Mary, Queen of Scots film being tipped to boost tourism in Borders

Saoirse Ronan and Jack Lowden at Scotland's premiere of Mary, Queen of Scots in Edinburgh. (Photo by Duncan McGlynn/Getty Images for Universal)
Saoirse Ronan and Jack Lowden at Scotland's premiere of Mary, Queen of Scots in Edinburgh. (Photo by Duncan McGlynn/Getty Images for Universal)

Borders businesses and tourism attractions are hoping to benefit from a boost in trade expected to be generated nationwide by the new film Mary, Queen of Scots.

Hopes are high that the new movie, starring US-born actress Saoirse Ronan in the title role and Borderer Jack Lowden, will spark interest in historic sites in the region associated with the 16th century monarch despite the fact that, unlike its 1971 namesake, none of it was shot here.

From left, Eileen O'Higgins, Izuka Hoyle, James McArdle, Nicola Sturgeon, Saoirse Ronan, Jack Lowden and Karen Dunbar attending Scotland's premiere of Mary, Queen of Scots in Edinburgh. (Photo by Duncan McGlynn/Getty Images for Universal)

From left, Eileen O'Higgins, Izuka Hoyle, James McArdle, Nicola Sturgeon, Saoirse Ronan, Jack Lowden and Karen Dunbar attending Scotland's premiere of Mary, Queen of Scots in Edinburgh. (Photo by Duncan McGlynn/Getty Images for Universal)

The Josie Rourke-directed film – going on general release this Friday, January 18, following its European premiere in London just over a month ago and first Scottish screening in Edinburgh last night, January 14 – offers a golden opportunity for tourism businesses, according to Scottish Government culture secretary Fiona Hyslop.

Ms Hyslop, MSP for Linlithgow in West Lothian, Mary’s birthplace, said: “This is a great opportunity not just for the screen and the culture side but also for the tourism aspect for Scotland.”

While being questioned by members of Holyrood’s culture, tourism, Europe and external affairs committee about the government’s forthcoming budget, she told them it would see the amount of cash given to Screen Scotland to encourage more filming north of the border double to £20m.

Netflix filmed the £70m period drama Outlaw King in Scotland and neighbouring Berwick and Tweedmouth in 2017, and Ms Hyslop said that had had a big impact on the country’s economy.

Jack Lowden and his parents Gordon and Jacquie Lowden at the Scottish premiere of Mary, Queen of Scots. (Photo by Duncan McGlynn/Getty Images for Universal)

Jack Lowden and his parents Gordon and Jacquie Lowden at the Scottish premiere of Mary, Queen of Scots. (Photo by Duncan McGlynn/Getty Images for Universal)

“Importantly, the amount of spend that had particularly for crew and production was very strong indeed,” she said.

Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon, among those at last night’s screening, agrees, saying: “Films like this project an image of a country that is rich in exciting, compelling history, a country that is known for its beautiful landscapes, and really do send a message that the film industry in Scotland is going from strength to strength.”

Jenni Steele, film and creative industries manager at VisitScotland, added: “Scotland’s history and culture is a huge driver for visitors from across the globe, with the life of Mary, Queen of Scots a fascinating part of that.

“We’re excited to see Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie take on the iconic roles of Mary and Elizabeth in this latest big-screen interpretation of Mary Stuart’s life, especially as Scotland’s landscapes and built heritage appear on screen.

A scene from the Focus Features film.

A scene from the Focus Features film.

“With its mix of political-intrigue and stunning imagery of Scotland, Mary, Queen of Scots could offer further inspiration for visitors to explore the country and the many real historical locations linked to the 16th century monarch, and our online map is the perfect place to start.”

VisitScotland’s location map will be uploaded this Friday at www.visitscotland.com/maryqueenofscots

The new film was shot at locations including Blackness Castle, near Linlithgow, and Seacliff Beach, near North Berwick in East Lothian.

The 1971 movie of the same name, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and Glenda Jackson as Queen Elizabeth I of England, was part-filmed in the Borders, however, at Hermitage Castle, between Hawick and Newcastleton.

The 13th century castle and Jedburgh’s Mary, Queen of Scots are the Borders tourist attractions most likely to benefit from interest generated by the new film, and Richard White, an assistant curator for Live Borders at the latter, said: “I think it is definitely going to revive and increase interest in Mary’s story.

“There are more places than just Jedburgh that have an association with Mary obviously.

“She was born at Linlighow Palace and was buried at Westminster, but the time she spent in Jedburgh was the turning point in her life.

“Mary, Queen of Scots House there tells her whole story. The rogues’ gallery features all the people that played a part, both good and bad, in her life.

“The wall decorations show her life in France, and then there’s the story of her visits to Bothwell too, which are all told.

“You really do find out about the twists and turns of her life at the house in Jedburgh, and I would think the film will increase visitors to the centre there.”

The Queen Street visitor centre opens for this year’s tourist season on Friday, March 1.

Hermitage Castle, run by Historic Environment Scotland, opens on Monday, April 1.

Former Earlston High School pupil Lowden, born in Essex but brought up in the Borders, at Oxton, plays Henry Stuart, Mary’s second husband, in the new movie – following in the footsteps of James Bond star Timothy Dalton, cast in the same part in the 1970s film – and he said it had been fun to play a vain and troublesome Englishman in a Scottish story.

The 28-year-old said: “I’ve played a few Englishmen now, and it’s always fun to do so.

“I would have loved to have played a Scot in it, but I mean he was a Scot in a way.

“It’s quite nice to be the get within.”