GLASGOW has always loved the movies. Known affectionately as “cinema city”, in the 1930s it had more cinemas per head of population than anywhere else in the UK. These days it regularly tops box office attendance figures outside of London.

It has also produced a plethora of fine directors over the years, including Alexander Mackendrick, Bill Forsyth, Lynne Ramsay and David Mackenzie.

This love affair with film is a two-way thing, however, and the city has starred in many great movies over the years, spanning every budget and genre. And while it often plays itself, some of Glasgow’s most famous appearances on screen have been playing somewhere else.

Scotland’s stunning scenery and history have always been a draw for filmmakers, of course, not least over the last few years, with the likes of Mary, Queen of Scots, Outlaw King and the phenomenally popular TV show Outlander re-introducing the country to a younger global audience. Indeed the Scots star of Outlander, Sam Heughan, spoke recently about how much he relishes filming in his home country.

“Scotland is undoubtedly the star of our show,” the Glasgow-based actor said in a magazine interview. “I’m so proud of the country and all it has to offer. I’ve learnt so much about where I’m from and fallen in love with it even more. Each location we go to lends itself to whatever is happening in the script or the story line. We are so lucky to have this right on our doorstep.”

Indeed we are, and with this in mind we’ve set ourselves a fitting challenge: the best filming locations to visit within 90 minutes of Glasgow city centre.


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The 2013 zombie thriller, starring Brad Pitt, was partially shot in Glasgow, with the city centre getting a clever makeover to stand in for Philadelphia.

George Square took a starring role in one of the most dramatic and memorable scenes in the movie, the zombie invasion, which saw hundreds of extras run screaming through the square, which was all dressed up with Philadelphian street signs and American cars for authenticity.

While filming in Glasgow, architecture buff Pitt spent time visiting Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings with his then-wife Angelina Jolie and their children, including a trip to Hill House in Helensburgh. The actor is a huge fan of Glasgow’s most famous architect and designer, having visited the city on a number of occasions to see his work.


Glasgow was transformed into New York for this 1999 film version of Edith Wharton’s 1905 novel, which stars Gillian Anderson and Dan Ackroyd. Much of the movie was filmed in Glasgow, with city landmarks such as Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the City Chambers, Kelvingrove Park, Devonshire Terrace and the Theatre Royal perfectly recreating opulent early 20th-century New York.


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Glasgow stood in for yet another US city in this 2012 production: San Francisco. Both cities are known for their steep hills and location managers made good use of Montrose Street, in the Merchant City, and Douglas Street, in the west of the city centre, dressing them with period cars and signs to create a distinct 1970s vibe. Blythswood Square also features in the film. Halle Berry filmed in the city (she was photographed looking rather chilly between takes) and was also given a 1970s look for her role in author David Mitchell’s dystopian time travel tale.


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The long, wide streets around George Square doubled for London and were used for a number of stunt sequences in the latest spin-off of the globally popular action movie franchise, called Hobbs and Shaw, which is due for release later this year. Idris Elba filmed a number of scenes – dressed in full motorbike leathers – as onlookers were treated to a plethora of fast and furious car and bike chases through the city centre.


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Much of this quietly powerful movie, which stars Glenn Close – nominated for an Oscar for her role – and Jonathan Price, was filmed in Scotland.

Glasgow’s grand Hutcheson Hall, in the Merchant City, takes on the role of Stockholm in one of the film’s key scenes, while the in-flight storyline was shot aboard the Concorde that is exhibited at the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian. Beautiful Dumfries and Galloway also features prominently in this story of a woman who takes control of her life and re-asserts her worth after her husband is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


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Leading man Sam Heughan was spot on when he said Scotland was the real star of the historical time travel drama, which also stars Caitriona Balfe. The location managers have clearly scoured every inch of the country to find the best castles, harbours, mountains, lochs, hills and heather, and all of these assets are used to stunning effect throughout.

Doune Castle – Castle Leoch in the show and also Winterfell in Game Of Thrones – is just 45 minutes from Glasgow, while a host of other key locations, including Hopetoun House, Drummond Castle and the Fife village of Culross, are all within an hour of the city.

Beautiful Dunure Harbour, just 10 minutes from Ayr and an hour from Glasgow, featured in the last two seasons of the series.

Heughan, who says he spends as much of his spare time as possible cycling, hiking and climbing across Scotland, spoke evocatively last year of filming in the village of Dunure and “looking across to the snow-capped peaks of Arran at sunrise”.


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Glasgow features significantly in David Mackenzie’s brutal film about the rise to power of Robert the Bruce. Glasgow University’s gothic cloisters (no stranger to celluloid, they also feature in Outlander and Cloud Atlas) put in an appearance, while the main building briefly doubles as Westminster. Glasgow Cathedral can also be seen in the film, as can Linthligow Palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, just 40 minutes along the M8.

The beach scene at the end of the film, where Bruce is seen being reunited with his wife, was shot at Seacliff sands in East Lothian, 90 minutes from Glasgow. Stunning Tantallon Castle is perched above and offers some of the most stunning views on the east coast.


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Seacliff beach also features in Josie Rourke’s recent film, which stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart, and Scot Jack Lowden as Lord Darnley. Blackness Castle in West Lothian stands in for Holyrood Palace (still the current Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh), and both royal residences are just an hour’s drive from Glasgow. Loch Leven Castle, the fascinating and scenic island ruin where Mary was imprisoned and escaped from in 1568, is also just an hour away.


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Ron Howard’s hugely popular film version of Dan Brown’s bestselling thriller was shot in locations across Europe, but the movie comes to a climax in Scotland, at beautiful Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian. In interviews, Brown said he always knew his book’s finale would take place at Rosslyn, which he describes as “the most mysterious and magical chapel on earth”.

The film’s star, Tom Hanks, flew into Scotland in September 2005 to shoot extensive scenes at the 15th-century site, which is just an hour’s drive from Glasgow. He wrote afterwards: “Few locations on a film are more delightful and few destinations live up to their billing, so to speak, but Rosslyn was all that one could imagine or hope for.”

The chapel, which is overflowing with strange, interesting and unexplained symbols and carvings, has been flummoxing historians and visitors alike for centuries. Due to its connections with the mysterious Knights Templar, some believe the Holy Grail is buried underneath the chapel (much of the plot of the film revolves around this theory). Whether or not that is true, it remains one of the most beautiful, bizarre and evocative places in Scotland.