Helicopter rides aside, Connery tended to reject flashier modes of transportation, saying in a TV interview that he preferred station wagons. The thought put me at ease as I adjusted the Land Rover’s GPS for points to the northwest. The climactic chase sequence for From Russia with Love was filmed on the Argyll Coast in July 1963. In the film, Connery and Daniela Bianchi leave the Orient Express and set off by truck, then speedboat, to Venice.
As the light grew soft and liquid, the landscape became more sparse and watery. It is warmed by the Gulf Stream and I noticed palm trees as I passed the exotic garden of Crarae, managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The scenery of the Gulf of Venice in the film suddenly didn’t seem so far-fetched. A remote valley near the town of Lochgilphead hosted the scene in which Bond is chased by a helicopter and then shoots him down with a rifle. It is pure Hannay – hunter; hunt.
The helicopter used by director Terence Young also crashed; remarkably, no one was seriously injured and filming resumed quickly. Filming for the climactic boat chase sequence took place at the Crinan Hotel on the waterfront, which today promises giant prawns have landed just 20 yards away. Landlord Frances Macdonald, a renowned artist, confirmed Connery stayed here during filming. His son Ross Ryan, also an artist, organizes boat trips to the sites of glittering sea lochs, to low, bare islands that seem from another world.
Despite all this hunting and pursuit, Fleming himself was not enamored with deer stalking when he stayed in the large family estate of Black Mount, further up near Orchy Bridge. As a young man, in the 1920s he slaughtered deer and he was used to killing among other local customs. “Never forget that you are a Scotsman,” his mother Eve would apparently tell him. Still, he preferred to play records, or read – especially Buchan.
I visited the area with Colin Fraser, whose grandfather was a stalker on the estate. Black Mount is more remote and isolated than the more well-known Glencoe or Glen Etive, slightly to the north. It is a scene of primordial appearance: overflowing bodies of water almost seeking to meet, all the more surprising as they are inland, with vigorous gnarled trees and vivid greens. Moody Black Mount Lodge itself sits remote but distinctly on elevated terrain.
Fraser worked as a chief stalker at Dalness Lodge in the nearby town of Glen Etive. The steep sides of this spectacular valley are accentuated by a floor descending to sea level (uncommon in the Highlands). It is perfect for framing shots, such as the famous Skyfall with Craig’s Resolute Bond, Dame Judi Dench in “M” and the silver Aston Martin DB5. I chose to stay at the Kingshouse Hotel at the head of the Dale because, like the Dalness Lodge, it was once owned by the Fleming family. The doors, plunging driveway, and low, blunt structure all recall the Skyfall Lodge created to the south for the film. There is no wood on the fence posts, but there are deer nibbling on tawny grass. Inside, an aromatic wood fire burns, and the venison pie tempts.