Outlander author, Diana Gabaldon, is to be honoured for her contributions to boosting Scottish tourism through her fantasy series.
The American writer, 67, will receive a special “International Contribution to Scottish Tourism” award from VisitScotland at the Scottish Thistle Awards tonight (Thursday 14 March).
A VisitScotland paper, titled The Outlander Effect & Tourism, suggests there has been an average 67% increase in visitors since 2013 – from 887,000 to around 1.5 million.
The largest surge in numbers is Doune Castle – which doubles as Castle Leoch in the show – with a 226.5% increase from 38,081 visitors to 124,341.
Blackness Castle in Linlithgow has enjoyed an increase of 181.7% thanks to featuring as Black Jack Randall’s headquarters while Glasgow Cathedral saw a 66.8% after doubling as a French hospital.
The findings also reveal that the dedicated Outlander page on visitscotland.com was the fifth most popular VisitScotland webpage in the time between the broadcast of Season Three and Season Four of the TV series – with Scotland’s standing stones, castles and ancestry among the most popular link clicks.
Outlander – starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan – tells the story of a World War Two nurse, Claire Randall, who visits Scotland with her husband in the 1940s. She is subsequently transported through standing stones to the 18th century Highlands where she falls in love with local laird, Jamie Fraser, and must fight for survival alongside the clans against the British redcoats.
Later series are set in France, the Caribbean and America, but Scottish set sites continue to act as foreign locations.
Gabaldon says she chose Scotland as the setting for her novels – which have been turned into a massive Amazon Prime series – thanks to its enchanting history and landscapes.
Since writing the first novel in 1991, a further seven novels and nine spin-off books have been published in 43 countries and in 39 languages, selling more than 35 million printed copies worldwide.
Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, said: “‘I’m deeply honoured, and so pleased, at being given the Thistle Award.
“I chose Scotland as the setting for my first novel because of a man in a kilt, but upon looking into things more deeply, was enchanted to discover a country and a people like no other, whose traditions and history are as strikingly beautiful as its landscapes.”
It comes amid the trend of “set-jetting” where fans visit their favourite on-screen locations.
Almost all of respondents to the VisitScotland survey said screen tourism was positive for the industry.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of the organisation, said Outlander’s impact on Scotland “has been truly extraordinary”.
He added: “It has been amazing to see the global reaction to Diana Gabaldon’s stories of adventure, romance and Scottish history – and the subsequent television adaptation – and seeing it translate into visitor growth for Scotland.
“Screen tourism continues to be a growing trend, however it is Outlander which has been the story in recent times, inspiring millions of visitors, from the US to Europe and even China, to embark on their own Scottish adventure.”