A Little Bit of Lallybroch

For fans of Outlander, the phrase “Take me home to Lallybroch” has been branded on our hearts and in our minds for all time. But when Outlander was picked up by Starz in 2013, the film location chosen by the producers left many fans scratching their heads. Midhope Castle is a gorgeous 16th century Scottish castle with beautiful architecture, but it doesn’t resemble Diana Gabaldon’s Lallybroch at all. Could they make this stunning creation into Jamie Fraser’s beloved childhood home? Short answer, yes. As I rewatch season 1, I have had time to analyze and appreciate the filming locations, and it astounds me to see what a building actually looks like versus production magic. So, what is the reality of Midhope Castle? When was it built? Who lived there? How is it utilized in the realm of the show? Keep on reading for all these answers and more!

Attribution: © RCAHMS

The version of Midhope Castle that we enjoy today was an ever evolving construction project for the first 400 years of its life. It saw many owners in its heyday, and each of them put their own stamp on the facade of our beloved “Lallybroch”. The first mention of Midhope in historical documents can be found in a boundary dispute for a piece of property referred to as “Medhope” in 1438 between Henry Luigstone and John Martyne. Martyne won the dispute and went on to build the original structure he called home until his death in 1478.

The Drummonds of Midhope were the next family of note to run the estate, and it was under the stewardship of Alexander Drummond that a massive construction project was commissioned from 1582 – 1587. This project would be the first phase of the structure we have today, and included the reconstruction of the main 5-story tower with it’s two bartizans, although it is said that part of the original 15th century castle can still be seen in the vaulted ceilings of the castle’s basement. Alexander Drummond and his wife Marjorie (Bruce) had six children: 4 sons and 2 daughters. Per usual for 16th century record keeping, not much is known about their daughters; both married into nobility and became Lady Bruce of Kincavel and Lady Hay of Kennet.

History sheds a little more light on the sons Drummond. The eldest, Alexander became a knight, and was the first of many to style himself Lord Midhope. He was also one of the Lords of College Justices, and died childless in 1619. The second son, John became a gentleman of the privy chamber for King James VI, while his younger brother William became a Major in His Majesty’s army and was killed at the Siege of Grolle (Netherlands) in 1627. After the eldest son, Alexander, died without children, care of the Midhope estate was transferred to the youngest Drummond son, Robert (also a knight). Sir Robert and his wife had three children (1 son and 2 daughters), but their son, Alexander, was tragically killed in the Battle of Aldearn during The War of The Three Kingdoms in 1645, leaving the estate without an heir once again.

Approximately a year after the death of young Alexander Drummond, Midhope Castle and its surrounding land, became the property of George Livingston, 3rd Earl of Linlithgow whose initials can be seen carved into the doorway/lintel to this very day. George Livingston had many noteworthy roles in his life, the most impressive of which was as a Privy Counsellor for Charles II after The Restoration in 1660 when monarchy returned to Scotland in lieu of democracy. During his lifetime, he was also a military man, and was responsible for leading government forces against The Covenanters. In the year 1642, Livingston was made Constable and Keeper of Linlithgow Palace and Blackness Castle, which, to the avid Outlander fan may ring a bell. They served as filming locations for Wentworth Prison and Fort William in Season 1! 

The 3rd Earl of Linlithgow resided at Midhope until at least 1676 but, the story of the Livingstons does not end there. The initials J.L. can be found on the 17th century doocot adjacent to Midhope Castle, and it is believed these initials belong to James Livingston, 5th Earl of Linlithgow. James was an ardent Jacobite, and after their defeat at The Battle of Sheriffmuir in November 1715, all his holdings were forfeited to the Crown including the earldom. James was able to escape to Europe where he lived out the remainder of his days alongside the exiled King James III.

In 1678, under the stewardship of John Hope, Midhope Castle entered its final phase of construction where the east extension was expanded to four stories which nearly doubled the amount of rooms in the castle! A new courtyard and doorway were added to the building as well creating the backdrop of Lallybroch’s most prominent scenes. Sadly, after just four years of ownership, in 1682, John drowned in a shipwreck while accompanying the Duke of York (future King James VII/II) to Scotland. His young son Charles inherited the entire Hopetoun estate at just 1 year old with his mother Lady Margaret Hamilton as his guardian.

Attribution: © RCAHMS

After construction of the much larger and extravagant Hopetoun House was completed in 1707, Midhope Castle became a second rate building on the Hopetoun Estate, and by the 19th century, it was being used as a boarding house for the estate’s workers. In the 1851 census, records show that 53 people from 10 families including 7 children were living in Midhope. 15 of these people were estate employees that provided services as game keepers, foresters, grooms, and gardeners. It is also believed that once Midhope was repurposed for staff housing, it was subdivided into its present interior, but there are no records to support this. All we know for certain is that when Scottish architects David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross cataloged the structure in their book Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland From the Twelfth to Eighteenth Century published in 1887, the subdivision was already complete.

Over the course of the next century, conditions at Midhope saw a steady decline. Midhope Castle once had a beautiful 4-story oak staircase with twisted balusters, but by 1929 it was recorded that the staircase was largely dilapidated. By the time an effort at restoration was made in 1988, the building was a derelict shell. The roof of the west tower was completely gone, and the roof of the east wing was in serious disrepair.

The restoration project saw a new roof and new windows placed in the building, but the inside of our favorite 16th century Scottish castle is completely empty and closed to visitors for safety reasons, leaving all of our Lallybroch interiors to the imaginations of the immensely creative Outlander set designers and decorators.

Over the course of five seasons, Outlander has used Midhope as a filming location in 11 episodes including some of my favorites: 112 “Lallybroch”, 213 “Dragonfly in Amber”, and 308 “First Wife”. It is no secret that the “Outlander Effect” has created a boom in Scotland’s tourist industry, and given life to estates that were struggling to make ends meet. Midhope Castle has now joined that list. In a July 2020 article with Scottish Financial News, the Hopetoun Estate announced plans to open the Midhope Castle Distillery Company. The whisky industry is vital to Scotland’s economy, and barley for said whisky has been grown on the Hopetoun Estate for centuries. That barley will now be used exclusively for brewing at the new distillery. Hopes are high with the goal to eventually restore Midhope Castle to its former glory using funds from the new business venture.

Until Midhope Castle is restored, visits to the grounds and courtyard of the castle will still be available. Due to COVID-19, the entire Hopetoun Estate is currently closed to visitors. However, during normal operation tickets can be purchased at the Hopetoun Farm Shop and Hopetoun House ticket kiosks for 4 GBP each.

Please note that Midhope Castle is on an agricultural portion of the estate and may be closed for farming operations from time to time. There is also the possibility filming closures as well. So, make sure to check the Midhope Castle website for preplanned closure dates. Access to Midhope castle is also available with most Outlander tours if you do not want to rent a car and drive yourself!

Over the course of its 500 years, Midhope Castle has seen many changes for better or worse. It changed hands multiple times and saw several face lifts, but now with the help of Outlander’s rising fame and the increase of visitors to the Hopetoun Estate, it looks like the biggest refurbishment project of its life is on the horizon. I personally cannot wait to see what is in store for this fantastic piece of Scottish history, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Midhope is on my list of locations to visit on my next trip to Scotland! 

Until next time,

Cheers!!

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