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10 years since Skyfall: Celebrating James Bond’s Highland heritage

Stunning Highland locations feature in Skyfall, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

This October marks 10 years since the launch of the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall, arguably the most iconic in the Bond franchise in modern times.

It’s also the movie in which James Bond’s Scottish roots are celebrated, with high-octane action taking place at Bond’s family home, Skyfall, in dramatic Glencoe.

Legend has it that Bond’s creator Ian Fleming was so impressed by Sean Connery’s portrayal of his character that he gave 007 some Scottish heritage.

Fleming had Scottish heritage himself.

Ian Fleming. Photo by Everett/Shutterstock.

He was the grandson of the Scottish financier Robert Fleming who co-founded the Scottish American Investment Company and the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co.

The resulting profits saw to it that Ian Fleming was born into well-connected, top drawer circles.

He ended up in Naval Intelligence during the war – the inspiration for the exploits of 007, Secret Intelligence Service officer and commander in the Royal Naval Reserve.

Fleming described Bond as “a compound of all the secret agents and commando types I met during the war”.

Despite using the entire globe as Bond’s stamping ground during the 25 existing movies of the franchise, it’s the scenes set in the Highlands which are among the most memorable.

The rugged, dramatic peaks seem a natural setting for Bond’s exploits, and producers have turned repeatedly to the locations which must have been seared on Ian Fleming’s mind as he grew up.

His father Valentine owned an estate at Arnisdale on the north shore of Loch Hourn.

On his death in World War One, his name appears on the Glenelg war memorial.

Fleming’s family also owned the Dalness Estate in Glen Etive, regularly visited by the young Ian during his childhood.

Dalness Shooting Lodge bears more than a passing resemblance to Skyfall, and was scouted as a possible location.

In the event it wasn’t used as the producers were seeking something more run down, so the less salubrious Skyfall House was in fact built for the movie from scratch at Hankley Common in Surrey.

Dame Judi Dench and Daniel Craig on the set of Skyfall house.  Photo by Danjaq/Eon Productions/Kobal/Shutterstock.

But Glencoe, where Skyfall is located, is most definitely real and Ian Fleming’s choice of ancestry for Bond’s father.

Bond reveals his  Glencoe ancestry as early as 1969 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Glencoe is the perfect backdrop for some of the most memorable scenes from the movie, along with road sequences from Glenetive.

Buachaille Etive Mor, looking into Coire na Tulaich, viewed from the West Highland Way, Glencoe. Shutterstock.

Even 007’s Aston Martin can’t upstage the stunning peaks of Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag during the movie.

Glen Etive has proven irresistible to film makers, hosting sequences from Harry Potter movies, Braveheart and The 39 Steps.

The Road to Skyfall, Glen Etive. Photo by Daniel Casson/Shutterstock.

In the most recent Bond film, No Time To Die, the Highlands once again exercised its big screen charisma, as ‘Bond needed to return home’, Craig said in an interview.

This time the action was in the Cairngorm National Park, in thrilling action scenes seeing vehicles flying through the air during a car chase.

The jaw-dropping stunt was filmed in the Laggan area near Aviemore, with a helicopter circulating above to capture the very best action.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in No Time To Die. PA Photo/Danjaq, LLC/MGM/Nicola Dove.

Daniel Craig said of the location: “It still probably hasn’t sunk in – I still get a thrill thinking about it, I still get a thrill going to set every day.

“We filmed in an extraordinary place, (we) didn’t do too much damage, I don’t think – a little bit maybe. We got this beautiful estate and it was great.

“There weren’t too many midges, which was good as well.”

Eilean Donan Castle also had a cameo role in The World is Not Enough when it served as the Scottish headquarters of MI6.

The film’s producers fully embraced the Scottish connection, with Q (Desmond Llewelyn) giving Bond (Pierce Brosnan) a demonstration of bagpipes that double as a machine gun.

Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh.

The mysterious drama of Eilean Donan has attracted many film makers.

It also appears in 18 other movies, from Highlander to Marple.

As far back as 1963, a boat chase scene in From Russia With Love was shot on Loch Craignish, Argyll.

It was supposed to shot in be Turkey, but to Loch Craignish came up trumps as a stand in after various filming challenges arose.

Director Sam Mendes, third from left, with actors, from left Javier Bardem, Berenice Marlohe, Dame Judi Dench and Daniel Craig pose for photographs at the photo call for Skyfall. Photo by Joel Ryan/AP/Shutterstock.

Whether or not the Highland locations had anything to do with it, Skyfall broke all manner of box office records, earning £1.109 billion worldwide.

It was well-received by public and critics alike, nominated for five Oscars and winning two including Best Original Song, written and recorded by Adele.

Skyfall’s director Sam Mendes was widely credited for reinvigorating the Bond series.


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