Loved and hated in equal measure, Mel Gibson’s historical epic Braveheart hit the silver screen back in 1995. Starring a strapping and strangely tanned Gibson as William Wallace, the film paints a largely inaccurate picture of the First War of Scottish Independence, which began with Wallace’s victory at the Battle of Stirling and ended with his execution at the hands of Edward I.
On release, Braveheart immediately gave modern Scots cause for concern and celebration. While Mel Gibson’s Scottish accent has endured as one of the most toe-curlingly inaccurate in cinematic history, the film had a huge impact on national identity at the time, with some historians arguing that it indirectly influenced the people of Scotland’s desire for independence from the UK. Lest we forget that just two years after Braveheart was released the devolution referendum led to the creation of a Scottish Parliament in 1999.
Braveheart also had a huge impact on Scotland’s tourism industry – and no wonder; the country’s beauty stands out perhaps more than anything. This led to an influx of tourists looking to bask in the nation’s natural splendour and millennia-old history. To this day, fans of Braveheart continue to trawl Scotland in the hope of finding one of Gibson’s notable filming locations. The truth is that many of the most prominent filming spots are located in Ireland, not Scotland. But never fear: here we’ve compiled a handy guide to help you on your journey.
Visit the filming locations of Braveheart:
It wouldn’t be a film about Scotland without the melancholic majesty of Glen Coe. Nestled in the highlands of Scotland, the famous Glen is one of the first snatches of the sprawling and unforgiving landscape of Braveheart. The soaring peaks in these parts border the historical region of Lochaber and appear in just about every film ever shot in Scotland. Highlander, Outlaw King, Skyfall: Glen Coe unites them all.
Glen Coe is as rich in history as it is in wildlife and myth. The mountains were formed by dramatic volcanic eruptions and slowly moulded by huge glaciers. Some say that the peaks were once home to the mythic figure of Fingal and his poet son Ossian. Following the Jacobite rising of 1689, 38 women and children of the MacDonald clan were slaughtered by a regiment of Scottish government soldiers who had once been their guests. Hauntings, unsurprisingly, are common in this lonely quarter of the highlands.
Used as the setting for William Wallace’s home village of Lanark. Glen Nevis is one of the most important locations in Braveheart. Here, the young William grows up and falls in love with Murron (Catherine McCormack). The village was constructed in the Glen Nevis Valley at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak. The houses were based on the quant dwellings of St Kilda, a small island just off the Scottish coast, which was uninhabited until the late 18th century but now serves as one of the Highlands and Islands’ most popular tourist attractions.
Like Glen Coe, the history of Glen Nevis stretches back to the earliest days of human civilisation. High above the Glen, you’ll find an Iron age fort known as ‘Dun Deardail’, which was constructed over 2000 years ago by the area’s first inhabitants. Numerous battles were fought around these parts, one in the 15th century and another in the 18th. At this time, the Glen belonged to Clan Cameron, who, despite not joining Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebellion against the English, was subject to raids by government redcoats. The landscape still holds many of the lookouts used by renegade Jacobites during these tumultuous times.
One of the bloodiest moments in Braveheart is the battle of Stirling If any of you are struggling to remember, that’s the “Hold! Hold!” sequence in which Wallace’s army decimates the English cavalry using wooden pikes. The scene’s tension relies upon a gradual shrinking of the distance between the two armies, with the cavalry approaching over a wide, flat expanse. As such, the location was of the utmost importance.
Gibson eventually settled on Curragh Plain, which isn’t in Scotland at all but in County Kildare, Ireland. Curragh is believed to be one of the oldest and most extensive tracts of semi-natural grassland in Europe, having existed for over two thousand years. The ‘Down of Kildare’ was apparently an ancient meeting place and is famed for the quality of its horses. Races have been taking place on the Curragh flats since at least the 12th century. Indeed, the Irish derby still takes place there every year.
Another important Braveheart location in Ireland is Trim Castle, which serves as the setting for York Castle. Having defeated the English at Stirling, Wallace and his army are riding high on their success and decide to push the fight into England. As the symbolic boundary between North and South, sacking York seems like the best way to strike fear into Edward Longshanks.
In reality, Trim Castle is a ruin in County Meath that was set dressed within an inch of its life. Built in the late 12th century, Trim is the largest castle in Ireland. It was constructed by High de Lacy in an attempt to limit expansion by Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, also known as Richard’ Strongbow.’ Richard was an ambitious and battle-hardened baron whom king Henry II feared wanted to carve out an independent Anglo-Norman Kingdom in Ireland
After Wallace is betrayed by the Scottish noblemen, he is captured by the English and imprisoned. Both the dungeon and some of the courtyard scenes in Longshanks castle were filmed at Bective Abbey, a Cistercian abbey on the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland.
Founded in 1147, Bective Abbey was built for the Cistercian Order by Murchad Murchad O’Maeil- Sheachlainn, King of Meath. It was designed to capture the purity and simplicity of the order’s monastic way of life, as reflected in the restrained architecture and gothic arches. Now that much of the Abbey has crumbled into dust, it’s a maze of staircases and lonely towers just waiting to be explored.