'˜Outlander effect' drives boom in visitors

Fans of Outlander and Harry Potter, and motorists taking in the North Coast 500, have been credited for sending visitor numbers soaring at historic sites across Scotland.

View of Ben Stack mountain peak from West, Scotland.

North Coast 500
View of Ben Stack mountain peak from West, Scotland. North Coast 500

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has seen huge surges in tourism at castles, palaces, mansion houses, heritage villages and country parks over the past 12 months.

At least ten of its sites have reported increases of more than a third. Some numbers are ten times higher than the previous year so far.

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The “Outlander effect” has been hailed as one of the biggest boosts for the Scottish tourism industry over the past five years since production began on the Sony-Starz fantasy TV series.

Locations deployed include Newhailes House in East Lothian, which saw its visitor numbers soar from under 5,000 to 55,000 in the space of 12 months, and the village of Culross, in Fife, which saw a 52 per cent increase in visitors.

Brodie Castle, a 16th-century townhouse with strong Jacobite connections, attracted more than 250,000 visitors, compared to 41,000 the previous year, while numbers going to the battlefield rose 10 per cent to 169,299.

Glenfinnan, which is best known for its monument erected in honour of those who died fighting the Jacobite cause, also attracts thousands of Harry Potter fans every week after the area was used to film several scenes in the blockbuster series. The National Trust, which says it has also benefited from the North Coast 500 campaign, said its site there had seen visitor numbers go up by more than a third to 355,548.

NTS customer director Mark Bishop said: “There are lots of factors encouraging visitors to explore Scotland’s history and heritage. Our scenery on the big screen is a strong pull as we can see at places that have provided backdrops to unforgettable movie moments like the viaduct at Glenfinnan.

“There’s definitely an Outlander effect at filming locations and sites connected with the real story of the Jacobites. Coupled with this, there’s the impact of our charity’s investments in the places under our protection. Over the next five years, we’re investing £57 million in our national and natural treasures.”

Raoul Curtis-Machin, operations manager at Culloden, said: “It’s exciting to see that Scottish heritage is right up there for visitors from all over the world. With the recent accolade from Rough Guide, we’re expecting this to continue and are planning for even more growth next year.

“We’re definitely seeing plenty of Outlander fans on-site too, all keen to discover more about the real-life history that inspired the books and series.”