Outlander fans descend on Aviemore for Outlandish Gathering

Actor Richard Rankin, who plays Roger Wakefield, was this year's mystery guest. PIC: Contributed.
Actor Richard Rankin, who plays Roger Wakefield, was this year's mystery guest. PIC: Contributed.
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Outlander mania came home to Scotland this weekend when more than 220 people, mostly women, descended on Aviemore to create their very own three-day Highland fantasy.

Some had travelled thousands of miles to be part of it, from the United States mainly but also South Africa, Canada and Australia too.

Guest join in wool waulking workshop and learn a Gaelic song. PIC: Contribted.

Guest join in wool waulking workshop and learn a Gaelic song. PIC: Contribted.

Following tours of Culloden Moor and Clava Cairns, there were tartan bonnets, fancy frocks and wraps of plaid on show at the opening party, where whisky cocktails were served and Highland dancing and drumming soaked up by the crowd.

Gaelic classes, wool waulking workshops and herbalism lessons were also held. Writers skilled in retelling the Jacobite era, including Hugh Allison and Maggie Craig, led talks and were in high demand.

What bound it all together was a very particular kinship amongst this fan crew.

Many had met before, this being the third event of its type organised by Outlandish UK, a fan group that first met in an Edinburgh pub in 2014. Then, only 20 people were expected - but more than 120 came.

Around 200 devotees of the show attended.

Around 200 devotees of the show attended.

Social media has ticked away bringing these people together since then so to see each other in the flesh is a big moment, many said.

Friendships have been made, history explored and worldwide travel undertaken amid the passion for the books and the show.

“To think that Diana Gabaldon sparked all this from her books is just amazing,” said Susan Palmer, 58, from Texas.

Sheila Phelps Cabrera, from California, who befriended Susan at the 2014 pub gathering, said: ”People I have met at the Gatherings have come from Scotland to visit the States and we have come back to Scotland several times. It is like a family of like minded people.”

Outlander fans came from around the world to attend the gathering in Aviemore.

Outlander fans came from around the world to attend the gathering in Aviemore.

There is a fair bit of hugging and lots of laughing over the weekend.

Mrs Phelps Cabrera said this trip was particularly emotional given she underwent cancer surgery three months ago.

“When I was told I didn’t have to go to chemo, the first thing my husband did was turn to me and said ‘now you can go to Scotland’. The trip is extra special to me. It is uplifting for people to be here among so many friends,” she added.

The fandom does not go unnoticed by top figures in the show. Executive producer Ronald D Moore and his wife, costume designer Terry Dresbach, sent a representative to hand out thank you gifts from the couple.

Shortbread in little paper bags was given alongside tartan and a mini calendar of Dresbach’s designs.

Scottish actor Richard Rankin, who plays Roger Wakefield in the show, was they mystery cast member to take part in this year’s Q&A.

Rankin, who bantered with the crowd for around an hour and posed for photographs, thanked fans for their support.

He said: “Outlander fans are on of the most passionate and vocal fan groups. Scary? Yeah. Outlander fans do some epic s***.”

Rankin also spoke about the “uplifting effect” the show had on the television industry in Scotland - as well as tourism.

He added: “When it came to Scotland it had a massive impact on the Scottish television industry. We now have our film studios which are ever expanding and its provided a heck of a lot of work for Scottish crew and cast.”

There was a brisk trade yesterday in tartan capes, woollen shoulder shrugs and fingerless arm warmers - like those worn by Claire Randall Fraser in the show - with Scottish crafts and baking shifting well as day two of the gathering unfolded.

Mrs Phelps Cabrera added: “We are waiting for Diana Gabaldon’s statue to be put up in Scotland somewhere given all she has done, on the economic front alone.”

It is no exaggeration to say there were also tears at this years Outlandish UK gathering.

The 2017 event will be the last given the sheer scale of organising the event and the competition from Outlander conventions, the commercial ventures which snap up the stars to meet the fans.

At the Macdonald Hotel Resort, fans could not hide their sadness that this giant gang of devotees to Diana Gabaldon’s creation won’t likely be meeting again on the same scale in the same place.

“When we heard last night about this being the last Outlandish gathering, there were a lot of tears. Its sad to think this won’t happen again, where everyone is together like this,” said Shelley Spoor, 47, from Texas. The mere mention of it and her eyes had to be dried again.

Stephenie McGucken, a PhD student in Edinburgh, added: “It’s almost not about Outlander anymore, it is really all to do with the friendships around it.”

The convention will come to a suitably cosy end on Sunday night when the women will be given use of the resort cinema to binge watch three carefully chosen episodes together.

“It will be a great way to end it all,” said Jeni Hackett, one of the organisers of the event.

“I will always take away from these events the love of the Outlander fans and being able to spend time with people who love what you love in the same way.

“Diana Gabaldon created a lot of strong female characters and a lot of women here are very strong women.

“They are independent and they travel the world on their own. I know when I leave here at least 100 of them I will count as friends for the rest of my life.”

The Outlandish UK gathering also raises around £25,000 for charities supported by main Outlander characters including Youth Arts Theatre Scotland and Bloodwise, championed by Sam Heughan, and World Child Cancer, which is backed by Caitriona Balfe.