Come on, let’s be honest. When is the last time you heard someone tell you they were planning a trip to Scotland? Dreams of visiting Europe or the UK specifically, are filled with visions of either Big Ben and The Tower Bridge or if you’re a bit more eclectic, the grass covered hills of Ireland. But Scotland? Ah, only for a dunderhead.
Yet, ever since August of 2014, that sentiment has been changing. When the premium cable and satellite television network Starz, unleashed its new television series Outlander upon the world, viewers were suddenly taken on a visual journey across a land that they had seldom (if ever) considered; or even really cared about.
Not that we didn’t care, think of it more in the terms of a “lack of knowledge”; or priority. Scottland for most of us on the other side of the big pond, was more liking having to choose between spending our allowance on a new album by the latest pop sensation, versus the less than trumpeted Indie record.
Most of our childhood backyard plays and adult bucket-lists, involve things about flying boys who never grow up or trying to get a member of The Queen’s Guard to smile outside of Buckingham Palace. But that may be changing, now that mom and even dad, are spending their nights talking about the stories of, Outlander.
Those Beautiful Landscapes
One of the first things any viewer of Outlander will notice when watching all the drama with Jamie Fraser, Claire Beauchamp and the clans in Season one, is the awe inspiring beauty of its Highland backdrop. Although some of the story’s key landmarks were only ficitional, the massive landscapes and lush countryside were all real.
The idea of taking a side trip or even a principle vacation to such a place isn’t so odd, now that one can walk across the same lands that the clans of old did. If the show has spurred you into delving into the history books (that’s the cool 21st Century way of saying you went to Google or Wikipedia) to find out more about Scotland, then you’ve already discovered its deep and interesting history.
All that new found knowledge aside, the idea of riding a Clydesdale swiftly across green pastures with the majestic Ben Hope mountains in the background, is reason enough to want to include the UK’s northernmost country on your next adventure; I mean European trip.
The Jacobite Rebellion
Although most of the story in the Starz hit TV series is ficitional, the author of the original book series from which the show is based, Diana Gabaldon, did include actual historical events. Not that Jamie and Claire were really working to keep it from happening, but there is one particular event taking up most of their time in Season two, that is fact.
Do you remember learning about the “Jacobite Rebellion” in school? I sure don’t. Outside of bagpipes and kilts, my educational background on Scotland was sadly lacking. Which is another plus for TV! Wait, did I just write that? Still, it’s true. How often do you find yourself pulling up things like “Jacobite” or “were clans real” on your mobile, while watching Outlander?
Yes, there really was a Bonnie Prince Charlie. He was indeed the instigator of the Jacobite uprising of 1745, which as the time traveling character Claire points out to her husband Jamie, was unsuccessful.
The Glenfinnan monument and Loch Shiel in the Highlands of Scotland, would be one area to include on a trip intineray for sure. Any fan of Outlander would be overjoyed to capture both the story of the uprising and the loch’s breathtaking beauty. Atop the monument, is the statue of a kilted highlander surveying the land where the rebellion began.
Those Standing Stones
Along with plans to visit Buckingham, travelers to England like to include a stop at the famous Stonehenge – the prehistoric Neolithic monument in Wiltshire, England that has baffled both Archaeologists and vistors alike for ages. But the home of The Crown isn’t the only place were these ancient displays stand erect.
When Claire placed her hands upon the stones at Craigh na Dun she was suddenly transported from 1945, back in time to 1743. Please note, if you’re planning on visiting these now famous stones, don’t. You may look silly to your Scottish travel agent; seeing they don’t exist. The magical stones of Craigh na Dun, were a creation of author Diana Gabaldon. But finding something just like the circle of stones seen in Outlander, with its tall flat stone taking center, is possible. Scotland seems to have a bunch.
If you wanted to stand in the place where the character Claire stands, before she disappered, you would visit Dunalastair Estate near the small village of Kinloch Rannoch. No stones, but you can imagine being transported from a life with your quiet husband, possibly into the arms of a red-headed Scot. Just remember, that also means no tv and the chance to die of say, smallpox.
The Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis would be the ones to give the most resemblance to Craigh na Dun. The circle of 13 large standing stones around a tall 15 and a half foot central monolith, is said to date somewhere before 2000 BC. It’s just one of many sites that stand across the Scottish countryside, like those of Machrie Moor, the Ring Of Brodgar or The Twelve Apostles in mainland Scotland.
If you happen to visit one and a sudden breeze begins to blow, or you hear a strange buzzing sound – for god’s sake don’t touch the center stone.
The Highland Cleansing
In the television series, Claire Fraser also know things about the future of Scotland, that aren’t so pretty. From her 1945 mental vantage point, she’s fully aware of the outcome of the catastrophic Battle of Culloden and the “Fuadach nan Gàidheal” – the highland clearances that would follow.
After the defeat at Culloden, British forces pressed on to Inverness with a desire to wipe out anyone who would plan on another such uprising. With a “no quarter given” order, they set out to put to death by any means, any man or woman they deemed a possible Jacobite.
From there, the move to bring change to the highland culture involved making things like the wearing of tartan (a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours) and speaking in their native Gaelic language, punishable by hanging. The clan system was destroyed and many of those who made up a quiet community way of life were driven out; ending up with no possessions and forced to relocate in new cities or on a ship to North America.
A New Respect For Scotland
If you belong to a circle of friends who all watch the series Outlander on tv or have read the books, you’re bond to have heard someone announce their plans to visit the home of Jamie and Claire Fraser. Which is good for the country and those of us who have been a little prejudice towards the land that makes up one fourth of the United Kingdom.
Your friends are not the only ones who are using Outlander as a catalyst for interest in all things Scottish. According to the Scotland Visitor Survey 2015, almost a quarter of visitors surveyed were inspired to visit the country after either reading the books or watching the television series.
Which just goes to show you, television isn’t all that bad when it inspires us to learn more about the world around us and maybe even take a new adventure outside the expected. Like say, Scotland.
Thank you Outlander!
By: Wayne Andres