FROM the cobbled streets and gothic architecture of the Royal Mile to the Georgian splendour of the New Town, it has provided inspiration to hundreds of film-makers.
Now Edinburgh’s starring role in films such as The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie and Trainspotting has been honoured in the form of a walking tour around prime locations.
Actors Mark Kydd and Laverne Edmonds will play a projectionist and an usherette on a whistle-stop tour of the sites that made it on to film, as well as offering a guide to the city’s actors, writers and historical figures who have made their mark on the movies.
They will be following in the footsteps of Ewan McGregor, Dame Maggie Smith, Peter Sellers, James Mason, Anne Hathaway and Jamie Bell, and recounting tales of Sir Sean Connery, Robert Louis Stevenson, JK Rowling and Alastair Sim.
The Reel Edinburgh Tour is being launched just months after plans emerged for a new company offering walking tours of Glasgow’s music venues, past and present. The pair, who have the backing of the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the city’s film location agency, are running their 105-minute tour for three nights a week initially, at 7pm each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Kydd said: “The idea for the tour is one that I’ve had in my head for years, and I had vaguely worked on a prospective route, but it wasn’t until last year that Laverne said, ‘Let’s do this.’
“We had worked together on various things over the last the year, including the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour. It seemed a bit of a natural progression to set up our own tour. We could have made it a lot longer, but we wanted something that was walkable and not too arduous. Maybe we will branch out in future and do a bus tour.”
The cinema tour, which is now up and running, will visit locations like Greyfriars Kirk, which was featured in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, Jude, which starred Kate Winslet and Christopher Eccleston, and Disney’s Greyfriars Bobby adaptation.
It also takes in Victoria Terrace, where 1980s comedy Restless Natives and Hollywood film Cloud Atlas were shot, the Lawnmarket, which featured in the Peter Sellers film Battle of the Sexes, and the Grassmarket, which had a starring role in the Bollywood hit Mausam, which saw Edinburgh stand in for Kashmir.
The tour sets off from the site of the first film screening in Scotland, in 1896, the Empire Palace Theatre on Nicolson Street, and finishes on The Mound, which featured in Sunshine On Leith, and Princes Street, where McGregor was filmed for the famous opening of Trainspotting.
Edmonds added: “The two responses we most commonly get when we’ve told people about the tour is what a great idea it is and ‘why has no-one done it before?’ There are so many tours dealing with history in Edinburgh, and there are two or three literary tours, but there have only been maps and guides about its film history.
“We thought that doing the show in character would help tie the tour in more with Edinburgh’s cinematic. Ally is even named after Alasdair Sim, while Cally is named after the old Caley Picture House on Lothian Road.”
The launch of the Reel Edinburgh Tour has come in the wake of a surge of interest in locations in Scotland, thanks to blockbuster films like Skyfall, World War Z and Under the Skin, as well as the American TV series Outlander, a historical drama which is being made on location across the country.
Recent films to showcase Edinburgh include whisky caper The Angels’ Share, James McAvoy’s portrayal of a corrupt cop in Filth and the romantic drama One Day.
Jenni Steele, film marketing manager at tourism agency VisitScotland, said: “Edinburgh is undoubtedly one of the most cinematic cities in the world, and it is no wonder that movie fans flock here to visit some of its amazing film locations.
“People who come to the capital to indulge in a spot of ‘set-jetting’ enjoy learning more about the stories behind the films, the characters and the writers, so this sounds like an excellent addition to Edinburgh’s already rich offering of tours.”
Rosie Ellison, manager of the Film Edinburgh agency, which has supported the launch of the Reel Edinburgh Tour, said: “We produced our owwn film map to raise awareness of the range of cinema-released feature films that have put Edinburgh on the screen.
“People love the movies, but don’t necessarily know what has been made just around the corner because they were shot a long time ago or because the filming was under the radar, but Edinburgh has been cropping up in the movies for over 80 years and the maps are a way of celebrating this.
“I’m sure the Reel Edinburgh Tours are going to be very popular. They are a really entertaining way of visiting the city and finding out about our cultural heritage.”
Site-seeing: How city starred in film history
Edinburgh’s cinematic history can be traced back long before JK Rowling found the inspiration for Harry Potter in a cafe opposite the site of the old Empire Palace Theatre – site of Scotland’s first film screening.
Sir Walter Scott’s novels, such as The Bride Of Lammermoor, Ivanhoe and The Heart Of Midlothian, were turned into films more than a century ago. The first film version of Stevenson’s The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was made in 1908, while horror legends Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi starred in an adaptation of short story The Body Snatcher in 1945.
Among the city’s best-known actors was Alastair Sim, star of Hue And Cry, Scrooge and The Belles Of St Trinian’s, about the fictional school created by cartoonist Ronald Searle. Edinburgh-born Finlay Currie’s many film roles included Ben-Hur, Great Expectations, People Will Talk, Quo Vadis, Alice in Wonderland and Whisky Galore!
The tour will lift the lid on Sir Sean Connery’s days in Edinburgh, when he posed as a nude model for students at the city’s art school and delivered milk to Fettes College, where James Bond was educated, according to author Ian Fleming.