I love to travel. Like, I am willing to drive a clunker, wear bargain store clothes, and skimp on Christmas and birthdays if it means I get to travel. So I do. Each summer, my husband and I embark on a journey (this year will be Canada!) and I get to live in the excitement of planning that trip until that last day of school when we set off. Of the things I love about travel, visiting places which have sparked my imagination through books is near the top of the list. Behind wine and cheese… because, you know, it’s wine and cheese. This past summer, we lived many of my literary fantasies when we rented a car and drove around England and Scotland. In fact, we hit so many that this is going to need multiple posts. So, stay tuned for Jane Austen, Harry Potter, and Shakespeare, but today I want to talk about visits to places which helped me to physically connect to Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander”.
If you haven’t read or watched “Outlander”, are you crazy? Even my mom has read this book. I’ve had a soft spot for Scotland ever since my first visit to Edinburgh three summers ago. Everything about it enchanted me from the weather to the higgeldy-piggeldy old buildings to the kilts and bagpipes. I watched and loved the Starz series, and as I began to plan this trip, I knew we would have to hit some Outlander-inspired spots.
1. Doune Castle- This is the castle that was used in the filming of Castle Leoch in the first season. It is near Stirling, but definitely not on the typical tourist trail. We were the first ones there the morning we visited, and enjoyed having the castle pretty much to ourselves. There is a small exhibit dedicated to Outlander in the castle, and the audioguide includes input from Sam Heughan who plays Jamie Fraser. I seriously could have listened to him talk all day, and it was amazing to stand on the battlements, listening to his brogue as he talked about the castle and filming there. But, the coolest thing about Doune Castle is that they have actual Outlander-licensed items in the gift shop. I looked all over Edinburgh and didn’t see them anywhere else. I got an awesome ring, but they had Claire’s scarf and finger gloves and many other neat items. Monty Python was also filmed here, and it is a nice castle to visit with some cool history of its own.
2. Avebury Standing Stones- First things first: Craigh na dun does not exist. There are no stone circles outside of Inverness. The stones in the show are fakes, and the closest you can get to something that looks like the stones in the show are on some of the far-flung islands of Scotland. That being said, I had to see and touch some standing stones on my England/Scotland trip and for those of you who have been to Stonehenge, you know that is not the place to do it. Lucky for me, Avebury is not too far from Stonehenge, is free, and is completely open to walk around and touch.
I LOVED this place. The stones are like old sentries standing guard over the sheep that graze in their fields. We were completely alone in the field with the stones and the sheep, and I could feel the mysticism and connection to all the people from the past. I had to put my hands on a stone in a Claire-like pose, but that picture turned out terrible because of my enormous behind. This is an incredibly cool place, and across the street is this little old church with the prettiest graveyard I have ever seen. Go to Avebury.
3. Fort William/Highlands- There is not a garrison to visit at Fort William, but I wasn’t worried about that, I was more concerned with seeing the surrounding area- The Highlands. Some people are beach people, and some people are mountain people. I am a mountain person. (Unless I have someone bringing me food and drinks on a Mexican beach, just sayin’.) Mountains make me breathless with their beauty; I love the slightly cool air. As we drove through the highlands of Scotland, I couldn’t take my eyes off the scenery. It is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Pictures do not do it justice; the mountains are so much bigger in person. I want to live there.
4. Culloden Battlefield- If you have read Dragonfly In Amber or if you know Scottish history, you know the significance of this place. A mist hung over the field the day I visited, evoking all of the sadness and loss which occurred in this place. A truly excellent historic visit in its own right, somehow the Outlander series gives us a sense of what was really lost on this battlefield.
Although our Jamie didn’t really exist, many men like him did and died here, trying to defend their clans and their way of life.
So, that was my Outlander-inspired travel. Scotland is a beautiful place, and is a perfect place for a romance novel. I love how books can help you to appreciate certain places or people, and find that literary tourism is a particular joy of mine. I’d love to hear about places you have visited that helped you to connect to books, authors or literary characters in the comments below. And don’t forget to check back or subscribe to get future updates: my next literary tourism post will be all about Jane Austen and will include my visit to “Pemberly”.