Robin McKelvie

Hollywood has long enjoyed a breathless love affair with Scotland. From Local Hero and James Bond, through to Trainspotting and, yes, Braveheart, the silver screen just cannot get enough of Scotland. On the small screen, too, Scotland has been the setting for everything from Take the High Road to Taggart. The next big thing is ITV’s lavish Belgravia, with a flurry of key scenes of the new Downton Abbey shot at spectacular locations across the country.

It’s easy to see what so entrances the camera about Caledonia. There are seven deeply historic cities to choose from and a coastline alive with over 800 islands and beaches. What would Local Hero be without the Sands of Morar? Then there are the history location scout’s dream: our castles, with more per capita than anywhere else in Europe. Eilean Donan for example is never off the screen – featured in Bond, popped up in Rob Roy and shone brighter than Sean in Highlander. Scotland’s landscapes too lend themselves to wide angle sweeping shots – think Daniel Craig and his Aston Martin in Glen Etive for Bond’s Skyfall.

ITV’s new six part offering Belgravia is the brainchild of the award winning team behind the hugely successful Downton Abbey. Its writer, Julian Fellowes, has adapted his bestselling eponymous novel Belgravia for TV, working again with Carnival’s Gareth Neame and Nigel Marchant as executive producers, alongside Liz Trubridge. John Alexander (Sense and Sensibility, Trust Me) is in the director’s chair for all the episodes with Colin Wratten (Killing Eve) on production duties.

The cast reads like a who’s who of British period drama. Tamsin Greig (Episodes), Philip Glenister (Mad Dogs), Harriet Walter (The Crown) and Alice Eve (She’s Out Of My League) are amongst the 65 actors involved. They are joined by the likes of Tara Fitzgerald (Game of Thrones), Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children), Richard Goulding (The Windsors) and James Fleet (Four Weddings and a Funeral).

While the action kicks off at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball (filmed at Bath’s Assembly Rooms) on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and Brocket Hall is a key Hertfordshire location, a swathe of scenes were filmed in Scotland. Curiously there was no filming actually in stately Belgravia as Director John Alexander explains: “There is no way you could film there because it's now full of embassies and high security, so to find that world was a challenge. It led us around the country to locate other similar squares. The best we found was Moray Place in Edinburgh.”

Edinburgh’s New Town was an obvious choice and not just because its graceful architecture echoes Belgravia’s porticoed grandeur. Both have a similar genesis too. Belgravia was founded on virgin land as a Mayfair overspill for the nouveau riche. Similarly the area around Moray Place was built as part of the 19th century Moray Estate urban project with mercurial architect James Gillespie Graham at the helm. Edinburgh’s Old Town meanwhile sells itself for period drama, with locations off the Royal Mile starring in Belgravia.

So, with the help of the little CGI magic to starch Edinburgh’s distinctive Craigleith sandstone to be more like the whiter stone of Belgravia, the capital’s New Town ably steps in. The circular – if you’re being as pedantic as some of the characters in Belgravia it’s actually a duodecagon – splendour of Moray Place stars as London’s finest alongside Moray Gardens and Darnaway Street, which snakes off from Moray Place. Most of Moray Place sees virtually no traffic so spirit away the street markings and signs and the past comes instantly alive. Even the old lamps that grace this part of Edinburgh are historic.

Moving across the old Nor Loch – now the two halves of Princes Street Gardens – we come into the once wild, raffish Old Town, the chaotic heart of old Edinburgh that the upper classes built their New Town to escape from. One of its most striking buildings is the City Chambers. Minus its bike share scheme station it features as Belgravia’s Albany Courtyard, complete with horses and carriages wheeling around.

Just across the Royal Mile – once described by Daniel Defoe as “perhaps the largest, longest, and finest street for buildings and number of inhabitants not in Britain only, but in the World” – lies the High Court and hidden away Parliament Square. Even as tourists mill down the more famous promenade often this beguiling slice of historic Edinburgh is blissfully quiet, which came in handy when ‘London scenes’ were shot here.

Just outside the official city limits of Edinburgh, South Queensferry’s Hopetoun House is no stranger to movie and TV glamour. It has been used extensively over the years, most memorably as multiple different locations for Outlander. Its east façade was one country house, its west quite another and the wee lane next to its stables even became a wee corner of Paris. Its interior graces Belgravia.

Another palatial Scottish country house also gets in on the act in the Borders. Manderston House has been very popular of late with not only Belgravia filming here, but Netflix’s The Princess Switch and Outlander also turning their cameras on Lord Palmer’s elegant bolthole just outside Duns. The producers of Belgravia went to town filming in the Morning Room, Ballroom, Drawing Room, the upstairs bedrooms and, of course, the ridiculously opulent silver plated staircase.

Visit Scotland are expecting big things from Belgravia after seeing tourist numbers rocket at locations used in the global TV hit Outlander. Jenni Steele, Film and Creative Industries Manager at Visit Scotland, is confident of the power of Belgravia: “Belgravia is another great opportunity to showcase Scotland’s locations to fans of period dramas and hopefully that will result in more visitors coming to see where scenes were filmed.” This confidence seems well placed given the palpable effect of Downton Abbey. “We’ve already seen what happened when Downton Abbey filmed for their Christmas special at Inveraray Castle – they saw a 20% increase in visitors from that audience.”, Steele concludes.

Whether you’re a fan of historic drama or not you’ll find it hard to avoid Belgravia, whether it’s catching it on TV or seeing fans flock to the locations. Maybe best then to embrace it and see how many locations you can spot sprinkled with filmic magic during the episodes and maybe then pay a visit to take in the real life historic drama for yourself.

Follow in the footsteps of the Brockenhursts for a capital day and night

If you want to transport yourself back to the late Georgian and early Victorian period in which Belgravia is set, it’s easy to do in Edinburgh. You’ll want to take in the New Town and Old Town locations outlined here, but if you want to live like the moneyed classes in the series (the established Brockenhursts and the upwardly mobile Trenchards) you need to eat supremely well and recline in a fitting abode.

That abode is the aptly named The Grand (, a palatial oasis fit for royalty, nevermind well to do Londoners, that has been reborn after being converted from serving as the old Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters. For a refined lunch at Martin Wishart’s classy Francophile Honours Brasserie ( more than passes muster. If you want to delve downmarket start with the oysters, as that is what famously provided the less well off Edinburgh citizens with much needed protein back in old Edinburgh.

Spend the early afternoon going back in time and seeing all the real life upstairs and downstairs shenanigans at the National Trust for Scotland’s impressive Georgian House on Charlotte Square. It’s just a sedan chair ride away and will have you trying on period garb as you brush up on your method acting.

Make sure to move briskly on those stairs, as you learn about such gems as how the Duke of Argyll invented the metal Argyll Gravy Jug after growing tired of congealed gravy, as you need to work up an appetite. That is because you’ll be savouring champagne afternoon tea in the sumptuous Signet Library (

For dinner ascend Calton Hill to take in the Nelson Monument (completed the year after Waterloo). You can dine like a nouveau riche Belgravian on an extravagant tasting menu at the Lookout ( The view unfurling in front of you amply demonstrates just why the savvy producers of Belgravia chose so well with Edinburgh.

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