The historical capital of Scotland is the primary setting of both the original Trainspotting and its sequel T2 Trainspotting. But did you know just how many different parts of Edinburgh you can visit to walk where Renton and Spud walked? And all for free?
With more than three months spent filming, 50 locations around the city were used as the backdrop for #T2Trainspotting. You too can recreate some of the most memorable scenes from the cult classic 1996 film and its follow-up by strolling around Edinburgh, and on my recent tour of the city, courtesy of Sony Pictures UK and Visit Scotland, I got to see plenty of these sites. Here's a few you can access easily if you ever find yourself in Auld Reekie.
Princes Street is pretty much Main Street Edinburgh. It's the lifeline of the city and is easily accessible from every part of town, with several bus routes moving steadily along the thoroughfare. But Princes Street is just as important to the Trainspotting films as it is to Edinburgh, with it being the setting for much of the chase scene from the first film, and also featured throughout the second film, including when Renton and Spud are once again being chased down. If you fancy working up a sweat, you can recreate the entire chase, but be warned: Princes Street is never not busy.
And if recreating one of those chase scenes is your goal, then Calton Road is pretty damn important. The street coming in from the side in the above image is where Renton was almost hit by the car and the chase scene ended in the first film, and this is recreated for T2 Trainspotting. Unfortunately, this was as close as I was able to get because of roadworks, which are as much a ubiquitous part of Edinburgh as drizzle.
Arthur's Seat is the highest point in the hills surrounding Edinburgh and offers a beautiful vista of the entire city if you're strapped for time. It's also the location where Spud and Renton went for a gentler kind of run and sat to contemplate life. This was during Renton's attempts to get Spud clean, a journey he himself undertook between the events of the first and second films. It's a scenic walk up to Arthur's Seat, but I recommend putting on your hiking boots all the same.
Now, if you watch this scene, you'll see Renton and Begbie meeting again and Begbie chasing Renton around Edinburgh, most of which was filmed up and around the Royal Mile area. It's called the Royal Mile because there is a royal residence, Holyrood Palace, where Queen Elizabeth stays when she visits Edinburgh each summer, and at the other end is the historic fortress Edinburgh Castle. While it's called the Royal Mile, in reality it's 1.2 miles long. When the chase comes to a close, we see Renton and Begbie arriving and facing off in...
Castle Terrace Car Park
Yes, of all the exciting things you could see in Edinburgh, why not visit a car park? This multistory near Grassmarket is the setting for Renton's escape attempt from Begbie, who is in hot, angry pursuit. Renton first hides before jumping onto the roof of a moving car. The exit in the above photo is where Renton falls off the car and stands in front of it for a moment, a sort of Easter Egg referencing the chase scene from the first Trainspotting.
Port Of Leith
Edinburgh's coastal district Leith is very important to the story of Trainspotting. The entire area was essentially a drug-fueled mess in the late '80s and early '90s, which was part of what led Irvine Welsh, who grew up in the area, to pen Trainspotting. Leith was used for many scenes in the original film, and for the sequel the production returned to film various exterior scenes, including the pubs. Leith's gentrification of sorts is representative of how Renton cleans up his life between the first and second films; the drug culture and dilapidation of the area having slowly disappeared.
The Cav Nightclub
And of course, there's the Cav. A student nightclub normally, the Cav became the site of Renton and Sickboy's drugged-up night of partying with a huge crowd of Edinburgh locals while belting out Queen's "Radio Ga Ga." It also played host to the toilets used in the poster for the film — and the place where Begbie comes face-to-face with Renton for the first time in 20 years. If only I had remembered to recreate such a scene while I was there — oh wait! Of course I did!
But in the spirit of honesty, I now feel it's my duty to break the horrible news to all you gentlemen readers. While I was there when the club was closed, you won't be able to access these toilets normally — because they're the ladies toilets.
There are about 40 other T2 Trainspotting-tinged locations throughout Edinburgh that you can visit, but the ones on this list are some of the best and easiest to access. If you'd like to get another look at these locations, the film is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and for digital download.
A huge thanks to everyone at Movie Pilot including Andrew Marco, everyone at Sony Pictures UK including John Biggin, and everyone at Visit Scotland including Erin Hickey for setting up the tour of Edinburgh to all of the locations. I'll leave you with a favorite scene of mine from T2: Trainspotting.