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Calanais, Isle of Lewis © VisitScotland/ScottishViewpoint

Calanais, Isle of Lewis © VisitScotland/ScottishViewpoint

If you have not heard about Brave yet trust me you soon will. Disney-Pixar’s blockbuster animation will soon become a major part of the summer as the biggest Scottish set movie since Braveheart storms the world’s cinema screens and enthuses a new generation of children about the myriad charms of Scotland.

The epic story follows the young fiery haired and fiery tempered ‘Brave’, Princess Merida. She is set to be pushed into marriage, but this preordained life is not for our headstrong heroine. Her attempts to break free of both her parents’ and society’s expectations and presumptions about her life path, in essence to escape her destiny, are at the heart of what the lucky critics, who have sneaked into full preview screenings, say is a rip roaring epic.

The nation’s tourist office, VisitScotland, have bought into Brave big time with a £7 million advertising campaign to mark the launch of the film. Make no mistake – Brave may have an imagined setting, but it is also definitively Scottish. It comes across with the lead characters being voiced by Robbie Coltrane, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd and Billy Connolly, but also in the dramatic Scottish settings. The nation’s tourist bosses are rubbing their hands at a projected bounty of at least £140 million extra into the nation’s tourist coffers.

Both Disney-Pixar and VisitScotland are being tight lipped about where the film researchers visited and what they chose as their inspirations for scenes in the film. I, though, boarded the ‘Brave Express’ train earlier this month, along with representatives from both VisitScotland and Disney, and over a hundred other nosy journalists, to sniff out more for you about those hallowed locations. The most obvious are the Calanais standing stones on the Isle of Lewis. Below are another top five of my seriously unofficial Brave locations:

  1. Dunbroch Castle – A number of castles have been thrown into the ring for being the inspiration for Disney’s Dunbroch. Urquhart, Kilchurn and Eilean Donan have all been mentioned, but I think the strongest case is for Dunnottar Castle just south of Aberdeen.
  2. Braemar Gathering – All things Highlands star in Brave and it does not get more Highland than this. I have it on good authority that the Disney researchers attended these Deeside games, which come with a royal seal of approval.
  3. Broch – The broch that stars in the film is complete so I was tempted to say it must have been on Mousa in the Shetland Isles, but a wee birdie in the know has told me that it was definitely inspired by Dun Carloway on the Isle of Lewis.
  4. The Hermitage – Trees star in Brave, yet much of the rugged Highlands are arbor starved. So I’m going for a cheeky wee visit by Disney to The Hermitage in Highland Perthshire (Big Tree Country) to scout out the myriad tree species.
  5. Great Hall – The indoor castle scenes look like they were inspired by Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall, but I think you could make as good a case for Stirling Castle’s revamped Great Hall.

Stayed tuned for more things Brave through my blog and Welcome to Scotland’s Facebook page and Twitter stream. The European premiere of Brave is in Edinburgh on June 30, so I will be back with more insider information after that as I’ve been lucky enough to snare a ticket. Brave hits Scottish cinemas on August 3rd and goes UK-wide two weeks later on August 17th.  Watch the Disney trailer below.


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