Heughan and Outlander co-star Graham McTavish were speaking at the launch of their new book, a spin-off from travel show Men in Kilts, which the pair developed when the pandemic brought production on the time travel fantasy show to a halt.
The event, at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, was held ahead of the launch of the sixth series of Outlander, which has been filmed in Scotland for the last eight years, early next year.
Heughan told the sell-out crowd: “Outlander has spawned an interest in Scotland, it’s created a film studio that wasn’t there before. It’s been life-changing for the tourism industry and also for our careers.
"Scotland is always at the heart of Outlander – I’ve always said it’s like another character in the show.”
Filming of series six of Outlander was held up for months by the pandemic, but Heughan suggested the show would be better than ever when it returned.
Heughan said: “It’s a shortened season of eight episodes, but the episodes are much longer – the first episode runs for around an hour and a half.
“That extra time spent with the characters means they are really strong episodes and there are a whole load of new characters coming in.”
Heughan and McTavish recalled pitching the idea of the Men In Kilts series direct to Sony and Starz, the industry giants behind Outlander.
Heughan recalled: “Men In Kilts was pretty much one of the first shows to start shooting with Covid protocols after the first lockdown.
"We were very fortunate in that we had a very small crew, we were up in the Highlands and we were outdoors a lot as well.
"We drew upon a lot of contacts I had from various photoshoots and we had a fantastic crew from Outlander.
“We have a great core group of people and because everyone had been locked up, we were all so excited to be outdoors and working together. We were like a travelling family.”
McTavish revealed the origins for the Men in Kilts TV series and their accompanying Clanlands books can be traced back around 30 years.
He said: “I’ve always been very interested in Scottish history and, in particular, the clans.
"I had this great plan in 1991 that I was going to make a series of films about clans and then sell them on DVD to clan members living abroad, but nobody was interested at the time.
“It’s so lovely to be talking about something like that 30 years later that has actually come true.
"We’ve been terribly lucky. We were able to write the first book because of the lockdown we were experiencing. If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t know if we’d have been able to do it.
“The way we did the show it was almost entirely unscripted, but it kept it very spontaneous and real.”
Heughan also discussed his ambitions of returning to work in Scottish theatre.
He said: “I’ve love to do something like The Scottish Play (Macbeth) or Hamlet. My first ever play was next door in the Traverse.”