28/07/2017
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Muiravonside Country Park – the site of the Battle of Prestonpans in Outlander

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Simon Bowers, countryside ranger with Falkirk Countryside Trust spoke to History Scotland about the Outlander filming at Muiravonside Country Park, which has strong links to the Jacobite story.

Muiravonside Country Park is a 170-acre site in Falkirk which is made up of a mixture of woodland and parkland, through which the River Avon runs. The estate once formed the grounds of Muiravonside House, which belonged to the Stirling family of Falkirk.

The McLeod family, who purchased the estate in 1724, had a strong tradition of supporting the Jacobite cause, and Lady Grange was kept at Muiravonside House at the start of her thirteen-year imprisonment in various remote locations, after she threatened to report her husband’s Jacobite sympathies to the authorities.

In series two of the TV time travel drama Outlander, the woodland of Muiravonside became the filming site of several battles, notably the Battle of Prestonpans, which appears in episode ten. Simon talks to us about what it was like to have the film crew on site, and why they chose this particular location.

What made Muiravonside Country Park the perfect place for filming Outlander?

The woodland is natural and mixed and has been so for at least the last 100 or so years and so what film companies are often looking for is a landscape where there’s not been any planting and the trees aren’t in rows. We also have a sloped area of farmland which runs towards the woodland, which works well.

Will the landscape have changed much since the eighteenth century, when the Battle of Prestonpans was fought?

It would have looked similar to how it looks now, however we do know that at one point the mill building at Muiravonside was converted by a Charles Stirling into a woodmill which used waterpower and was operated during his lifetime, but for the past century or so the mill hasn’t been used.

Indications of how old the woodland is can be seen through the fact that we have wood anemones which only grow up to 1.8 metres every 100 years and so their spread gives a good indication of the age of the trees.

What preparation is done before filming can take place?

First of all we get a call from the film crew and they have an initial walk round to see what the landscape is like and what equipment they’ll need to use. Then they’ll bring out the personnel who’ll be involved on the day of the shoot, so that can be up to thirty or forty people and they’ll go through the script shot by shot.

Next, two or three days before filming there'll be a set up followed by the filming day or days, after which any equipment such as cranes or lighting is removed overnight and the place is back to normal, with any little remedial jobs such as repairing damage quickly carried out.

Of course, we also have to consider the needs of people who are visiting Muiravonside Country Park for a walk or a day out. Outlander were very good about having security staff posted around the filming site and they’d explain to people what was going on and suggest other walking routes that they could use. Also, a few weeks beforehand we put up posters explaining that certain car parks and routes couldn’t be used, and suggested alternatives.

It was a pleasure to work with the Outlander crew and we’ve recently welcomed an Outlander tour to the Park. Many improvements have been carried out to the Park over the past two years or so and it’s nice to see so many people enjoying it.

QUICK LINK: Interview with Lucy Worsley - Queen Victoria's Scotland

Muiravonside Country Park, The Loan, Whitecross EH49 6LW; tel: 01324 590900; website. The site is open 363 days a year, 8am to 8pm (April to September) and 8am to 5pm (October to March).

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