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One giant leap for island tourism

BFG boost for Scotland’s offshore paradises

 Skye and Orkney’s starring roles in Disney’s The BFG have highlighted the “giant” contribution Scotland’s islands have made to cinema and television over the years, according to VisitScotland.

The national tourism organisation says their appearance in the new Steven Spielberg blockbuster, which hits UK cinemas this Friday (22 July), will inspire more visitors to explore the country’s magical offshore landscapes.

Skye and Orkney can be seen in the big-screen version of the Roald Dahl classic as part of the homeland of the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance), where he takes young orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) on a hunt for dreams.

The digitally enhanced shots of Skye include the Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr, the Cuillins, the Faerie Glen and the Shiant Islands, while an aerial unit filmed at the Old Man of Hoy on Orkney. A section of the A1 at Haddington also makes an appearance.

Skye has appeared in numerous movies in recent years, including Macbeth (2015), starring Michael Fassbender; Keanu Reeves vehicle 47 Ronin (2013); Sir Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012); Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Stewart (2012); and the romantic fantasy film Stardust (2007), which counts Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer among its stars.

The island’s amazing landscapes have also seen Skye feature in cult science-fiction classic Flash Gordon (1980); fantasy flick Highlander (1986); as well as The Land That Time Forgot (1975); Made of Honour (2008); Breaking the Waves (1996); and Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle (2007). The latter is produced by Christopher Young, the man behind BBC Alba’s Gaelic language drama Bannan, which is also filmed on Skye.

Scotland is home to nearly 800 offshore islands and Skye is not the only one to have played starring roles on the silver screen. Other notable appearances include:

  • Arran: Brodick Castle was one of the main filming locations in the 1998 drama The Governess, starring Minnie Driver
  • Barra: (Whisky Galore, 1949). The original film adaptation of Compton Mackenzie’s classic novel saw Barra become the fictional islands of Great and Little Todday
  • Harris: (2001: A Space Odyssey, 1969) – legendary director Stanley Kubrick couldn’t afford a Juno-like space probe to film the far reaches of the solar system, so Harris stood in for the surface of Jupiter
  • Lewis: (Katie Morag, 2013-present) – the television adaptation of Mairi Hedderwick’s popular children’s books is set on the fictional Isle of Struay, but is shot on the Isle of Lewis
  • Mull:Balamory (2002-2005) – the colourful houses of Tobermory feature prominently in the popular BBC children’s television programme; Eye of the Needle (1981) –  Mull becomes ‘Storm Island’ in this spy thriller starring Donald Sutherland and directed by Richard Marquand, who later made Return of the Jedi; Entrapment (1999) – the crime caper starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones was shot at Duart Castle
  • Orkney: The island once home to Hollywood legend Robert Shaw features in The Spy in Black (1939), and children’s fantasy Venus Peter (1989)
  • Seil: (Ring of Bright Water, 1969) – Gavin Maxwell’s autobiographical tale about his pet otter was brought to life in Argyll and the Isles, with Graham Merrill (Bill Travers) taking in his new surroundings on Seil Island, across the famous “Bridge over the Atlantic”
  • Shetland: Foula features prominently in Michael Powell’s The Edge of the World, (1937), which stars John Laurie, who later found fame as Private James “We’re Doomed!” Fraser in Dad’s Army; It’s Nice up North (2006) – a comedy documentary on the islands starring Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
  • Staffa: (When Eight Bells Toll, 1971) – the espionage thriller starring Anthony Hopkins includes stunning scenes of the famous Fingal’s Cave

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “Scotland’s islands play a vital role in this country’s tourism industry, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. It is fantastic to see The BFG join a long list of memorable movies to feature our incredible offshore locations, which have been seen in everything from science-fiction classics to fantasy blockbusters. With 40 per cent of visitors to the UK inspired to come here after seeing a location on film or on television, the appearance of Skye and Orkney in Steven Spielberg’s latest movie can only be great news, not only for the islands themselves, but for Scottish tourism as a whole.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said:“Our island communities serve as a unique backdrop for TV and film productions, with dramatic landscapes and seascapes. These movies shine a spotlight on some of Scotland’s greatest assets, icons and hidden gems, which helps attract tourists to our island and rural communities.

“We know that investment in screen, through Initiatives such as Creative Scotland’s Production Growth Fund, can bring more jobs, further growth and a provide an economic boost for destinations that feature on screen.”

David Broder, Locations Manager on The BFG, said: “Scotland provided The BFG with very dramatic mountain and island locations that became our Giants Land, a place of wonder and awe. We received great help from Creative Scotland, The Scottish Ministers, RSPB Scotland, The National Trust for Scotland and the friendly, helpful residents of Skye and the Orkney Islands.”


Brodie Pringle, Head of Creative Scotland’s Screen Commission, said:“ Recently voted the world’s Best Cinematic Destination, Film and TV producers spent a record £45.8m shooting in Scotland in 2014 with 2015 figures likely to be equally healthy, demonstrating an ever increasing appetite from major film and high-end TV producers to use Scotland as a location. We’d encourage anyone considering Scotland as a location to get in touch and see what we have to offer.”

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