Return To The Wickerman

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Matt Gemmell's picture
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Ever since I first saw The Wicker Man at the tender age of 13 it's held a unique fascination for me . Yes it's a great film and features my idol Christopher Lee but ther'es more to it than that .

Living , as I do , on the West coast of Scotland I rarely got to see a film with recognisable landscapes and themes . Most movies either treated Scotland like Brigadoon or just ignored it all together .

Then came The Wicker Man . As I sat in that darkened cinema over 25 years ago I was stunned to see places I knew and had visited . Lord Summerisles home was really Culzean Castle . I had been on a school trip there only one year previous . Other locations appeared familier at the time but I've since come to learn that the Scottish coastline is very similar in my area . It would be over 20 years before I would visit the site and come face to .......well knee with the remains of the Wickerman .

Summer 2002 . I found out that a festival was being organised in the Kirkubright area near to where The Wickerman was filmed . It was a celebration of the movie and of the traditions surrounding it . There was to be midnight screenings of the film , rock bands , plenty of food and drink and , best of all , the burning of two Wickermen . All this greatly appealed to my Pagan sensibilities so 4 tickets were bought for myself and 3 chums .

The drive to the Kirkubright area took about two and a half hours . Not that it was a great distance but Kirkubrightshire is barely clawing it's way into the 20th century . Now don't take that as a critisicm as the area is absolutely gorgeous . It's very much as most of Scotland used to look and I would'nt want to see it change but those single lane narrow roads are a real test of you're driving skills I can tell you . God alone knows how the location guys managed with their huge trucks and such .

Gatehouse Of Fleet looked exactly as it did in the film as does The Green man Pub which is now an estate agents .

We found a spot in a nearby field and pitched our tent , yes tent , I don't want to mention it again .

The place was mobbed . I don't know what I was expecting from a cult film but it seemed that the whole County had turned out to worship the Wickerman . People from all walks of life were mingling about discussing the film and it's religious and moral ideas . Then again , an equal amount of people were just wandering around getting drunk . Having said that , with all the alcohol on flow , it was extremely good natured . I did'nt see one bit of trouble while I was there........thank goodness as I really hate having to put myself back on duty .
As good as the bands were , and they were good , I really just wanted to see the Wickermen go up , and up they went . The flames reached into the sky as some of us , me included , sang some old folk songs . I almost wished I had some deer antlers on my head............listen , I was pretty tipsy .

Once the fires had died down me and the guys crashed out till the morning when we were faced with that drive again . None of us had brought our cameras ( idiots ) so I decided to return the next day with my children in order to get a picture beside the remains of the original Wickerman ( yes they're still there )

My wife had decided to spend the day shopping ( now there's a surprise ) so off the three of us went .

The climax of the movie was filmed at Burrowhead which is now a camp site . I parked the car just outside and began to walk along the cliffs to the area where we had been told the remains were kept . The cliffs are about 70-80 ft high with plenty of jagged rocks below so I had to keep an eagle eye on the kids .

Then we saw it . Still standing after all these years were two stumps for the legs . Each was about 5-6 ft in height and were encased in a cement base . As I stood beside them with no one in sight but my children I must admit to getting a slight chill ( no not from the wind as it was a lovely day ) The area certainly has an aura about it .

Now I know I should'nt have but I could'nt resist a souvineer so out came the swiss army knife and off came a few pieces of wickerwood for me and some friends ( you know who are ).

My son and daughter ( Steven and Natalie ) went over to the camp site and played at the park area which gave me plenty of time to wander the cliffs and caves on my own . It was great . Solitude is required to fully appreciatte the area and , as much as I enjoyed the festival , the time I spent on my own is what I remember most .

I probably won't go back as it's one of those things best experienced and remembered but I highly recommend a visit to anyone who has an interest in the Wickerman phenomena . It's not the easiest place in the world to get to but it is one of the most beautiful.

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Don Boycik's picture
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Re: Return To The Wickerman

i actually obtained a copy of the soundtrack to 'The wicker man" i found it by accident actually! so that's even BETTER am i right?

Paul Williams's picture
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Re: Return To The Wickerman

That sounds like a wonderful experience Matt.I saw a documentary on t.v a while back,following the Wicker Man film locations and the * cult *.It was a brilliant programme ( actually,i think it was two documentary programmes shown together ).I would love to go on a tour of the locations.I was surprised that so many of the locations were so far apart from each other ( a bit like balamory and the big pink castle :laugh: ).Thank you for the pictures,they are wonderful to see.

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