Heritage body Historic Scotland has agreed to close down one of its flagship castles for more than a month so it can play a starring role in a major new US science fiction series.
Doune Castle, in Perthshire, will be completely shut to the public from today to make way for the cast and crew of Outlander, a 16-part series which has just begun filming in Scotland.
Another closure of the castle, famously featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is planned for between February and April, as part of the 38-week shoot on the show, which is partly set in the Highlands during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.
The landmark, dating back to the late 1300s, was built by “Scotland’s uncrowned king”, the 1st Duke of Albany.
It will have a central role in the time-travel series, which focuses on the adventures and romantic entanglements of Claire, a married British Army nurse from 1945, and Jamie, an 18th century warrior.
The show – based on US author Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling series of books – is expected to be worth £20 million for Scotland’s economy.
Outlander – which will star Dumfriesshire actor Sam Heughan and Irish actress Caitriona Balfe – could be filmed in Scotland for years to come, as Gabaldon has written seven books so far, selling more than 25 million copies worldwide.
The TV show is being produced by Ron Moore, best-known for his work on the sci-fi series Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. It is a joint production between US cable network Starz and entertainment giant Sony.
Initial filming took place last week in the village of Falkland, in Fife, which was transformed to give it a Second World War look for scenes set in Inverness.
However its use for Outlander, as the seat of the Mackenzie clan, is expected to trigger a tourism boom for the area due to the huge level of interest in the US in the series – dubbed Scotland’s answer to the hit fantasy series Game of Thrones.
An Outlander production base has been developed on an industrial estate in Cumbernauld, although locations have been kept firmly under wraps.
Historic Scotland has been sworn to secrecy over the series. However news of Doune Castle’s selection leaked after Historic Scotland announced the closure of the property without providing an explanation.
A message on its website and e-mailed to members, states: “We would like to advise that Doune Castle will be closed to visitors from 21 October to 22 November inclusive. We expect a further closure of the site for a few days between February and April 2014.
“We will issue further details when these dates are confirmed. Members visiting the area may wish to consider nearby Historic Scotland sites, including Castle Campbell and Stirling Castle.”
A spokesman for Outlander said he was unable to comment on the locations being used, but added: “We’re very excited to be filming in Scotland and to have had such a wonderful response from the Scottish people.”
National tourism agency VisitScotland has worked with Diana Gabaldon to help promote Scotland on the back of her Outlander books.
VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay said: “The fact the hugely-popular Outlander series is being brought to life on location in Scotland is great news for tourism.”