Outlander louts’ threat to our historic sites

Midhope Castle - under siege from Outlander tourists.
Midhope Castle - under siege from Outlander tourists.

Roving packs of loutish Outlander fans have forced Hopetoun Estate to levy a charge for security staff around derelict Midhope Castle.

Meanwhile Diana Gabaldon, author of the book behind the hugely-successful fantasy history series, has urged fans to show consideration when visiting locations linked to her work.

Redcoats mounting guard at another Outlander historic location - Craigmillar Castle.

Redcoats mounting guard at another Outlander historic location - Craigmillar Castle.

This follows reports of overseas tourist visitors tramping across the mass burial of men slaughtered at Culloden in 1746, and of some even pouring whisky on graves.

In another unintended effect of the series Loch Lomond Mountain Rescue team last year had to carry out four separate rescues from a 70-foot deep ravine known as the Devil’s Pulpit, after Outlander tourists got themselves into difficulties.

The growing concerns - particularly at Midhope, a short drive from Falkirk - come as Falkirk councillors prepare to find new ways of making the most of the town’s pivotal but underpublicised role in the Jacobite Rising of 1745.

Callendar House and Muiravonside Country Park have both featured in the series, although ironically the 1746 Battle of Falkirk Muir, the largest battle of the entire Jacobite wars (1689 - 1746) doesn’t get a mention in Outlander.

Outlander hero Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) prepares for another gory battle.

Outlander hero Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) prepares for another gory battle.

However with a new battlefield walk set to open in late spring the council is keen to capitalise on the visitor potential of Falkirk’s currently low profile role in the heritage treatment of one of the most decisive conflicts in Scottish or British history.

Meanwhile a spokeswoman for Hopetoun Estate has outlined a catalogue of complaints about the antics of tourists who have plagued the Midhope site since it appeared as “Lallybroch” in the series.

These range from littering to defecation (there are no facilities for visitors at the site), and annoying local people on working farms in a variety of other unpleasant ways.

She told the Falkirk Herald: “There has to be a trade-off between what’s good for tourism and the rights of people living around a site which is not designed for large scale visits.

“Trips organised by pre-arrangement for small parties of people would be one thing, but for individuals and tour companies simply to arrive at any time doesn’t work for the local community”.

Unlike Midhope, the battlefield of Culloden does have a fully-fledged visitor centre, but despite the large volume of visits from all over the world it is only since the battle featured in Outlander that serious problems have been reported - even although the battle shown in the series was filmed in a field outside Cumbernauld.

MPs, councillors and tourism authorities - particularly VisitScotland - have taken a couple of years to recognise the massive international success of Outlander (first screened in 2014, but only recently available in the UK), but (as reported in this week’s Falkirk Herald) now aim to build on the Outlander-related visitor surge at locations including Blackness Castle, run by Historic Environment Scotland.

Falkirk, and the nearby battlefield, has yet to gain this sort of attention, even although Callendar House itself briefly served as the headquarters of the Hanoverian general commanding the government troops at Falkirk Muir.

However members of The 1745 Association, which promotes the study of the period, say they hope the new battlefield walk will lead to Falkirk finally gaining the attention its history is due.

Currently outshone by the smaller battlefield sites of Prestonpans and Culloden, it’s argued there is no reason why Falkirk should not be seen as one of the key Jacobite heritage sites - a potential tourism draw that could equal Helix Park.

Nor are they concerned by the blatant “Braveheart-style” inaccuracy of the series, which portrays the Rising as a conflict between England and Scotland, whereas it was a British dynastic civil war between the House of Stuart and that of Hanover - many Scottish troops at Falkirk Muir, including 1,500 Glasgow milita, fought for King George.

One senior member told the Falkirk Herald: “Outlander is only a romance, and bears only a passing resemblance to anything that really happened.

“Nevertheless we like it, because it focuses attention on the period, and people drawn to Outlander will in many cases go on to find out more about the real history of the Rising”.

However with the bad examples of Midhope and Culloden making national headlines, tourism chiefs are being asked to consider how to handle the down-side - and potential security costs - of future heavy visitor traffic to Falkirk sites the Outlander set have yet to discover.