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Hollywood has enjoyed a long standing and deeply passionate love affair with Scotland with blockbusters such as Braveheart, Rob Roy, Chariots of Fire and Local Hero all gloriously helping put the country on the cinematic map. The latest celluloid depiction of Scotland, Disney-Pixar’s multi-million dollar animated epic Brave, has set the heather on fire on both sides of the Atlantic with critics, the cinema going public and tourist chiefs all swooning at the deeply flattering images of Scotland. Early in 2013 Brave even won an Oscar for ‘Best Animated Picture’, which has taken it and Scotland’s fame to new heights..

Brave, cannily released in Scotland weeks before the rest of the UK in a move that pleased many a proud Scot, tells a universal tale. That of a young girl coming of age, of her struggles with her parents, especially her mother, as she tries to forge her own way in the world and an identity for herself. Young Princess Merida could not be any more quintessentially Scottish, though, with her fiery explosion of red hair and equally fiery accent, which comes courtesy of Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald.

Brave is set in a very distinctive Scotland, a Scotland intricately staked out by Disney-Pixar on research trips where they smelled the heather, hugged the standing stones and roamed the castle ramparts to get a real feel for the country. Brave presents no cheesy, squeaky clean tartan cliché, but instead something approaching the Scotland that many Scots know, a wildscape of gnarly trees, brooding skies and foreboding castles, as dramatic a landscape as you will find anywhere in the world.

The beauty of Brave for tourists and tourist officials alike is that Brave as an animation is not location specific. So the main castle of Dunbroch may be heavily influenced by Dunnottar Castle just south of Aberdeen, but there are also shades of Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness in there, or Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe or maybe even Eilean Donan Castle out west. Unlike conventional films there are no 100% definite locations so visitors get to let their imaginations run wild.

That said there are some locations that are emerging as part of the rapidly evolving Brave trail. Our resident travel writer Robin McKelvie has done some cheeky digging and has uncovered some locations that Disney definitely visited that dovetail into this trail. The aforementioned Dunnottar Castle is one of them as are the epic standing stones at Calanais and the half ruined Dun Carloway broch on the Isle of Lewis. Then there are the tree-shrouded slopes of Glen Affric and the Great Hall at Stirling Castle on the mainland. The list goes on and teasingly on.

What effect Brave has on Scottish tourism in the long term is anybody’s guess. For now legions are mustering across the 70 plus countries where the epic is being shown determined to follow in the footsteps of Princess Merida. And the Brave story may not be finished there. We’ve had a wee bit of an insider chat with some people in the know and there are already murmurings of Brave 2. You heard it here first!

For more on Brave and the Scottish locations check out our Brave blog
- Check out why the Brave cast and crew love Scotland so much
- More information