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Issue 85 - Outlander Uncovered: Hopetoun House

Scotland Magazine Issue 85
February 2016


This article is 2 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Outlander Uncovered: Hopetoun House

In a new regular feature, Christopher Coates visits favourite filming locations from the award-winning STARZ television adaption of Outlander

For those of you who are still unfamiliar with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand why a story set (for the most part) against the backdrop of The Scottish Highlands has captured the imagination of readers across the globe. Delving into the drama of a fictionalised 18th Century Scotland, this tale of romance, violence and time-travel has sold in excess of twenty million copies and inspired a following of passionate readers on both sides of the Atlantic. Jamie and Claire, the principal characters, have now even appeared on the small-screen following the series’ recent adaption for television by STARZ. Subsequently receiving a 2016 Golden Globe nomination for ‘Best Drama Series’, the show has further cemented the popularity of the novels’ characters, stories and setting.

Not content to further explore the
Outlander universe solely via the plethora of online communities or occasional book- signings (see Scotland Magazine Issue 78 for our interview with the author), the number of devotees visiting the tale’s spiritual home has been on the rise since its first release in 1991 and more recently has led to something of a boom in ‘Outlander tourism’. However, despite the series’ fame, it can be difficult for budding Jamies or Claires to find a number of the key locations mentioned (or alluded to) in the story, as many are in fact entirely fictitious. While a little online sleuthing may yield some results regarding the author’s various inspirations – and other locations, such as Inverness, are very much real – readers hoping to utilise the time-travelling powers of the Craigh Na Dun stone circle or to visit Jamie’s ancestral home of Lallybroch are in danger of being disappointed.

One can’t help but feel that in any other country but Scotland this could have posed something of a challenge for the STARZ location scouting team. Thankfully, this time Scotland did not miss out on the opportunity to provide the backdrop – we’re looking at you Mr Gibson – and a great number of iconic sites have now been used as stand-ins for their fictional counterparts. Fortunately, many of these are open to the public and throughout 2016 we’ll be visiting our favourites, starting with the majestic Hopetoun House in West Lothian, which served as the residence of
Outlander’s fictional ‘Duke of Sandringham’.

Played in the series by Simon Callow (who you may recognise from
Four Weddings and A Funeral), the Duke is described as an individual who is, “as opulent and flamboyant as they come... like many men of power during this time, he has his hands in a few different cookie jars.” In reality, Hopetoun is the ancestral home of the Hope family, who have lived there for over 300 years. The present Earl of Hopetoun currently inhabits the house, while the head of the family – the 4th Marquess of Linlithgow – lives elsewhere on the estate.

At first glance, the impressive edifice pictured here may seem somewhat larger than the residence of
Outlander’s Duke, on account of the technical wizardry used to remove some of its wings in post-production. This only serves to make one’s first viewing even more impressive when approaching via the front drive, a vantage point that offers fabulous views of its sweeping lawns and the elegantly outstretched wings which flank the main house.

The great Scottish architect Sir William Bruce was commissioned in 1699 to work on the house by the widow of Sir John Hope (1650 – 1682), who had purchased the lands of Abercorn for that very purpose, before his premature death in the shipwreck of the ‘Gloucester’. His widow, Lady Margaret Hamilton, finalised the initial building arrangements to commemorate the marriage of their son Charles Hope, who was created the 1st Earl of Hopetoun – at the tender age of 22 – in 1703.

Construction commenced promptly, with many of the works executed by local craftsmen such as Alexander Eizat, with whom Bruce had collaborated on the renovation of Edinburgh’s Holyrood Palace, who carved the grand staircase. Completed by 1707, the project produced some of Scotland’s foremost examples of ceiling painting, wainscoting and stonemasonry. The year 1721 saw the inception of a significant series of modifications and enhancements which continued until 1767; the programme outlived the first Earl (1681 – 1742) and was completed under the supervision of his son John, the 2nd Earl (1704 – 1781). Managed by famed architect William Adam until his death in 1748, these developments included the facade, with its awe-inspiring colonnades, both pavilions and the grand State Apartments. In the time since, few alterations have been made at Hopetoun; although noteworthy examples are those made by the 4th Earl (1765 – 1823), which included the creation of the Large and Small Libraries and the State Dining Room’s decoration by James Gillespie Graham.

On account of this two-phase development, Hopetoun offers visitors an opportunity to see for themselves how tastes in architecture and design evolved from the more sober ‘country house’ style and overall appearance of the Bruce original into the grandeur of Adam’s more palatial vision. Visible examples include the Garden Room, which previously acted as the entrance from the gardens in the original Bruce designs and is now replete with mid-18th Century furnishings. Its stone- pillared porch still exists, as does its original wood panelling with pilasters. Once one has finished exploring the house proper, there are still 150 acres of parkland to enjoy; a walled garden, numerous walks, follies and an expansive deer park make a visit to Hopetoun pleasurable for all.

Travel Information

Hopetoun House and grounds are open to the public April – September on a ticketed basis. Guided tours are offered seven days per week during this time – no booking required.
Car parking is free of charge with the exception of large public events where additional charges may apply.

Travel Tip:
For SatNav directions, use EH30 9RW rather than the postal address. This will take you into South Queensferry, from which point you can follow brown signs to Hopetoun.

Hopetoun House
South Queensferry Edinburgh
EH30 9SL
Tel: +44 (0) 1313 312 451

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