Richard Rankin as John Rebus.
Richard Rankin as John Rebus.

Follow in the footsteps of Inspector Rebus: Filming locations around Edinburgh used in new BBC show

Inspector Rebus returns to our screens this month. And with much of the filming having taken place in Edinburgh, we take a look at some of the locations used in the show around the city.

 

VisitScotland guide to follow in the detective’s footsteps.

 

Grassmarket and Victoria Street  

The historic Grassmarket area of Edinburgh makes for the perfect filming spot for the new series. Its atmospheric cobbles, twisting streets, and hidden closes create the perfect backdrop for the gritty mysteries unravelled by Inspector Rebus. This location ties seamlessly to Rebus’s character, reflecting the complex layers of Edinburgh’s history and its present-day urban life. Once a site of public executions and open-air marketplaces, the Grassmarket has evolved into a vibrant hub, giving the opportunity to explore independent shops, charming cafes, and centuries-old pubs.   It also has great views of Edinburgh Castle. Victoria Street is home to various bars and restaurants, as well as some independently owned shops including John Kay’s Book Shop (perfect for stocking up on some Ian Rankin classics).  

The Mound  

This spectacular filming location is a steep hill connecting Edinburgh’s old and new towns, offering stunning views of the cityscape, Edinburgh Castle, and Princes Street Gardens. Visitors often enjoy strolling along The Mound to soak in the city’s rich history, admire its elegant architecture, and appreciate the picturesque surroundings.

This filming location resonates deeply with Rebus by mirroring the detective’s own complex character and his perpetual navigation of Edinburgh’s shifting landscapes, both physically and metaphorically.

National Library of Scotland  

The National Library of Scotland provides an atmosphere of intrigue and history, making it the ideal setting for the new BBC Rebus series. With its rich architectural heritage and vast collection of literary works, the library authentically reflects the essence of Ian Rankin’s detective novels. The labyrinthine corridors and shadowy corners evoke a sense of mystery and suspense, echoing the complexities of Rebus and his cases.

The research archive at the National Library of Scotland spans back to the 17th century, showcasing an impressive array of treasures for visitors to delve into, such as maps, manuscripts, and rare historical documents. An interesting fact is that Ian Rankin donated his entire archive to the library.

George Heriot’s School   

Dating back to 1621, this school stands out for its remarkable Renaissance architecture. It features prominently in the series as the school attended by Rebus’s daughter, Sammy. It remains an active school and is therefore inaccessible to visitors, however the views of the exterior are breathtaking. For the best perspective, head to Greyfriars Kirkyard. From this atmospheric graveyard, enjoy the magnificent sight of the school’s intricate turrets, sandstone frontage, and Renaissance allure.

The Oxford Bar   

The Oxford Bar or the ‘Ox’ as it’s also known as, is probably one of the most iconic locations Rebus spent his time and is also used as a filming location for the new BBC Rebus adaptation. In interviews, Rankin revealed that during his postgraduate years, he shared a flat with a student who worked part-time as a barman at the Ox. He noted that the pub’s small and secluded nature perfectly mirrors the hidden, Jekyll and Hyde aspect of contemporary Edinburgh, often overlooked by tourists.  

A must-visit for Rebus enthusiasts, stepping inside allows one to envision Rebus himself, seated in a corner, deep in thought as he tackles one of his cases.

National Museum of Scotland 

In ‘The Falls’, the twelfth Rebus story, a small coffin containing a doll is discovered at the murder victim’s apartment. These dolls, rooted in historical fact, are still on display at the National Museum of Scotland. The collection of mysterious wooden dolls was discovered in the 1860s, when a group of boys ventured to the slopes of Arthur’s Seat in search of rabbits.

The Real Mary King’s Close

The location is featured in ‘Mortal Causes’ and is set during the Edinburgh Festival. The novel starts with the unsettling discovery of a victim within the confines of Mary King’s Close. Nearby, visitors will discover a tribute to Ian Rankin’s literary contributions – his Edinburgh Award handprints. Situated just outside the City Chambers on the bustling High Street, these handprints serve as a symbol of recognition for Rankin’s enduring impact on the city’s cultural landscape.

The Show

In the new BBC TV series, John Rebus, played by Outlander star Richard Rankin, is portrayed as a younger Detective Sergeant.

Amid Edinburgh’s dramatic cityscape, Rebus finds himself entangled in a brutal criminal feud that becomes deeply personal.

‘Rebus is dark, brooding and slightly dangerous and edgy,’ said author of the best selling books Ian Rankin.

‘He’s someone people would like to meet for a short time. The books allow them to meet him for a short time, but I don’t think you’d want to hang out for too long.

‘I mean, if he bumped into me, I’m sure we wouldn’t have much of a conversation before he got bored of me and wandered off. He’d be much more interested in the drink than he would be in the person who was talking to him.

‘I think he also feels real to people, partly because he inhabits what is more or less a real city. He drinks in real bars, he worked in a real police station, he lives in a real street.

‘You can actually trace his peregrinations around the city. Fans do come to the city looking for Rebus’s Edinburgh, and it’s there waiting for them.’

Richard Rankin, who set to portray John Rebus, said: ‘Ian Rankin’s books have got such an enormous fan base.

‘Whenever the series comes up people are always very excited about the prospect of seeing one of their most beloved detectives come back to the screen.

‘Ian Rankin has sold over thirty million copies of Rebus and it’s been translated into at least thirty six languages so it’s an absolute privilege to have been given the honour of bringing Rebus to life again.’

 

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