'Outlander' TV Show Prompts Tourist Boom In Central Scotland

Feb 15, 2020
Originally published on February 16, 2020 5:55 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Fans are well aware a new season of "Outlander" begins Sunday. That's the historical time travel romance on the Starz network. The drama's success has created a small tourism boom in central Scotland, where the show is filmed. As reporter Richard Baynes discovered, local Scots are hoping the boom will continue.

RICHARD BAYNES, BYLINE: The Buttercup Cafe lies in the village of Doune near Stirling in central Scotland. It's also close to Doune Castle, a major location in "Outlander."

SUZANNE GILLIES: We've noticed a huge difference in the past couple of years of how busy it's been.

BAYNES: Suzanne Gillies (ph) helps run the cafe.

GILLIES: Yeah, it's been great for the cafe and for the whole of the village, for all of the small businesses. It's been really good.

BAYNES: "Outlander" is the story of a British Second World War nurse transported back to the 18th century where she meets a rugged Highland outlaw. Gillies is a fan of the series and says the influx of visitors has not only boosted local business, it's also helped the whole country.

GILLIES: You want to sell your own country. You want them to experience the best of Scotland. Absolutely. I want them to leave Scotland with a positive experience.

BAYNES: The wind is howling around Doune Castle on the bleakest of winter days, but there's still a steady flow of tourists coming to look at the building, which is used as Castle Leoch, headquarters of the clan MacKenzie in the "Outlander" series. The show was first filmed here in 2013, and since then, visitor numbers are up around 200% from 38,000 to 142,000. The "Outlander" fans come from all over the world.

UNIDENTIFIED TOUR GUIDE: (Unintelligible).

BAYNES: Tour guides tailor their talks for different nationalities, but most of the tourists are from the USA and Canada. "Outlander's" fifth season is actually set largely in North Carolina, but Scottish locations will still be used, standing in for 18th-century America. Professor John Lennon of Glasgow Caledonian University, who's studied what he calls the "Outlander" effect on tourism, says even the new locations can expect a lot of tourists.

JOHN LENNON: The sites in the new series, which maybe aren't obviously in Scotland, will still see visitation simply because the chatter and the discussion on the Internet. And the fact that people are picking this up and put it on guided tours of "Outlander" sites means that we will see that surge in visitation.

BAYNES: I found two enthusiastic "Outlander" fans in the shadow of Linlithgow Palace, another location in the show. Cameron Jarrio (ph) and Megan Lawter (ph) are from South Carolina.

MEGAN LAWTER: We originally found "Outlander" on Netflix, and it just drew us in immediately. We became addicted. And we, you know, love the history and the romance and everything about "Outlander," really and are super excited for the new season to come out.

BAYNES: Jarrio says watching "Outlander" and seeing where it was filmed has only heightened his interest in Scottish history.

CAMERON JARRIO: Seeing those locations, yeah, it takes you there. And you feel like you were, you know, part of that time period. And, you know, standing in there and thinking about, you know, 300, 400 years ago, people lived here and this actually kind of happened in a sense.

BAYNES: Thanks to the sights and sounds of rural Scotland, Jarrio and thousands of visitors like him are discovering that it's not just in fictional TV drama that people can be transported to a different age. For NPR News, I'm Richard Baynes in Doune, Scotland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.