Outlander star Sam Heughan to lead New York Tartan Day parade

OUTLANDER star Sam Heughan is to lead the annual New York Tartan Day Parade, organisers have revealed.

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randal and Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser in Outlander.

The Dumfriesshire actor has been appointed “Grand Marshal” of the event, the centrepiece of the city’s Tartan Week celebrations in April.

The 35-year-old will follow in the footsteps of his co-star in the his time-travel fantasy series, Graham McTavish, who performed the role last year.

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Around 30 pipe bands will be taking part in the annual event, which takes in 45th Street and 6th Avenue, along with a Viking “squad” from Shetland’s annual Up Helly Aa fire festival.

Heughan has been asked to lead the parade just 18 months after the launch of the show, which is based on American author Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling books. Just one series has been broadcast to date.

Other high-profile Scots who have led the parade include Sir Sean Connery, Alan Cumming and Brian Cox.

Heughan has won a huge army of fans around the world for his starring role as Jamie Fraser, the Jacobite warrior who falls for Second World War nurse Claire Randall, played by Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, after she is mysteriously propelled back in time.

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Sam Heughan.

Heughan said: “As Grand Marshal of the New York Tartan Day parade 2016, I am honoured and proud to serve the city and its ancestral ties.

“I love the city, the people and the vibe. Please join me in toasting all who live and visit there with a whisky and a toast.”

Alan Bain, president of the parade committee, said: “I remember well the first Tartan Day Parade along the sidewalks of Third Avenue.

“I am proud this year, on our 18th anniversary of the parade, to see us grow from strength to strength.”

Sam Heughan.

More than 25 million of Gabaldon’s books have been sold around the world so far and the show is being masterminded by former Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica producer Ron Moore.

Outlander is the biggest ever film or television production to be made in Scotland and has been dubbed the country’s answer to Game of Thrones. It has been shot extensively on location around Scotland and at a converted warehouse in Cumbernauld. It is widely credited with boosting the value of productions shot in Scotland to a record £45 million.

However the show, which feature graphic scenes of sex, torture, rape and violence, has never been shown on mainstream UK TV.

Although it went on air in the US in August 2014 fans have only been able to see it on Amazon’s streaming service since the spring of this year. It was eligible for the Scottish Baftas and was considered in several categories but failed to get a single nod.

Tourism leaders have also reported huge surges in visitor numbers at locations used for the show, including Doune Castle, in Perthshire, which stands in for Castle Leoch, the fictional main setting for the first novel.

Other sites including Blackness Castle, in West Lothian, the villages of Falkland and Culross in Fife, and a doocot at Preston Mill, in East Lothian, have all been deployed.