The Wicker Man | 1973
Yes, of course this is the 1973 original, not the recent, much-derided remake. Savagely cut down before release, and with some seriously shaky Scots accents, The Wicker Man has nevertheless achieved cult status since its initial release as B-feature with Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now.
Its success lies in the gameplaying of the clever plot and wicked script of Anthony Shaffer (who also penned Sleuth).
Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) is the puritanically Christian cop sent to investigate the disappearance of schoolgirl Rowan Morrison on a remote and lustily pagan Scottish isle. There is a real Summerisle, but it’s way to the north of where this movie filmed. The near-tropical (warmed by the gulf stream) island estate of Lord Summerisle (so kindly thanked in the movie’s credits – and as bogus as Eve Channing in Sleuth) is an amalgam of around 25 separate locations, all of them on the Scottish mainland.
The production was based at Newton Stewart, on the River Cree, north of Wigtown Bay in southwest Scotland.
The opening aerial shots were filmed en route to the Isle of Skye, though the harbour, where Sergeant Howie’s seaplane touches down, is way to the north of the main locations, at Plockton, a small town off the A890, at the mouth of Loch Carron, about 55 miles west of Inverness, on the west coast of Ross and Cromarty.
20 miles southeast of Newton Stewart, at Kirkcudbright on the A711, you’ll find the High Street Gallery, High Street, which became May Morrison’s post office and sweetshop, where Howie begins his search for the elusive girl. The bakery is the Harbour Cottage Gallery, Castlebank, off Harbour Square, Kirkcudbright.
Howie stays at the ‘Green Man Inn’, which is a conflation of two locations: inside it’s the Ellangowan Hotel, St John Street, Creetown, on the A75 southeast of Newton Stewart; the exterior is Cally Estates office, Gatehouse of Fleet, still on the A75 a few miles to the east. The strangely fey landlord (and unlikely father of Britt Ekland) is legendary mime artist Lindsay Kemp, who taught movement to singers David Bowie and Kate Bush.
The maypole dance, schoolhouse and the old deconsecrated kirk, where Rowan is supposedly buried, are at the village of Anwoth, just west of Gatehouse of Fleet.
Culzean Castle, a fine Adam house, just off the A719, twelve miles southwest of Ayr, is the exterior of Lord Summerisle’s (Christopher Lee) mansion . It’s open to the public from the end of March to the end of October. The interior, though, is Lord Stair’s Castle, at Castle Kennedy Gardens a few miles south of Newton Stewart. This was a tad too grand for the film – Lord Summerisle’s palatial drawing room is Lord Stair’s foyer. The gardens, which were used for the strange procession, are open to the public.
The tour of Summerisle’s lush garden is in Logan Botanic Garden, Port Logan, 10 miles south of Stranraer.
Howie finally tracks the elusive Rowan to St Ninian's Cave, near the southern tip of the Machars Peninsula, off the A747. The wicker man itself was built on the Peninsula, the area of land between Luce and Wigtown Bays, south of Newton Stewart.