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The Wicker Man - Locations Used in the Film

Edward Woodward in the "Green Man" Bar, in fact the bar of the Ellangowan Hotel, Creetown. All pictures courtesy of the Ellangowan Hotel.

Click on image for larger picture.

Introduction :

The real Summer Isles are a small group at the mouth of Loch Broom in the Inner Hebrides, not far by boat from Ullapool, the likely origin for Sergeant Howie's home town of 'Ullwater'. Unfortunately, the Summer Isles are now uninhabited, probably in the long past being no more than 'summer pasture' for farms on the adjacent mainland.

Lion Productions based most of its location filming near Newton Stewart, with some scenes at Plockton opposite the Isle of Skye and one scene in Wookey Hole in Somerset or at a cave near Ballantrae. The Ellangowan Hotel at Creetown provided the key interiors for the bar of the Summerisle pub the "Green Man" in the film, other filming (for graveyard and maypole scenes) being done at Anwoth Kirk by Gatehouse, about six miles away. The exterior of the "Green Man" was the Cally Estate Offices in Gatehouse and some street and shop filming was done in Kirkcudbright.

The grimmest sequences - Sergeant Howie's ill-fated attempt to rescue Rowan Morrison - who decoys him to his death - and the burning of the Policeman in the infamous "Wicker Man", - were filmed near Burrow Head, some forty miles south and west of Creetown near the Isle of Whithorn. There had to be two Wicker Men; the first was over thirty feet high and was burnt, a stuntman filling in for Woodward and escaping on a wire harness from the back of the figure. The second figure was for close-ups, so was only a few feet off the ground; there are still some rotting remains of that one, concreted into the turf.

Scenes and Locations :

These are listed by Scene Number, Location(s) and Description :-

The Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire locations were as follows :-

Scene Number and Name : Location :  
1. Exterior of mainland Police Station , Interior/Exterior  
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Culzean Castle, National Trust for Scotland :

Used solely for the exteriors of Lord Summerisle/Lee's home, this is nevertheless worth visiting for its historic architecture and furnishings, as well as the magnificent parkland and gardens. Allen Brown mistakenly attributes a cannon on the lawn to Lochinsh Castle; in fact, it is at Culzean and of Indian manufacture.

West (Old) Harbour, Stranraer on Loch Ryan :

This was the location used for the departure of Woodward/Howie's seaplane from Ullwater. Unfortunately, the harbour was radically altered when the SeaCat ferry was introduced, although this service has now been withdrawn. The writer has pictures of the harbour in both its original and hideously-modified states.

Lochinch Castle, near Castle Kennedy :

Interiors such as the song between Rose/Cilento and Summerisle/Lee were filmed here. The grounds were the setting for the (temporary) stone circle used by Rose/Cilento for her famous parthenogenesis lecture round a bonfire. Body suits were worn by the actresses, so nudity was only in the mind. More interestingly, masses of plastic apple blossom were used to try and transform the orchards to spring and summer from autumn. The bonfire in the stone circle must have been one of the warmest parts of a cold set and Rose the best-dressed woman there.

Port Logan Botanical Gardens, Mull of Galloway

Run by the University of Edinburgh, this remarkable walled garden added greatly to the exotic fertility and reputation the film gave to Summerisle. A cut scene between Howie/Woodward and Summerisle/Lee was filmed in a greenhouse in the gardens. Well worth a visit - but don't eat the vegetation.

Port William : Churchyard :

One contender for the graveyard scene location, which was filmed at Anwoth.

St. Ninian's Cave, near Isle of Whithorn :

This genuine early Christian site has an excellent beach which was used in the filming. The 'cave' is just an open cleft that may have had a lean-to shelter for the Saint's retreat. The scenes where Rowan/ and Woodward/Howie were filmed entering the cave (Ninian) going through the cave (Wookey Hole) and exiting by a clifftop hole (Burrowhead) were thus filmed widely apart. There is a car-park half a mile inland from where one walks to the cave and beach. Recommended for a fine day and a quiet prayer or two.

Burrow Head, near Isle of Whithorn :

The headland can be as windy and cold as it was when the filming took place, but it is the actual spot where the two 'Wicker Men' stood. The main one was some thirty feet high and was burnt in the final scene when poor Howie/Woodward is burnt to death. Fortunately for both Woodward and the animals and birds in it, they were cleared out before the torch was set to the effigy. A stuntman in a wire harness was pulled clear from the back of the effigy as it blazed up, to the safety of a crane hidden behind the effigy. In the one unrepeatable take of the film, the head of the effigy fell off just as a break in the clouds allowed a magnificent Galloway sunset to turn the sky orange and red.

The remains of the second 'Wicker Man' are still in the turf overlooking the sea - twin holes where the timber has almost rotted away. It is very easy to confuse the remains with the World War II defences scattered around Burrow Head Caravan and Camping Site. Even in late March, the wind on a fine day can be quite bitter; in November it must have been purgatorial.

Whithorn Public Library :

Rose/Pitt was the Librarian and Registrar of Summerisle, so it was her library that Howie/Woodward visited to learn more about pagan beliefs. However, Lord Summerisle/Lee and Rose/Pitt were shown to be lovers, so it formed another way in which Howie was led to his doom. Howie searches for signs of Rowan's death with the Registrar in a room attached to the library.

Newton Stewart :

British Lion's film crew base and darkroom were located here.

Ellangowan Hotel and the Bakehouse, Creetown :

The centre of 'Wicker Mania' is the Ellangowan bar, which was used for that of the 'Green Man'. Howie/Woodward was shocked by the songs sung and by the antics of Willow/Ekland. Unlike Burrow Head, the fertility aspects filmed around the 'Green Man' and the former bakehouse may represent the most accurate parts of ancient paganism. The song 'John Barleycorn' was sung around the baking of the barley loaves and the brewing of beer. A shop opposite (now a house) retains the old bread-oven used in one take of the film.

Anwoth : Old Kirkyard and Church Cottage :

This rather isolated hamlet near Gatehouse of Fleet is very little changed from the days of the filming, the house used as the School by Rose/Cilento in a classic scene where the shocked Howie/Woodward confronts the children. The Kirkyard was the star for various scenes - the setting of Rowan's fake grave and the attempt by Howie/Woodward to re-dedicate the abandoned ruin to Christ.

It has to be said that the Kirkyard is unusual and worth visiting for its Christian connections; the Presbyterian Minister Rutherford was forced out by political pressure, not being licenced by a Bishop to preach. The tombstones include ones to children who died soon after birth - ironic, in view of the film plot. The writer took a picture of the interior - by happy coincidence, at the same angle and position as was used for Howie/Woodward when he put together two pieces of wood in a vain attempt to re-consecrate the church. Visitors should find it a peaceful place, with more than the film to recommend it.

Gatehouse of Fleet : Cally Estate Offices:

This fairly plain white-rendered building was used for the exterior of the mythical "Green Man". The wide street between it and the Masonic Arms would have made it an excellent position for the film crews and their equipment. As the building faces north, photography was not easy; the aspect may have been perfect for evening filming shots.

Gatehouse of Fleet : High Street :

Shops in the High Street were used (amongst others) for May Morrison's shop.

Kirkcudbright : Tolbooth Art Centre, Courtyard, shops and houses :

As significant as the Whithorn and Creetown locations. Used mainly for the Ullwater scenes, but a now-demolished courtyard was the gathering-point for the sacrificial procession.

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Last updated 30th April 2000.