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Tuesday April 23rd 2024

Local Hero | 1983

Local Hero filming location: Pennan, Scotland
Local Hero filming location: the village of 'Ferness' and the phone box: Pennan, Scotland | Photograph: Wikimedia / Tom Jervis

Texas oil company boss Happer (Burt Lancaster) sends employee Mac (Peter Riegert) to suss out the locals in a Scottish coastal village which he's intending to redevelop as a vast terminal. In the great tradition of Ealing comedies, of which this is very reminiscent, the canny villagers are always one step ahead.

The Texas HQ of Happer's ‘Knox Oil’ company is One Shell Plaza, 910 Louisiana Street, Houston. And, no, there is no ‘Happer Street’ in real life.

Mac arrives at Aberdeen International Airport where he’s met by Oldsen (a very young looking Peter Capaldi, now famous as the 12th Doctor in TV’s Dr Who).

Caught in a heavy mist, the pair spend a night sleeping in the car on the way from the airport and wake to the glorious view over a still quite misty Loch Tarff, a small lake on the B862 near the southern tip of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, about three miles east of Fort Augustus.

When the ‘perfect’ village couldn’t be found, director Bill Forsyth, who came from a documentary background had serious doubts about the suggestion of knitting together separate locations but the ruse works perfectly. Unless you’re a geologist, apparently – in which case the rock formations make no sense.

That’s because the two main locations used for the coastal village are on the east and west coasts of Scotland.

Local Hero filming location: Pennan, Scotland
Local Hero filming location: the ‘Macaskill Arms’ hotel: Pennan, Scotland | Photograph: Wikimedia / John Allan

The village itself is Pennan, on the north Grampian coast, 36 miles north of Aberdeen on the B9032.

It’s at Pennan that you’ll find the exterior of the ‘Macaskill Arms’ hotel (in fact a private home, so please don’t do anything to disturb residents) and, of course, the famous red phone box, which is now thankfully protected by a preservation order.

Local Hero filming location: Camusdarrach, Scotland
Local Hero filming location: the beach at 'Ferness' and the phone box: Camusdarrach, Scotland | Photograph: Wikimedia / David Crocker

Seemingly alongside the village but in reality at Camusdarrach, 37 miles from Fort William, the beautiful curved beach backed by mountains, is Morar Beach.

The local ‘church’ here is simply a cottage with added set dressing. The interior is the now unused and at-risk Our Lady of the Braes Roman Catholic Church at Polnish on the north side of the A830, west of Lochailort.

In Lochailort itself, the Lochailort Inn on the A861 provides the interior of the ‘Ferness’ hotel. Dating back at least to the 1870s, the Lochailort Inn was rebuilt in the 1990s but claims to have kept its original character.

Likewise, the bar of the ‘Macaskill Arms’ was found elsewhere. It’s the public bar of The Ship Inn, 8 Deveronside, on the seafront of Banff, about 30 miles north of Aberdeen.

Pole of Itlaw, on the B9121 about four miles south of Banff, became the village shop, while Hilton of Turnerhall (now a private home) on the A948, just north of Ellon, about 15 miles north of Aberdeen, hosted the ceilidh where the Ace Tones play.

The final shot of the helicopter flying Mac back to Houston was filmed above Loch Eilt, between Lochailort and Glenfinnan. The A830 road runs along the loch's north shore, and the West Highland Line railway along the south.

The loch, which has a number of small islands, was also used as a location for the Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

The island of Eilean na Moine was used as Dumbledore's grave, though it was digitally moved to the much larger Loch Arkaig, a few miles to the northwest.