The hugely popular novel Outlander, written by Diana Gabaldon and the first in a series of eight books, has at long last been made into a television series, premiering on Starz this Saturday, August 9. The story is set in the Scottish Highlands during the 18th century Jacobite rebellions. The series was filmed on location there -- the producer even called the country the "third character."
If you're a fan of the novels, or are caught up in the excitement over the new show, you might want to put some of the show's atmospheric shooting locations on your travel list. Here are some to get you started:
At the beginning of Outlander, Claire and Frank take a second honeymoon to the city of Inverness, which takes its name from Loch Ness, the mysterious legendary lake. The ruins of the 12th century Urquhart Castle, overlooking Loch Ness, feature in the series -- and while the stone circle of Craigh na Dun is fictional, the nearby Clava Cairns (a series of stone chambers) date back to around 2000 B.C. and are no less evocative.
Culloden Battlefield (just a few miles outside of Inverness) plays an important role in the Outlander series and an even bigger one in the history of Scotland. It was here that the Jacobite rebellion was finally crushed by the British Army, with over 1,000 Jacobites losing their lives within one hour of battle. Following the defeat, the Scottish Highlanders effectively had their culture, and their ancient clan system, wiped out through the Act of Proscription -- which banned the Gaelic language and the wearing of tartan. Culloden Moor, where the battle took place, makes for a poignant day trip from Inverness. It's also home to an engaging new visitor's center, which contains a battlefield immersion theater and a wealth of educational information about Highland culture.
The setting for Claire and Frank's first honeymoon, Glen Affric, is one of Scotland's most beautiful glens (valleys). Located about an hour west of Inverness, the glen contains one of Scotland's largest pinewood forests, as well as lochs (lakes) and moorland, and is as popular with walkers as it is with honeymooning couples.
Fort William (Note: Series spoiler alert ahead!)
During the course of the series, Scottish rebel Jamie is held captive in Fort William, the largest town in the Highlands. While the town has its charms, most people see Fort William only as a departure point for climbing Ben Nevis (Britain's highest mountain) and for walking the 96-mile West Highland Way or the 79-mile Great Glen Way. Increasingly, due to its appearance in another popular saga, the Harry Potter series, more people are also passing through Fort William to travel on the Jacobite steam train along the West Highland Line to Mallaig.
A few companies are running special Outlander-themed tours this year:
Burning the Claire and Jamie Trail -- an Outlander Theme Tour
This seven-day journey through the Scottish Highlands includes an exploration of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh’s Old Town, a visit to Doune Castle (which stands in for Castle Leoch in the series), a whisky distillery tour, and visits to Glencoe and Fort William. This is a special one-off tour for 2014, and it will depart on October 31. (There are a few departure dates for 2015, too). Rates start at $1,005 per person, based on double occupancy.
Or, you could always book an Outlander-style Scotland getaway... for free. ShermansTravel is currently co-sponsoring this giveaway, which will send a lucky winner to Scotland for four days.