For almost 70 years Glencoe has attracted film makers keen to incorporate the grandeur of the local scenery into their film making endeavours. It’s not just the unspoilt nature of the land they are after, but the wonderful light, especially in the early morning or late evening, which is an added incentive. Indeed one French director (Bernard Tavernier) once remarked that the light in the West of Scotland, combined with the clarity of the unpolluted air, made for an effect which no amount of studio manipulation could re-create.
Although films and adverts have been made in the Glen for so many years, it is relatively recently that Hollywood blockbusters have used the dramatic scenery to such good effect. Two of the three Highlander films starring Christopher Lambert were filmed here. The opening battle scene near the beginning of the film takes place between the mountains of Buchaille Etive Mor and Buchaille Etive Beag, at the entrance to the Glen, and the cottage where the hero lived and was trained by another character played by Sean Connery was built just below Glencoe gorge. A local hotel was used for the interior of shots in Highlander 3.
1993 saw the arrival of the on location shoots for both Rob Roy and Brave-heart. These two hugely successful, Oscar winning films overlapped slightly, and by the end of the summer the locals in the area were quite used to having British and American film stars in our midst. Although they were based in Glen Nevis, many scenes were shot in Glencoe and its immediate surroundings for both films.
The summer of 2003 saw the arrival of Warner Brothers and the Harry Potter team to film the outside outside shots for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Much of the final film will be made in a London studio, but the vast bulk of the location shooting has been done just off the single track road which runs through Glencoe village connecting up to the main road a couple of miles down the Glen. Here Hagrid’s hut was built, along with sets for various other key scenes in the film. Although filming was done over a three week period, Warner brothers were present in the Glen for about five months, constructing the set, filming, then deconstructing and returning the site to what it was like before they arrived.
It was an exciting time for the area. Not only were the stars living amongst us, using the shops, pubs and cafes, but the unit, as indeed previous ones had, employed many local people in a huge variety of ways. Security, food providers, drivers, teachers, and of course extras; there is a ready and eager body of experienced and trained film helpers in the area willing and eager to offer their services when needed.
As a result, these films have injected significant amounts of capital into the local economy. During filming, hundreds of staff are looking for accommodation and food, and then there are those they employ who benefit as well. The filming itself attracts visitors to the area, keen to see the set, or catch a glimpse of a star. And once the film is released, it’s like a huge advertisement for the area which no marketing budget could afford. It’s difficult to quantify precisely, but there can be no doubt that collectively these films have injected millions of pounds into the local economy.
And it’s not just films. Countless adverts have been shot here, including such high profile ads as for Peugeot cars with budgets that BBC producers would kill for. But TV films and documentaries, such as mountain rescue drama ‘Rockface’ have used Glencoe extensively. They come and they keep coming back because the scenery is so stunning, unspoilt and accessible.
Movies Filmed in Glencoe, Kinlochleven & Surrounding Areas
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Highlander 1 and 3
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Bollywood)
Made of Honour
Master of Ballantrae
Massacre of Glencoe
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Quest for Fire
The 39 Steps
Under the Skin
Take a look at Visit Scotland’s latest guide – The Highlands & Skye Movie Map. You will be able to pick up a copy of the Map at visitor centres around the area.