A to Z of Outlander
All you need to know ahead of the new series
Outlander is set largely in 18th-century Scotland – with brief interludes in France and Jamaica – but as series four gets underway, the action shifts to colonial North Carolina. The latest instalment was still filmed on this side of the Atlantic, however, with some early scenes shot last year at Gray Buchanan Park in Polmont, which was transformed into a graveyard.
Other locations used include Abercairny Estates near Crieff, Newhailes House in Musselburgh, Beecraigs Country Park near Linlithgow, Cumbernauld Glen, St Andrew’s in the Square in Glasgow, Abercorn Church near South Queensferry and Calderglen Country Park in East Kilbride.
Based on the bestselling books by US author Diana Gabaldon, Outlander charts the adventures of former combat nurse Claire Fraser (nee Randall) who, during a second honeymoon to Scotland with her husband Frank in 1945, is transported back to 1743 through a mysterious set of standing stones.
On the brink of the last Jacobite rising, she meets dashing Highlander Jamie Fraser and their powerful story as starcrossed lovers unfolds.
Gabaldon’s debut Outlander novel (first published as Cross Stitch in the UK) hit bookshelves in 1991 and the eight-book series has since sold more than 28 million copies. There is a ninth, Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone, in the pipeline.
Leading lady Claire Fraser is played by Irish actor and former model Caitriona Balfe. The time-travelling Claire is headstrong and forthright – with a knack for getting herself into trouble due to an unwillingness to sit back and watch injustice unfold.
She served as a nurse on the battlefields of France during the Second World War and is an amateur botanist – skills which come in handy when navigating life in the 18thcentury Scottish Highlands.
Fun fact: Balfe was cast only days before Outlander started shooting in 2013. Executive producer Ronald D Moore said it came down to the wire as they sought to find the perfect Claire.
Cheese graters, blowtorches, sandpaper, industrial spray guns and pumice stones are among the arsenal of tools used to give Outlander’s costumes their aged, lived-in look.
Costume designer Terry Dresbach has been the woman at the helm since the television series came into development in 2013. Her ethos has always been to make every item worn by the cast – from leading characters to extras – as authentic and accurate to the era as possible.
That included ensuring the British army Redcoat uniforms were the perfect shade (“a deeper, richer red rather than a bright cherry/candy apple red”) and sourcing 50,000 buttons from around the world to avoid the zip
debacles that have befallen many a period drama.
Outlander’s showrunner Moore, known for his work on Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, is married to Dresbach and it was she who introduced him to the books.
Dresbach – who has worked on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The Shield – fell in love with Gabaldon’s novels more than 20 years ago, stumbling across the books while looking for something to read between film jobs.
Series four will be her last, with Dresbach citing family and health reasons for departing the show. Eagleeyed fans have noticed that Nina Ayres – who previously worked on Outlander as an assistant costume designer – is listed alongside Dresbach on the series four credits.
The Twitter hashtag created by avid Outlander viewers to describe the agonising stretch between one series ending and the next beginning. Droughtlander is almost over. Series four will be available for UK viewers on Prime Video from November 5.
AN ECHO IN THE BONE
The poetically named seventh novel in the Outlander series. All Gabaldon’s books have titles which evoke powerful imagery such as Dragonfly In Amber and A Breath Of Snow And Ashes. The TV series is currently on book four: Drums Of Autumn.
The clan name of our swashbuckling hero Jamie Fraser played by Scottish actor Sam Heughan in the TV series.
The fictional character is said to hail from Clan Fraser of Lovat, which has roots in Inverness-shire around Black Isle and the Beauly Firth stretching back to the 13th century.
Jamie adopts the clan motto Je suis prest (I am ready) as his own. Such is the influx of tourism sparked by the TV show, a war grave site at Culloden Battlefield had to undergo repairs earlier this year after unprecedented visitor numbers left the ground bare around the Clan Fraser memorial.
Arizona-born author Diana Gabaldon penned her debut novel – what would become the first Outlander book – in the late 1980s as she sought to hone her writing skills with no intention of ever showing it to anyone.
Gabaldon was the founding editor of Science Software Quarterly in 1984. She regularly wrote software reviews and technical articles for computer publications, as well as popular-science articles and comic books for the Walt Disney Company.
With an academic background in zoology, marine biology and behavioural ecology, she was working at the Centre for Environmental Studies at Arizona State University at the time.
After publishing an excerpt of her novel on a forum, Gabaldon was snapped up by a literary agent. Her first book deal was for a trilogy which has since grown into an eight-strong series. Book nine – Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone – looks likely to be published next year.
Sony Pictures Television secured the rights to Outlander in 2012 and the show made its global debut on US channel Starz two years later. Gabaldon had an on-screen cameo role as the character Iona MacTavish in an episode called The Gathering during series one.
The landscapes of the Scottish Highlands are as much part of Outlander as any human character. Rothiemurchus Forest, a remnant of the Caledonian Forest, is among the breath-taking backdrops used for filming, as is Glencoe, which has featured in the show’s opening credits.
Production designer Jon Gary Steele has breathed life into countless Outlander sets over the past six years including a Parisian apothecary, a high-class brothel and the court of Louis XV.
He recently revealed that a plantation set is his favourite in series four: “It’s heavily detailed – even more than the Parisian sets, believe it or not. I think it’s more beautiful, even, than some of the Parisian sets.”
Gallant Highlander Jamie Fraser is played by Sam Heughan. Handsome and brave with oodles of charm, he has become a pin-up worldwide. Heughan – who is naturally dark blond – dyes his hair red for the role.
Heughan is partial to rocking a kilt and has often waxed lyrical about it: “There’s so many great benefits of wearing a kilt: It’s very free, it’s got its own aeration and they’re very comfortable. But the best part, for me, honestly, is the swing. You know, the pleats you get in the kilt.”
Tartan can be a thorny issue – something costumer designer Terry Dresbach knows only too well. “There is a controversy around tartans which has gone on for years about the authenticity of the really brilliant colours,” Dresbach told The Herald in 2015. “We knew we didn’t want people prancing around in the heather in brilliant red and orange tartan.
“Learning what I have about Scotland, it didn’t make sense to me that in a poor croft, a dark and windowless building with the fire going in the centre, a couple of pigs in the corner and three generations of people living there, you would be sitting there trying to get the perfect shade of scarlet. It made much more sense that garments would be simpler and go about the business of living.”
A long – and ever growing – list of Scottish locations has been used in Outlander. These include:
Blackness Castle, West Lothian (series one and two). The 15th-century fortress doubled as the Fort William headquarters of dastardly Black Jack Randall.
Culross, Fife (series one and two). The Mercat Cross area was transformed into the fictional village of Cranesmuir, while Culross Palace grounds were used as Claire’s herb garden at Castle Leoch. Culross featured in later scenes as a Jacobite encampment and makeshift hospital.
Bakehouse Close, Edinburgh (series three). The close, just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, is the setting for Jamie’s print shop.
Drummond Castle Gardens, Perthshire (series two). The beautifully ornate gardens were used to represent the Palace of Versailles in France.
Dunure, Ayrshire (series three). The harbour in the village of Dunure stands in for Ayr.
Hopetoun House, West Lothian (series one, two and three). The estate has enjoyed various incarnations in
Outlander including as the home of the Duke of Sandringham.
Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow (series three). Used when Claire takes a stroll in a Boston park.
Signet Library, Edinburgh (series three). Its interior was transformed into the Governor’s Mansion in Jamaica.
For an interactive map of Outlander locations, check out the VisitScotland website: visitscotland.com
Played by Duncan Lacroix, the gruff and loyal Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser is godfather and right-hand man of Jamie Fraser. Prior to Outlander, Lacroix starred in Vikings, Game Of Thrones and Primeval. He appears in forthcoming Netflix film Outlaw King as Lord Henry Percy.
Maria Doyle Kennedy, whose past roles include Orphan Black, Dexter and The Tudors, has been cast as Jamie’s plantation-owning Aunt Jocasta, while former Downton Abbey and Wolf Hall star Ed Speleers will portray Stephen Bonnet – a villainous pirate and smuggler.
New Scottish faces to look out for include Paisley’s Craig McGinlay, known for playing Sir Percival in King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, and Glaswegian actor Ainsley Jordan as Judith Wylie, a character who is set to become a rival of Claire’s.
Cutest casting of series four? Two Northern Inuit puppies recruited to play Rollo, a wolf hybrid that becomes a beloved member of the Fraser clan.
Fun fact: Maria Doyle Kennedy recently collaborated with singers Feist and Jarvis Cocker on a video for the song Century from Feist’s new album.
Fans with culinary skills regularly rustle up baked goods for sweet-toothed cast and crew.
“Somehow they manage to find us on set no matter where we are shooting, even if it is in the middle of nowhere, and bring lots of sugary goods – which always goes down a treat,” says Heughan.
“It is usually peanut butter-based biscuits for me and gluten-free, pseudo healthy things for Cat [Balfe]. When it was my birthday they sent to the studios the most enormous cake that was shaped like Craigh na Dun [standing stones] and had Jamie and Claire on the top.”
The “importance” of Outlander to the political atmosphere of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum was highlighted by key TV executives before a meeting with former Prime Minister David Cameron.
In a cache of leaked memos from the Sony organisation obtained by WikiLeaks, an email written by Keith E Weaver, executive vice president at Sony Pictures Entertainment, discussed a meeting with Cameron in the summer of 2014.
The email fuelled speculation that the UK Government did not want the show broadcast before the independence vote in September that same year. It specifically referred to Outlander and “the political issues in the UK as Scotland contemplates detachment this Fall”.
One of the many Scots words you will hear on Outlander (it means “lassie”). Gaelic is prevalent too and not subtitled – a deliberate move by the show’s makers to convey the sense of isolation and confusion Claire experiences upon first arriving in 18th-century Scotland.
The Glasgow-born actor plays Roger Wakefield, an Oxford professor and the adopted son of an Inverness minister, who finds himself unwittingly embroiled in a time-travelling adventure.
Rankin joined the cast in late 2015 after almost 18 months of feverish speculation. Other names in the frame to play Roger reportedly included Downton Abbey’s Matthew Goode, former Game Of Thrones star Gethin Anthony and Bodyguard’s Richard Madden.
Fun fact: Rankin regularly gets sent biscuits from admirers around the world.
It is perhaps serendipity that Heughan was cast as Jamie Fraser. As a boy the actor, who hails from New Galloway, could often be found in the countryside, playing with a wooden stick as he imagined himself as a sword-wielding Robert the Bruce or William Wallace.
Heughan spent his teenage years in Edinburgh among the youth ranks of the Royal Lyceum Theatre before going on to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) in Glasgow.
His part in David Greig’s Outlying Islands in 2002 saw him nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award as most promising new performer. Heughan played Livingston FC footballer Andrew Murray in River City and starred as Hugh Tennent in a series of tongue-incheek commercials for the lager brand.
Other early roles included Midsomer Murders, Island At War and BBC soap opera Doctors, before Heughan landed his big break in Outlander in 2013. Earlier this year he starred in the action comedy film, The Spy Who Dumped Me, alongside Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon.
Fun fact: Heughan unsuccessfully auditioned for Game Of Thrones seven times.
Doune Castle has reaped the benefits of what’s been called the “Outlander effect” since it first appeared on the show as the fictional Castle Leoch. According to Historic Environment Scotland, visitor numbers increased by 36 per cent last year.
Glasgow Cathedral, where the medieval crypt was used for interior shots as L’Hopital Des Anges in Paris, saw a 27 per cent rise, while Linlithgow Palace, used as Wentworth Prison, was up 17 per cent.
The meticulous attention to detail isn’t reserved solely for the intricately designed costumes.
According to Terry Dresbach: “When we get Caitriona — or any of our characters — dressed every single day, she goes into a corset, she goes into a shift. She’s not wearing a T-shirt under there. So, we have corsets and corsets and more corsets.”
Jamie and Black Jack Randall. Claire and Comte St Germain. The list goes on.
There are drams aplenty. Claire in particular is fond of a glass of whisky. And deservedly so. As Balfe has explained: “She fell through time 200 years and got discombobulated.”
Outlander is famed for its steamy scenes. They came for the sex and stayed for the historic drama – or is it the other way about?
The nephew of Jamie and Claire played by the excellent John Bell. The 21-yearold actor from Paisley has already garnered roles in two The Hobbit films, Doctor Who and T2 Trainspotting.
If adventures in 18th-century Scottish life are your thang, what are you waiting for?
Outlander series four begins streaming on Prime Video from November 5. Series one to three are available now
Clockwise from above: Sophie Skelton as Brianna Randall and Richard Rankin as Roger Wakefield in the forthcoming helping of Outlander; Sam Heughan on the Jacobite field of battle in series three; a new arrival in the upcoming series. Opening photograph: Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in series four. PICTURES: Starz Entertainment