Scotland is poised to get plenty of attention this August: Not only will the traditional Edinburgh Festivals celebrate the country's arts and culture, Glasgow is currently hosting the Commonwealth Games through August 3.
But fans of a particular series of books will be looking a bit farther north than these two cities: The TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's popular fantasy series Outlander is set to debut on Starz on August 9, and fans of the Scotland-set novels will get to see the a completely different side of the Highlands.
The series, which follows the adventures of a 20th-century English nurse who travels back in time to 18th-century Scotland and finds love (and plenty of adventure) with a Highlander, filmed on location, including several scenes at Doune Castle in Perthshire, which doubled as Castle Leoch, the home of Clan MacKenzie in the books.
Other filming locations for the series include Culross and Loch Rannoch.
Those looking for an Outlander-themed vacation have a good range of options. Courtesy of VisitScotland, the country's tourism board, here are a few suggestions of destinations to visit:
*Tour the streets of Inverness in the Highlands where Claire and Frank went for their second honeymoon in the beginning of the first novel.
*Explore the Clava Cairns, a site that dates back to Bronze Age, with remnants of stone circles surrounding the sacred burial grounds. The site may well have inspired the ring of stones that sends Claire back in time in the books.
*While in the area, explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle where the characters picnicked, cruise the calm waters of Loch Ness and see for yourself if you can spot the legendary Loch Ness Monster.
*As the name might suggest, Culloden Battlefield is the site of the disastrous Battle of Culloden, which features in Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in the series. Visit the site and learn about the last battle ever fought on British soil.
*Explore Castle Leod near the Victorian town of Strathpeffer, which has been the home of the Mackenzie clan for more than 500 years, and may have inspired Castle Leoch in the books.
*Fort William, a Highlands’ town set on the shore of Loch Linnhe, features prominently in the books. As you travel through from the north, you will be met by the awe-inspiring vistas along the Great Glen and the Caledonian Canal.
*For a romantic walk, stop by Glen Affric and uncover the magical mix of native Caledonian forest, glistening lochs and haunting moorland which served as a honeymoon destination for the newly-wed Claire and Jamie.
*In Edinburgh, explore the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where several characters stayed during Charles Stuart’s return to Edinburgh in the fall of 1745, but you will certainly be impressed – it’s Her Majesty The Queen’s official residence in Scotland.
Bonus: For those who want to go on a more organized trip around Scotland, Rabbie's is offering a dedicated Outlander-themed tour, "Burning the Claire and Jamie Trail." The seven-day journey brings fans throughout the Scottish Highlands and includes a stay of Edinburgh. Highlights include exploring the cobblestone streets of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh’s Old Town, a visit to Doune Castle, the opportunity to sample ‘The Water of Life’ with a whisky distillery tour along with visits to Glencoe and Fort William. For more information on booking, email [email protected]. NB: This is a special one-off offer for 2014, and the trip will depart on October 31. For the full itinerary, visit www.rabbies.com.