Outlander leads to surge in visits to historic sites

A surge of international visitors to sites linked to the hit US TV show Outlander has helped fuel a boom for the nation's historic attractions.

Outlander fans Jen Obirek, from Chicago, and Sinead Robertson, from Dublin, with their Claire Randall masks at Doune Castle. Picture: Visit Scotland
Outlander fans Jen Obirek, from Chicago, and Sinead Robertson, from Dublin, with their Claire Randall masks at Doune Castle. Picture: Visit Scotland

Castles, palaces, museums and the scenes of ancient battles are all benefiting from an “Outlander effect” since the show began production in Scotland three years ago.

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Some sites featured in the show – which has been dubbed Scotland’s answer to Game of Thrones – have seen numbers soar by as much as 46 per cent in the space of just 12 months.

Picture: Visit Scotland

The success of the show, which has been adapted from the best-selling novels of American author Diana Gabaldon, has helped visitor numbers to castles, historic houses and other heritage sites soar by five per cent across the board.

Experts say the show, which is set at the time of the 18th-century Jacobite Risings, say there has been a notable increase at sites which have either been featured as locations in Outlander or are featured in Gabaldon’s novels.

Campaigns to capitalise on the show have been launched by national tourism agency VisitScotland and two of the organisations responsible for the bulk of the nation’s historic sites - the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland - since it premiered in August 2014.

Scotland is expected to benefit from an Outlander boom for years to come, with a second series still being shown at the moment and two more recently given the go-ahead.

Picture: Visit Scotland

The main historic location used for filming, Doune Castle, which depicts the fictional Castle Leoch, saw visitor numbers swell by 46 per cent last year, while Blackness Castle, in West Lothian, which stands in for Fort William in the series, has seen a 30 per cent increase.

Rises of 18 per cent were recorded last year at both Falkland, in Fife, where scenes set in Inverness have been filmed, and Culloden.

Culross, in Fife, which has been used extensively for filming due to its protected 17th and 18th-century buildings, has had a 12.5 per cent increase in visitors to its palace. Castle Fraser, in Inverurie, which was one of the strongholds of the real-life Clan Fraser, saw its numbers soar by 15 per cent.

Linlithgow Palace, where prison scenes were filmed, has benefited from a 5 per cent rise, while visitor numbers to the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, which stood in for a station in Second World War London, was up eight per cent.

Picture: Visit Scotland

The National Trust for Scotland is hoping to capitalise on the interest in the show when Culloden hosts a special in conversation event with Gabaldon on 22 July.

A spokeswoman for NTS said: “It’s fantastic that the show is acting as a gateway to Scotland’s heritage, encouraging so many more people to explore our rich history.”

Stephen Duncan, director of tourism at HES, said: “Heritage sites are a vital part of Scotland’s wider tourism offering and by increasing our audience in the UK and internationally, we not only benefit the economy and tourist industry as a whole, but also raise awareness of the country’s heritage and ultimately contribute to its preservation.”

Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Our tourism sector is of vital importance to the Scottish economy and visitor attractions in Scotland are enjoying a four year period of sustained growth.”

Picture: Visit Scotland