Ever since historical time travel series Outlander was first screened in 2014 it has captured the imagination and hearts of fans across Scotland and the rest of the globe.
But just in case you haven’t heard of it, let me explain ...
Outlander is a British-American television drama series which is based on a set of novels by Diana Gabaldon.
It stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse who, in 1945, finds herself transported back to the Scotland of 1743, where she encounters the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and becomes caught up in the Jacobite risings.
She then becomes torn between her life in 1945 with her husband Frank and her life in Scotland in 1743 with Jamie.
The first series is currently being shown on terrestrial TV on More4 and is guaranteed to see the fantasy drama picking up more fans across the country.
However, it has already become so popular that a number of tour companies in Scotland have noted the growing interest in the series and have launched their own Outlander tours.
This sees them taking tourists to the various locations across Scotland where Outlander has been filmed.
It turns out the so-called ‘Outlander Effect’ has given Scottish tourism a huge boost.
Gordon Pearson of WOW Scotland Tours said his company started offering trips in 2013.
He said: “Quite a number of our customers would tell us about this amazing series of books they had read that had inspired their trip to Scotland.
“It wasn’t however until someone told me that my clan, Clan Fraser, was their favourite clan, that I realised there was an opportunity to be had.
“Our tour set out to provide a insight into the real world of the Clan Fraser and Mackenzie and to discover what life was like in 18th century Scotland.
“Given the lack of filming locations up in the Highlands, we instead offer a combination of sites mentioned in the book such as Beauly Priory, Culloden Battlefield and Loch Ness, along with ‘off the beaten track’ locations such as a Clan Fraser graveyard.
“We get people from all over the world on our Outlander tours, which run all year – our first ever customers were from Japan.”
Kasia Hetman, from Highland Explorer Tours, said this is their first season of Outlander tours.
She said: “It all started with customers who were asking our guides about the locations used in the filming of Outlander.
“We noticed the growing interest in the series-related sites.
“We listened to our customers’ enquiries and decided to launch our Outlander Tours.
“We have developed two different Outlander tours which run in the summer; an Outlander Explorer Day Tour and a three-day ‘Outlander and the Jacobite Legends Explorer Tour’.
“On our daytour, we visit Doune Castle starring as Castle Leoch, the charming village of Culross used as Cranesmuir; Falkland, the setting for 1940s Inverness, and Aberdour Castle used as the Abbey of Ste. Anne de Beaupré.
“Every guide visits additional places they are passionate about, so we also tend to stop at Midhope Castle (Lallybroch) or Dysart Harbour (port of Le Havre). Our three day tour explores some of the most iconic landmarks of the Highlands, like Glencoe and Loch Ness, as well as the Highland Folk Museum starring as the MacKenzie village.
“The guides not only follow in the footsteps of Jamie and Claire, visiting the most important filming sites, but also give an insight into the history of each location.”
She said their customers mainly come from the USA and Canada, but said there have also been passengers from France, Thailand and Australia.
She believes the hit show has given Scottish tourism a boost: “Since the launch of the first season in 2014, Doune Castle, one of the most interesting Outlander sites, has noted a 40 per cent increase in the number of visitors.
“It means a big growth potential for the local economy – the Outlander-themed cafes and experiences keep appearing all the time.
“Due to the increased volume of tourists, Doune Castle is currently undergoing major restoration work and a development of visitor services, which wouldn’t be possible without the ‘Outlander effect’.
“Scotland is a well-established tourist destination, which has been capturing people’s imagination for a long time, but we think that Outlander has created a fresh buzz around the country.”
She added: “This hit series is a fantastic advertisement of what Scotland has to offer – our breathtaking landscapes, interesting culture and traditions.
“It puts a new and more personal perspective on our turbulent history, revives the interest in ancestry and heritage and it undeniably acts as one of our most influencing marketing campaigns.”
Scotland on the global map
A spokeswoman for VisitScotland said the Outlander seres has become a global phenomenon and has put Scotland on the map.
Manuela Calchini, regional director at VisitScotland, said: “Producer Ronald D. Moore has often described Outlander as ‘a love letter to Scotland’ and it would be difficult to argue.
“This spectacular series has become a truly global phenomenon and stunning filming locations, including Aberdour Castle, Culross and Falkland, have all enjoyed a significant increase in visitor footfall since Jamie and Claire first hit our screens. This is set to continue with Outlander now showing on More4. Our stunning scenery and locations provide a perfect backdrop to the romance and drama of the series, while also promoting interest in our history and culture. Set-jetting is a popular pastime and the show enjoys the support of a hugely loyal fan base, particularly in North America and Germany.
“Series three launches in September and, in the meantime, we would encourage fans to explore the real locations using our Outlander map, which can be downloaded for free at www.visitscotland.com/outlander.”
Boost in visitor numbers to properties which have featured in ‘Outlander’
Visitor figures for various properties which have featured in the Outlander series have shown a steady increase.
It appears the ‘Outlander effect’ has resulted in a significant boost in tourist numbers over the last few years.
Figures for 2015/16, published by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for its properties show that visitors to: Doune Castle were 71, 376, up 44 per cent on the previous year; Blackness Castle were 22,584, an increase of 28 per cent on the previous year.
There were 68,044 visitors to Linlithgow Palace in 2015/16 - an increase of seven per cent on the previous year, while Aberdour Castle had 14,360 visitors, up 11 per cent on the previous 12 months.
Meanwhile, figures provided by the National Trust for Scotland for its properties show that: Castle Fraser had 30,536 visitors in 2013-14, 30,743 in 2014-15 and 35,496 in 2015-16. The number of visitors to Culross in 2013-14 were 10,446; 10,669 in 2014-15 and 12,006 in 2015-16.
While in Falkland the number of visitors in 2013-14 were 42,813, 38,647 in 2014-15 and 45,498 in 2015-16.
And in Preston Mill, in 2013-14 there were 2378 visitors, in 2014-15 there were 2308 and in 2015-16 the figure had risen to 2926 visitors. All of the above properties feature in the first two seasons of Outlander.