The Wicker Man was a landmark cult horror film, using setting to a fantastically chilling effect and influencing the genre for half a century to come.
And no, we’re not talking about the Nicolas Cage 2006 remake which is widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time - though it strays into so-bad-it’s-good territory and is definitely worth a watch.
The original Wicker Man, filmed in 1973 is a chilling Pagan horror about a police officer who pays a visit to a distant Scottish island with strange locals to investigate a young girl’s disappearance.
The more time he spends on the island and around its creepy population, the more he grows concerned for the girl’s welfare. But time is not on his side, as the islanders are planning a strange Pagan ritual that could prove deadly, and with few, if any, friends on the island, he could find himself as the fatal ceremonies centrepiece.
The Wicker Man’s influence can be seen in films like The VVitch, Midsommar, An American Werewolf in London, and even Scooby-Doo. As the film celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, we revisit the cast and filming locations of the enduring horror flick.
Who was in the cast of The Wicker Man?
Edward Woodward played Sergeant Howie, the ill-fated police officer who investigates the disappearance and possible sacrifice of a young girl. Woodward also featured in the 1984 adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and crime series The Equalizer. His last role was in the period drama A Congregation of Ghosts. Woodward died in 2009.
Christopher Lee played the creepy Lord Summerisle, the Pagan chief of the island who had the locals in his thrall. Lee is best known for playing Count Dracula in the Hammer Horror films, as well as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, and Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequel Attack of the Clones. Lee died in 2015.
Other main cast members include Diane Cilento as Miss Rose, a Pagan schoolteacher, Britt Ekland as Willow, the young woman who seduces Howie, and Lindsay Kemp as Alder MacGreagor, landlord of The Green Man, and Willow’s father.
Where was The Wicker Man filmed?
The film is set on the fictional island of Summerisle, a remote Scottish island inhabited by people with a strange belief system. Sergeant Howie visits the island following an anonymous complaint about a missing girl.
To achieve the look of an isolated island, the movie was shot at coastal locations across small Scottish towns. The towns which stand in for Summerisle include Stranraer, Plockton in Ross-shire, Kirkcudbright, Newton Stewart, Gatehouse of Fleet, Anwoth and Creetown in Galloway.
Culzean Castle in Maybole, South Ayrshire was used for exterior shots of Lord Summerisle’s island mansion. You can visit the castle, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Culzean Castle may also be recognised by Scots for featuring on Royal Bank of Scotland £5 notes from 1972-2015. Lord Summerisle’s lavish garden scenes were filmed at Logan Botanic Gardens in Port Logan, and at Hush Heath Estate far south of the border in Kent.
The iconic and terrifying climax of the film featuring the burning wicker man was filmed at Burrow Head on the Isle of Whithorn in Dumfries & Galloway. The concrete base of the wicker figure remains at the site - ‘WM’ and ‘1972’ is carved into it.
In Creetown you’ll find the Ellengowan Hotel which stood in for the Green Man Inn, with interior scenes shot there. The hotel is still open and available for bookings - according to reviews it has changed very little since the movie was shot, and the bar serves Wicker Man themes ales. Gatehouse of Fleet's Cally Estate Offices was used for exterior shots of The Green Man.