One of my favourite TV programs recently started back up again. This little show called Outlander. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Joking aside, the series of eight books that the show is based on is partly what made me want to visit Scotland the first time (2010). I’ve read the adventures of Jamie and Claire in books 1-7 at least twice each over the last twelve years and the eighth came out just in time for me to gobble it up before the first season aired in 2014. They are addictive books. Thank goodness for e-readers because the physical books are hefty!
The show is a big deal and has given already popular – and recently voted the most beautiful country in the world! – Scotland a nice little tourism boost because the production is actually filmed IN Scotland. Many of the sites that the production shoots at are preserved and restored historic sites (gardens, castles, monuments, etc.) that are always in need of the boost. The more people who visit, the more ££££ to keep things preserved and open to the public.
Should you fancy seeing where the show was filmed, there are tours that you can take (like the one from my friends at Highland Explorer Tours). Or you can download the National Trust for Scotland’s Discovering Outlander brochure or Visit Scotland’s Outlander locations map so that you can plan your own little tour.
If you only have time for one Outlander/history fangirl moment, I highly suggest visiting Culloden Battlefield. I happened to be reading the first book (called Cross Stitch in the UK) again on my first visit to Scotland, which was pretty neat. And on this sixth(!) Scotland visit, I finally got to Culloden when the girls and I were on our Highlands road trip. This was the was one of three excursions in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland, and I think it was my favourite!
The Visitor Centre is an award-winning tourist attraction maintained by the National Trust for Scotland. It is very interactive with its audio-visual components and has an impressive array of artifacts (including Bonnie Prince Charlie’s broadsword). Voice recordings of real journal entries give a chilling idea of how people of all stations of life were affected by the lead-up to, actual, and aftermath of the battle. There is also a 360-degree cinema experience that puts you in the eye of the storm for an almost too realistic reimagining of the first five minutes of what was actually a short battle.
Did you know? The Battle of Culloden lasted less than 30 minutes. Thousands of men were killed or wounded; all for the sake of entitlement and ego. (Sound familiar in this day and age?) Everyone was, in theory, fighting for what they believed in, but it was all quite tragic. And it wasn’t, as is commonly thought, just Brit versus Scot. It was the British government forces (that included Scottish soldiers) against the Jacobites (House of Stuart supporters – who weren’t all Scots).
Photography is not permitted inside the visitor centre, but outside is where you want to be taking pictures anyway. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful, particularly if you step outside right after seeing the film in the surround cinema. You will feel a wave of emotion you won’t be able to explain. When I started to walk the paths, it was very humbling and heartwrenching to know I was walking where so many people lost their lives. I had a similar (if slightly more outraged) feeling when I went to Dachau in Germany.
It drizzled off and on while we were there, but it just added to the authenticity of the experience. And really, it’s Scotland, so the rain wasn’t a shocker. Note to future visitors: come prepared for the elements and appreciate the scenery and history in all its rainy glory. It’s worth being out in the rain for, I promise.
If you are in the Inverness area, history buff or Outlander fan (or both!), definitely stop off at Culloden to stretch your legs. It’s free to walk around, but there is a cost for the visitor centre. The NTS kindly hosted me for this visit but I would happily pay to see it again.
Culloden Visitor Centre is located at Culloden Moor, Inverness IV2 5EU, UK. More information can be found online at http://www.nts.org.uk/Visit/Culloden. Private tours of the battlefield are available but must be pre-booked.
#GetThrifty: If you’re an NTS member, make sure to remember to use your parking decal for free parking! I forgot – oops. This is what happens when you’re used to not getting to places by car…
What is your favourite historical site that you have visited?
Sidebar: If you haven’t read Outlander and are looking for a good autumn page-turner to read with a nice cup of tea, I highly recommend it. If you’re super keen or just want to have all eight books for your commute or travels, there is an 8-Book bundle available from both Kobo and Amazon (for Kindle). It’s early, but perhaps a good Christmas present for someone you know! 😉
This excursion was made possible by the National Trust for Scotland. As always, opinions stated are solely my own.
I wanted Brianna to see Culloden, but no power on earth would make me set foot again on that deadly moor. ~ Claire Fraser (Chapter 3, Dragonfly in Amber)