If Pixar’s film Brave told us anything it’s that a stereotypical view of Scotland remains potent. However there is another view of Scotland; one embodied in the films below. Whether charming, gritty, horrifying, comic or mournful, each film here offers valuable insight into contemporary Scotland.
The 39 Steps (1935)
From arguably the greatest British director of all time comes one of the best British films of all time, loosely based on John Bucan’s spy thriller of the same name. In typical Hitchcockian devilishness, myth and rumour surround the production of The 39 Steps. With the usual suspense, intrigue, and mirth, and as a test pilot for later works Saboteur (1942) and North by Northwest (1959), The 39 Steps is another faithful Hithcock classic, and an important piece of British cinema history.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Whisky Galore! (1949)
Maybe one of the only films to embrace the use of an exclamation mark, Whiskey Galore! has to surely be imagined shouted from a raucous yet charmingly dapper gentlemen from a PG Wodehouse novel. A shower of Jeeves and Wooster-esque mayhem, this 1949 Ealing comedy film depicts a shipwreck near a Scottish island and the attempts of islanders to pinch the ship’s cargo of whiskey. The directorial début from Alexander Mackendrick, you can find his stamp on later works The Man in the White Suit (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955).
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
Long before Scottish national treasure Maggie Smith was transfiguring into a furry feline or getting her kicks at Gryffindor quidditch matches, she played another classic teacher, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Charting the rise and fall of the titular character’s teaching career over several years at a highly conservative all-girls school in 1930s Edinburgh, Maggie Smith takes to role of Miss Jean Brodie with all the tenacity for which she is famous. And while a little more realistic than chanting incantations in the halls of Hogwarts her performance is no less magical. A truly wonderful piece of Scottish film.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Generating little acclaim at its time of release this morbid fable of pagan sacrifice and folk horror is now a firm favourite among the roaming hordes of cult classic martyrdom. Featuring the British master of on screen villainy, Christopher Lee at his most wonderfully foreboding, The Wicker Man is undoubtedly one of the best British horror films ever made. With the ghoulish scenes shot almost entirely in the small Scottish towns of Gatehouse of Fleet, Newton Stewart, Kirkcudbright, and the ominous burning man scene filmed at Burrow Head, The Wicker Man is firmly embedded in Scottish roots.
Gregory’s Girl (1981)
Famously rerecorded so that American audiences could understand the strong Scottish accents, writer-director Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl is a wonderfully innocent coming of age comedy as well as a signal of the emergence of a great Scottish talent. Caught up in the spills of unrequited love, charmingly awkward, and with an incomplete knowledge of just quite how the world works, these are all themes with which both teenagers and adults can relate and garnered the film critical and public acclaim at its time of release which continues to the present day.
Local Hero (1983)
Just two years after Bill Forsyth’s glowingly received Gregory’s Girl came Local Hero. The story centres on an American oil trader named ‘Mac’ McIntyre (Peter Reigert) who is sent by outlandish CEO Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster) to the fictional Scottish coastal town of Ferness to enter into negotiations with the local community. His task is to purchase the village and surrounding properties to make way for a new oil refinery. As charming as Gregory’s Girl, it’s the unfolding development of McIntyre’s personality, and that of the townspeople of Ferness, from which the film draws it healthy beating heart.
Without question one of the most famous Scottish films, and one of the most quotable films of all time, in particular the famous opening monologue: ‘I choose not to choose life: I choose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?’ Adapted from the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, Danny Boyle’s second feature film tapped into the youth sub culture of the 1990s in a burst of cartwheeling exuberance whilst also putting Scotland’s serious heroin problem under the microscope.
Breaking the Waves (1996)
The first film in Danish director Lars Von Trier’s ‘Golden Heart Trilogy’ which also includes The Idiots (1998), and Dancer in the Dark (2000), Breaking the Waves reveals Von Trier’s early audaciousness and his genesis prior to becoming one of Europe’s most controversial and maverick auteurs. Despite the humble cinematic techniques Von Trier manages to create a grand and sweeping tale of love and tragedy which belies his latter day reputation for perversity.
Nowadays Lynne Ramsay is known for her mother son nightmare piece We Need To Talk About Kevin so people may not be familiar with her languorously paced early works Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar (2002) which both marked the arrival of a new British auteur. In 1999 The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called Ratcatcher ‘poetry from the Rubbish tip‘ both in reference to the film’s subject matter and Ramsay’s revelation of a début amidst a tide of trashy British films.
Sweet Sixteen (2002)
In this gritty tale, Ken Loach offers an alternative take on growing up working class in Scotland’s largest city. With over 330 swear words and subtitles for those not familiar with a thick Glaswegian accent, Loach attempts to offer a more honest approach to Scotland’s social ills depicting typical juvenile delinquent Liam and his strained attempts at creating a better life for himself and his mother. Loach manages to get the best from his actors here, although sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether they are acting or are simply being themselves.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.