Cinematic Edinburgh

Robin McKelvie takes us on an exclusive tour of Edinburgh

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Jules Pearson

Robin McKelvie
HomeAway travel expert

See Edinburgh in the widescreenEdinburgh could have been crafted with the romance of the cinema screen in mind. Panning out over its heady collage of epic natural and human landscapes, it is easy to see why Hollywood has fallen firmly in love with the Scottish capital. There is the rugged volcano of Arthur’s Seat and the romantic Water of Leith, but also a thick warren of atmospheric cobbled streets in the Old Town, a fairytale castle that Disney could only dream of conjuring up, and the grace and elegance of the stately New Town.

And the good news is that whether you're a lover of cities or movies (ideally both!) you can savour a rich treasure trove of movie locations dotted all over Edinburgh. So grab your popcorn, settle into the best seats in the house and prepare for action as I take you on a tour of my top five Edinburgh-based films. There are plenty of locations to seek out, and plenty of experiences for you to recreate too!


Behind the scenes in Edinburgh: your widescreen experience


Trainspotting Trainspotting

Much of Trainspotting was actually filmed in Glasgow, but the iconic opening scene with Ewan McGregor hurling around the centre of Edinburgh to Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ is unforgettable. You can sprint in his footsteps along Princes Street, but if you have Iggy Pop’s classic blasting through your headphones, beware: you may end up barrelling over the bonnet of a car as McGregor does when he hurls himself down the steps on to Calton Road. Look out too for the characters Renton (McGregor) and Spud in nearby Waterloo Place.

Watch the trailer on Vimeo to see Princes Street.


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One Day One Day

Edinburgh is as much a star of One Day as Anne Hathaway and indeed plays a crucial role in this romantic tale with a twist. In One Day the on-off protagonist couple Emma and Dexter hold Arthur’s Seat in high esteem and the volcanic hill shines across the screen. It is central to their story as it is where it both begins and ends. You can follow in their romantic footsteps and take a picnic up to this lofty perch (the city’s highest point), and enjoy the same views that so enthralled them and became pivotal to their love.

Romantic Edinburgh comes alive in this trailer for One Day on Youtube.


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Shallow Grave Shallow Grave

Many people wrongly presume Trainspotting was Ewan McGregor’s first cinematic flirtation with Edinburgh, but enigmatic Shallow Grave pre-dates Trainspotting and is another Danny Boyle directed classic. Christopher Eccleston dramatically declares during the intro sequence that ‘This could have been any city, they’re all the same’, but the elegant, wide and cobbled streets of the New Town, lined on both flanks with grand sandstone Georgian buildings, scream Edinburgh. The screams were certainly heard as people from all over the UK rushed to own one of the ‘Shallow Grave flats’ that this deeply dark film somehow manages to make seem so appealing! The camera during the intro swirls around the New Town to a throbbing techno beat before arriving at the fateful flat, and you can follow along in the tyre treads in your own car.

View the trailer for Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave on Youtube.


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 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

This film, based on Scottish writer Muriel Spark’s novel, sees Edinburgh in the 1960s stand in eloquently and admirably for Edinburgh in Spark’s 1930s. Maggie Smith won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of the notoriously strict and pompous schoolteacher, but the city is the real star. You can visit the Marcia Blaine School for Girls (actually the Edinburgh Academy building in Henderson Row) and follow in Brodie’s footsteps at the historic Grassmarket where she famously encourages her little charges to ‘observe the castle!’. Greyfriars Kirkyard makes an impressive cameo too.

See that 1930's magic of Edinburgh in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.


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Burke and Hare Burke and Hare

It may not have been a massive hit at the box office, but the latest cinematic incarnation of Edinburgh’s Burke and Hare true story strikes to the very core of the dark underbelly of Edinburgh; a city that has always had a Jekyll and Hyde edge scarred with multiple faces and facades. It is a rather dark comedy recounting the nefarious deeds of the notorious ‘Bodysnatchers’, who started killing people to supply cadavers for surgical dissection when they ran out of illegally exhumed bodies. The film’s major success is in skilfully recreating the moody streets of 19th-century Edinburgh, with swathes of the Royal Mile and its surrounding closes looking especially atmospheric, and Heriot Place also having a starring role.

See the darker side of Edinburgh in Burke and Hare on Youtube


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Holiday Rentals in Edinburgh

2 Bedroom Apartment, Pitt Street

This brand new spacious serviced apartment is beautifully decorated. It has 2 double bedrooms, free Parking . close to all Edinburgh’s main attractions. Includes wireless internet, TV and is fully furnished, fully functioning amenities. Door to d...


This brand new spacious serviced apartment is beautifully decorated. It has 3 double bedrooms, free Parking . close to all Edinburgh’s main attractions. Includes wireless internet, TV and is fully furnished, fully functioning amenities. Door to d...

Large central 4 bedroom apartment sleeps 10-14 persons

The apartment is close to Edinburgh's historic centre, ideal for restaurants, bars, shopping and exploring Edinburgh many sights. It is well situated for all attractions, very good public transport links to airport and train and bus stations. This...

LINKS VIEW, family friendly in Musselburgh, Ref 26449

Links View is a two storey apartment with views towards the Firth of Forth, in the town of Musselburgh six miles from Edinburgh. The apartment has a third floor double, with the remainder of the accommodation on the second floor, comprising of a d...

House in North Berwick - SHERG

BEAUTIFUL LUXURY PERIOD HOUSE WITH PRIVATE INDOOR SWIMMING POOL SLEEPS 8 2 This wonderful spacious family and group friendly former granary has been lovingly converted to a very high standard. Close to beautiful sandy beaches and all local ameniti...
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