Famous People and Places

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Famous People and Places 2017-05-23T14:17:00+00:00

Aberdeen City and Shire has a long connection with film and has many links with famous people and places.  Here are just a few.



Rose Leslie, who plays ‘Ygritte’ in A Game of Thrones and was ‘Gwen Dawson’ in series 1 of Downton Abbey, was brought up in Aberdeenshire’s Lickleyhead Castle (owned by her family for five centuries), and went to school in nearby Rayne.

Dame Evelyn Glennie and Emeli Sandé, brought to global prominence by their screen roles in the 2012 Olympics ceremonies, were both raised in Aberdeenshire (Ellon and Alford, respectively).

Singer/songwriter Annie Lennox, whose music has appeared in the soundtracks of 139 films and TV shows including Lord of the Rings: Return of the KingAmerican Beauty, and The Sopranos, was born in Aberdeen.  Her family roots extend throughout Aberdeenshire: from Braemar and Balmoral in the mountainous far west to Banff and Macduff on the northern coast, as uncovered in a visually epic 2012 episode of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?

For Those in Peril, shot principally in the fishing village of Gourdon, Aberdeenshire, was originally called Seaside Stories.  It won the 2013 Scottish BAFTA for Best Feature, and at the 2014 UK BAFTAs, director Paul Wright was nominated for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

The BBC’s Hairy Bikers met in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, and returned there to shoot The Hairy Bakers in 2008.

Eight years before he first became a star of the silent screen, Charlie Chaplin performed live at Aberdeen’s Tivoli Theatre in 1906, and enjoyed the area so much that he returned in 1970 to share it with his wife; they stayed at the Tor-na-Coille Hotel in Banchory.

The Queen starring Helen Mirren was filmed at Aberdeenshire’s Castle Fraser and Cluny Castle, doubling as Balmoral’s exterior and interior, respectively; but the real Balmoral and a real queen (Victoria) appeared in a series of experimental short films in the 1890s.

Billy Connolly has owned Candacraig House, a late-Georgian Baronial-style mansion in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, since 1998.  It was previously owned by Body Shop founder Anita Roddick.  The house and 14-acre estate are currently for sale for £2.75 million.

Ridley Scott’s first feature film, The Duellists (1977) starring Harvey Keitel, contains a five-minute sequence shot in the Cairngorms – doubling as Russia during Napoleon’s invasion of 1812.

Inchdrewer Castle, Aberdeenshire was owned by Count Robin Mirrlees, the real person who inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond character.

Aberdeenshire’s New Slains Castle and Cruden Bay Hotel helped inspire Bram Stoker to write Dracula in 1897.  Stoker’s 80 screen credits are mostly Dracula-related, but in 1988, his less famous novel Lair of the White Worm was made into a cult feature starring Local Hero alumnus Peter Capaldi.

A real person from Braemar, Aberdeenshire – a probable whisky smuggler named John Silver – was personally known to Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Treasure Island at 6 Glenshee Road, Braemar, in 1881.  Since 1908, Stevenson’s beloved classic has been the basis of 29 film adaptations, nine TV series and miniseries, and two videogames (among more than 100 probable/unacknowledged screen versions), making Long John Silver arguably one of the most recognisable characters in the history of the media.

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, has been used to double for 16th-century Denmark, in Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990); as the basis of the animated ‘DunBroch’ in Disney/Pixar’s Brave (2012); as its past self, in the BBC’s 1971 adaptation of Sunset Song, a popular 1932 novel by local author Lewis Grassic Gibbon (another version of which is currently in development); and as its current self, in the Emmy-winning Amazing Race series 3 (2002).

The 2006 Doctor Who episode ‘Tooth and Claw’ was set on Deeside in 1879.  In that episode, The Doctor, Rose Tyler and Queen Victoria are menaced by a werewolf at a fictional Aberdeenshire stately home/observatory, Torchwood House – which in turn became the basis of popular Who spinoff series Torchwood.

Contrary to rumour, the ‘famous historian’ scenes Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) were not filmed in Aberdeenshire; this confusion aparently resulted from the similarity of the names of Arnhall Castle in Stirlingshire – where those scenes were actually shot – and Arnage Castle near Ellon, Aberdeenshire.

Lorna Moon, golden-age Hollywood screenwriter with ten produced credits and mother of Cecil B. De Mille’s illegitimate nephew, was born Nora Low in Strichen, Aberdeenshire in 1886 and wrote two books set there: Doorways in Drumorty (1925) and Dark Star (1929).

Steampunk sci-fi feature Outpost 11, ITV’s Victoria and Albert, and the perennial classic ‘man fights bear’ John West Salmon commercial were all filmed on Aberdeenshire’s 200-square-mile Invercauld estate.