets (the USA, France and Germany) visit a film or TV location while on holiday in the country.

A recent report by Screen Scotland has also valued screen tourism at £55m to the national economy and says the trend has created 1220 full-time jobs.

Cosmo, whose film career has spanned six decades, writes in the foreword: “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.”

Films in the Set in Scotland guide span 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.

Scotland has appeared in five of the top 30 highest grossing films of all time.

The films have brought a total of $10.6bn at the box office worldwide and include Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which showed off Edinburgh and the small fishing village of St Abbs. 

Following the release of Avengers: Endgame in 2019, nature reserve St Abbs Head in the Scottish Borders, cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, saw a 25% increase in visitors to 63,721.

In the two years prior to the release, the attraction had an average of 49,000.

Figures also show that after the release of Braveheart in 1995, the National Wallace Monument in Stirling reported that visitor numbers leapt from 80,000 a year to nearly 200,000 in 1996.

In the decade between 1996 to 2005 the average annual numbers to the monument were 135,000 and have remained above 100,000 over subsequent years.

The National Wallace Monument in StirlingiStock

Jenni Steele, film and creative industries manager at VisitScotland, said: “James Cosmo has been a major presence in some of Scotland’s most iconic films and it is a pleasure to have him introduce the guide and encourage film fans to make a real connection with 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.”

The guide labels each film by genre and features QR codes with links to themed content on the VisitScotland website.

It also includes a new section called 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 the website.

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