Questions raised about how to manage a likely future tourism surge

Outlander Season 2 2016
Outlander Season 2 2016
0
Have your say

Outlander mania is set to bring droves of well-heeled American tourists to historic buildings used in the filming of the series, such as Blackness, Doune and ...Midhope Castle.

Set in the midst of South Queensferry’s iconic Hopetoun House estate, Midhope is a ruin – but has already featured in the first series of the hugely successful fantasy-history series as “Lallybroch”.

MIDHOPE CASTLE, ABERCORN, WEST LOTHIAN

MIDHOPE CASTLE, ABERCORN, WEST LOTHIAN

Then last week, in strict secrecy, the film crews were back to film another scene for the second series.

Would-be visitors only learned there was something afoot when they were turned away by security guards.

Hopetoun House has now confirmed the site is back in use, with no publicity. Staff there are fully aware that it risks being seen as a mainstream tourism attraction.

One American interest has already made a straight pitch for the site, with a view to carrying out a complete refurbishment – a project that would cost millions.

But while there’s no question of Hopetoun Estate getting the Disney theme park treatment this sort of bizarre yet probably sincere enquiry underlines the attraction to US and other fans of the series of an area which also boasts Outlander location Blackness Castle.

Historic Environment Scotland, which runs Blackness, Doune and other regular visitor attractions, are delighted at the new seam of visitor interest spawned by Outlander, perhaps hoping for a new phase of “the Braveheart effect” seen at Stirling after Mel Gibson’s movie appeared.

But at Midhope there’s a dilemma, because the ruin is in the middle of working farmland, and is not a visitor attraction, and could never play host to coach tours or large numbers of casual visitors.

On the other hand the area’s association with the filming of Outlander is a potential boon to South Queensferry visitor tourism, emphasising that the wider areas plays host to some of the most evocative sites – like Dirleton and clifftop Tantallon – anywhere in Britain.

The Outlander team have been filming in Scotland for the last few weeks, with scenes in locations as varied as Cumbernauld (the series’ main studio base) and Glasgow’s West End.

But the secrecy surrounding the Midhope shoot underlines the special issues involved in dealing with a surge of interest in a site where public access is carefully structured to tie in with farming and environmental conservation work,

However it’s understood Hopetoun management are looking at possibilities which include “niche” pre-arranged tours so that enthusiasts would be able to visit the site without causing any disruption.

Management of the estate are currently involved in meetings with the Outlander team on an at least fortnightly basis.

As Midhope is now a location specific to the plot it’s likely to feature again, and to be one of the sites US fans most want to visit.

Within easy range of Edinburgh, the classic must-visit destination for US tourists, its location is being seen as an opportunity as well as a challenge – particularly at a time when a Pentland Hills studio venture is aiming to put the Lothians centre stage as a rival to Cumbernauld as a potential base for Scotland’s national film studio.