Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm (‘The Killing’), ‘The Vanishing’ is a psychological thriller film is based on a real incident. In 1900, three keepers, who were supposed to man the lighthouse of Flannan Isles on Eilean Mòr off the west coast of Scotland, vanished without a trace. This mystery remains unsolved to date, but the movie ‘The Vanishing’ does a great job of encapsulating one version of the events in the portrayal.
With Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan, and Connor Swindells in the lead, the 2018 movie narrates the lives of the keepers — Donald, James, and Thomas — that take an ugly turn when a boat with a speculated dead man and a wooden chest washes up on shore. With menacing grey skies and a raging sea in the background, the movie does a splendid job of pulling the viewers into the spectacle of the chilling narrative. While the real incident took place on the island of Flannan Isles, where was the movie filmed? Let’s find out.
The Vanishing Filming Locations
While the film is set in the Flannan Isles on the west coast of Scotland, the production crew actually used four different lighthouses in the Land of Cakes to create scenes from different angles that are actually set in just one lighthouse in the movie. Formerly titled ‘Keepers,’ the cameras started rolling on ‘The Vanishing’ in the middle of April 2017 which officially began the filming process.
Along with the four distinct lighthouses, the movie was shot along the beautiful coastline of Dumfries and Galloway and Port Logan Harbor. The producer of the movie, Sean Marley told BBC, “We had lots of offers to take the film elsewhere but we always held firm to the idea that we wanted it to be shot in Scotland.” Let’s dive into the details of each location!
Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Located in the western Southern Uplands, Dumfries and Galloway is the rugged backdrop of ‘The Vanishing.’ Gerard Butler posted a video on Facebook where he expressed his delight over returning to his homeland to shoot the movie. In the video, he can be heard saying, “Welcome to Dumfries and Galloway, near Portpatrick, where I’m shooting my next movie, Keepers. It’s about three lighthouse keepers on an island as they all slowly kind of go insane.”
The producers and the crew appreciated the locals and the Scottish administration for a warm welcome. They expressed their admiration, saying, “It’s been an absolute pleasure shooting in one of the most dramatic and picturesque parts of Scotland. We searched long and hard for the right landscape in which to set our story and found it here in Dumfries and Galloway. With the warm Scottish welcome we received on day one and the great local talent we’ve engaged both in front of and behind the camera – it’s made for a genuinely thrilling experience and a film we’re all very proud of.”
— Gerard Butler (@GerardButler) April 10, 2017
The production caught the eye of many locals who were excited to see a movie shot on their land in Dumfries and Galloway. The first lighthouse is that of the Mull of Galloway, which served as the film’s primary location and received a lot of attention. Locals and tourists alike enjoyed getting up and personal with the cast and crew.
Situated in Wigtownshire, this lighthouse was used for immediate exterior shots, interior cottage shots, the outer garden, and the boundary of the island as shown in the movie. It offers breathtaking views of the country and open waters as well. Most interestingly, the Mull of Galloway is the southerly point of Scotland and has been deemed a paradise by a lot of tourists.
The walled garden and the headland at the Mull of Galloway were chosen as the locations for the film, and the three Lighthouse Holiday Cottages were reserved for exclusive usage during the production in March. Filming for the movie took place on the Mull of Galloway, where the lighthouse and peninsula served as the Outer Hebrides’ Flannan and Eilean Mor Lighthouse, respectively.
A very antique Lightkeepers’ Cottage replete with Bakelite switches, dark paintwork, and bunk beds was created using Kittiwake House Holiday Cottage as a set. The cast and crew used Lightkeeper’s Cottage and Puffin House as the “green rooms” for resting between takes, getting ready, and getting refreshments.
Located in the southwest region of Scotland is the second location — Killantringan Lighthouse near the quaint village of Portpatrick. It was used to picture the staircase that lead the three keepers to the top of the tower in the thriller movie. The side garden of the lighthouse was also filmed for a few selected scenes in ‘The Vanishing.’ The lighthouse has been decommissioned and held under private ownership since 2005.
The third lighthouse location is that of Corsewall, which served as the backdrop for many of the cliff sequences as well as just one interior sequence. Located in Kirkcolm in Dumfries and Galloway, this majestic lighthouse looms over the North Channel of the Irish Sea. This lighthouse has been converted into a hotel following its decommissioning in 1994. People can visit and stay in the lighthouse hotel for a very 19th-century experience.
Firth of Clyde, Scotland
Since Cloch lighthouse is no longer in use but has been well conserved, it was chosen for the interior sequences of the lightroom. Located in Firth of Clyde, this is one of the oldest lighthouses in the region as it has been operational since 1797. It is still functional even though it has been made fully automated and stands unmanned. The Firth of Clyde is the fifth largest island group in Scotland.
Port Logan Harbor, Scotland
The first few sequences of the movie where the three keepers embark on the boat for their shift were shot on the Port Logan Harbor, a village in Kirkmaiden, which has many characteristics in common with the harbor on the Isle of Lewis from where the men, in reality, would have set sail for the Flannan Isles in reality. Located in the Lieutenancy of Wigtown in Wigtownshire, the port is also the setting of the popular BBC series ‘Two Thousand Acres of Sky’ featuring Michelle Collins.