Experience Outlander in Edinburgh with Mercat Tours

08 April 2016

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Outlander returns to our screens this weekend, but did you know you can experience the world of your favourite TV show right here in Edinburgh? Find out more about the historical facts behind the stories of this global phenomenon with Mercat Tours and their Edinburgh Outlander Experience Tour.

Frances Mann, Head of Product and Training at Mercat Tours tell us more about this popular tour in Edinburgh:

“I accepted a long time ago that the past is my future. Once you’ve got the history bug, that’s it - there is no known cure! One of the symptoms of this disease is that you often catch yourself pondering on what it must have been like to meet Mary Queen of Scots? Did William Wallace speak in a high squeaky voice (I would love it if he did!)? However, I must admit, I’ve never truly wished to go back in time and find out. I like my modern comforts.

But lately, I’ve had to rethink this position, thanks to the ‘Outlander’ book series. It is the story of time travelling nurse, Claire Randall, who, after an unfortunate incident at a stone circle, finds herself in the midst of a Jacobite rebellion; falls in love with a hot Scot called Jamie, then chooses to stay with him (initially) rather than return to the future and her rather more reserved and less rugged husband. Why would anybody willingly give up things like penicillin, perfume and hot running water?

I’ll tell you why – Jamie Fraser! Author Diana Gabaldon has created a character that every woman wants! What’s a world without deodorant when you have the manly whiff of Jamie Fraser, with muscles like granite to keep you company?

Would a rugged Scotsman be enough to make me wish I lived in the past? Tempting…but for Claire there was more. She thrived on bringing modern medical practices to 18th century Scotland, although she was never able to find a good way to describe a germ. She was needed; she made a difference and this was a feeling that many women missed following the end of World War 2, when they were expected to return to their pre-war homemaking roles. Her knowledge was needed and it gave her power.

But it wasn’t all Brigadoon for Claire Randall. The reality of time travel is a little harsher in Outlander. She is constantly shocked at the attitudes towards women in the 18th century. In the books, she is often in life threatening situations. She is beaten, tried as a witch, loses a child, murders a soldier, and smells – Gabaldon, unlike any other writer, is not afraid to get down to the nitty gritty.

I’ve had a lot of time to weigh up on the pros and cons of time travel to 18th century Scotland during the creation of Mercat Tours’ Edinburgh Outlander Tour. I’ve talked about conditions in Old Edinburgh for many years now and considering it as a backdrop to Claire and Jamie’s story has made me look at the Old Town with fresh eyes. Claire’s reaction to the smells, the dirty streets and the smoky fug has brought a fresh perspective to just how bad it was. Gabaldon’s descriptions of Edinburgh are vivid and very accurate – put it this way, I would certainly stay clear of any scratch and sniff editions of the ‘Outlander’ books! Whilst walking the Old Town streets to research the tour, I have hunted down the areas mentioned in the books, the statues, the pubs and the landmarks that would have been there at the time as well as the approximate sites of the fictional streets and houses. World’s End Tavern - Dougal Mackenzie’s favourite haunt, Palace of Holyroodhouse where Jamie and Claire waited upon Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the Abbey, where Panto-esque villain Black Jack asks for Claire’s help to nurse his brother, is still nestled at the foot of the Royal Mile. There are many original sites in Edinburgh that would have been there when Jamie and Claire were in town. And yes, it has got to the point where I almost believe they did actually come to Edinburgh and they’re real people!

So, after researching and writing the Edinburgh Outlander Tour, reading the books, watching the Starz Series (which is excellent by the way – and the actor who plays Jamie is suitably…taut) would I want the actual past to be my actual future?

Frankly, no. I’m happy keeping history and historical characters at arms-length, and in my imagination. They smell much better there.”

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The Edinburgh Outlander Experience Tour starts at 10:30am every Saturday and Sunday from April to October. The tour will leave from Mercat Cross, High Street and finishes at Canongate Graveyard. 

Tickets are £14 for adult and £12 for concession and can be booked on the Mercat Tour’s website.

Did you know? Outlander supports local talent, with a team of producers, actors and film crew all from Edinburgh. You can find some of the film locations in our East Lothian Film Map >