Silver Screen Surroundings: Outlander, S1E10 “By The Pricking of My Thumbs”

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At long last “Droutlander” is over. Starz network’s production of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” book 1 took a very long mid-season break (5+ months) and finally returned last week. (hence the term “Droughtlander” to those missing their fix of the tales of Claire Randall Fraser (20th century English nurse) and Jamie Fraser (18th century Scottish warrior).  It all makes sense, really!  You can read my posts from the first part of the season here.

Up until now, the set design has been a wee bit brown and work-a-day. Set in the Scottish Highlands of the mid-18th century, Castle Leoch (played by Doune Castle in Scotland) is the seat of the clan MacKenzie. One of the more powerful and wealthy clans, the castle is luxe compared to how many were living in Scotland at that time. But still… as a designer there’s not been much to drool over.

At the end of the first run of episodes we left off when Jamie and Claire were forced to get married. And then they fell in love (it’s a bodice ripping romance, in part, after all!). The couple returns to Castle Leoch and is given a new fancier “bridal suite” of rooms. It’s clearly more luxurious than what we’ve seen before, but dark and heavy none-the-less.

The massive four-poster has been festooned with flowers in celebration of their newly married status.

Nice… paneling. (There’s a very ribald joke I could make about the image below, but I’ll leave it to your imaginations.)

For those of us who have read the novels, we know that there are some really beautiful locations to come. And in this week’s episode #10, we’re treated to the beautiful local dwelling of the Duke of Sandringham, a foppish British aristocrat who has journeyed to the Highlands at the invitation of the Laird of the Clan MacKenzie. Of course, he would be staying in a manor house more fitting his rank.

Here is the Duke’s house as we arrive at it in the show. The property is actually Hopetoun House in Edinburg. Like many old estates, the house is open to tours, filming and special events like weddings.

Interestingly, the building is actually much larger than it appears above. Showrunner Ronald D. Moore said in an interview that they wanted to find a property that was befitting the Duke, but wouldn’t overshadow Castle Leoch in size. So, they digitally removed the wings to reduce the imposing scale of the actual building.

Here is the actual building from the same side.

And here is the the side which certainly shows it to be a grand estate. In fact, the

The house was build in 1699/1701 by Sir William Bruce. Between 1721 and 1748, William Adam (father of John and Robert Adam, noted architects of the period) greatly extended the original building. The scenes that take place in the in the show are happening in 1743.

And, finally, some color and decorative beauty! Claire is meeting with the Duke in a large (but not overwhelmingly so) salon or parlor.

The Duke is played by the amazing Simon Callow – one of the few “name” actors that we’ve seen so far.

I thought it notable that the ebonized “Louis” style settee and chair below seem a bit “worn” looking. The fabric looks faded, as does the ebonized wood. I’m guessing this was part of Ronald Moore’s concept of the property not overly outshining Castle Leoch.

That gorgeous Adam fireplace – swoon!

The duke with his secretary taking notes on an exquisite writing table.

And here are images of the room as it is today. The chairs and sofas are not the same, however, the rug, window treatments and Rococo demilunes flanking the windows are in the current space.

It’s interesting that the room looks much paler in television show and a brighter pink/red in the photos.  It’s even referred to as the Red Dining room by the Hopetoun House today.  My images of the television show above were screen grabs from the online version which for some reason shows paler than even the television version.

 

 

 

The episode bounces back and forth between Castle Leoch and the Duke’s residence. Below are images of the Hall, which served as receiving room and banquet hall for Castle Leoch.

And certainly they were not short on elegant accommodations at Leoch.

 

 

I truly don’t mean to disparage the Scottish Highlands of the 18th century at all. The exterior and natural environment are unparalleled. But, it’s nice to have something different to look at too! The Duke’s residence has been a frothy amuse-bouche, if you will.
A shoutout and hurrah to production designer Jon Gary Steele and set decorator Gina Cromwell. Your work and attention to detail are amazing.
More to come as the season progresses. I’d also like to point avid fans to the Tom and Lorenzo blog who cover fashion, celebrity, costumes and television. They have just jumped aboard the Outlander train and put together amazing reviews and costume posts.
Have you been watching?  Read all my Outlander posts here.
xoxo Linda Would you like my Favorite Tips for a Well-Decorated Home? Click here!

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