Tourism to Scotland is on the rise. Yes, 2014 was a "Year of Homecoming" - 12 months meant to entice Scot Diaspora from around the world to return to their roots, or those of their ancestors. A year filled with events like the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, 2014 saw a definite uptick in tourism numbers and dollars.
However, in 2015 those numbers are even stronger. The Scotsman reports Scotland has outperformed the rest of the UK with 15.5 million visitors over the past twelve months ended 30 June, 2015. Significantly the largest increase is visitors from North America, up 16%. Further analysis suggests that the success of the STARZ Channel's TV drama "Outlander" is certainly a contributing factor. At Castle Doune (the fictional Castle Leoch in Outlander), visitor numbers are up by 30%!
While the "Outlander" books have been popular for two decades, it's the filming of the TV production, at real locations in Scotland, that has given rise to a new interest in tourism. Fans of the TV drama want to SEE and feel the various filming locations, to walk in the steps of Jamie and Claire -- just as I did when I visited Ardverikie Estate, used as the fictional "Glenbogle House" in the TV drama "Monarch of the Glen" from an earlier time. To walk on the beach at Loch Laggan or to sit on the steps of "The Ghillie's Rest", as Archie and Lexi did in "Monarch", gives one a sensory attachment to those characters. Fans of "Outlander" are flocking to Scotland to find the same.
Helping them to find that connection are Emma Chalmers and Anne Daly of Mary's Meanders. What began as a wee company to offer walking tours around the village of Linlithgow, has grown to include scheduled and bespoke tours of Outlander filming locations nearby. The pair has added ancestral tours and even created their own "Taste of Outlander" themed dinner event. In its first year the program has been so well received they are contemplating expansion into other locations around Scotland, and possibly an international debut in New York City as part of Tartan Week in April 2016.
Mary's Meanders operates seasonally, from Easter through September. While they conduct regularly scheduled tours, the company plans to branch further into intimate bespoke tours and group bookings for their "Taste of Outlander" experience in 2016.