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“What if your future was the past?” Time Travel, Genealogy and Scottish Television Tourism in Outlander (2014-).


James Cateridge

Oxford Brookes University, GB
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In December 2014, The Times interviewed several Scottish tourist operators who were running thriving tours based on the recent TV show Outlander (2014-). The newspaper found that the major draws for international fans of the show (and the best-selling romance novels upon which it is based) were Scottish folklore, the romantic landscape, and the desire to trace family roots.

This article explores the relationship between genealogy as practiced by a large Scottish diaspora particularly from the U.S and Canada, romance and the sexual allure of Scottish masculinity as depicted by the tropes of heritage television drama, and the increasing phenomenon of television-induced tourism to Scotland. It argues that the narrative of the first season of Outlander and the subsequent character arcs found in the later novels are remarkably well-suited for a multi-media driver for international tourism. Its central time travel conceit places the protagonist in a similar position to the reader/viewer who must explore the unfamiliar fictional world together, and such a structure has potent appeal for the potential screen tourist. Just as Steijn Reijnders’ work on TV detective dramas illustrates the similarities between action within the shows and the later tours taken by subsequent tourist fans, the time travel narrative of Outlander presents opportunities for fans to conflate their future travel plans with the past. To compound the intrigue for viewers with an interest in tracing their Scottish roots, the time travel narrative is embedded within a psychosexual melodrama with openly-discussed genealogical implications. Outlander is therefore a fascinating multi-media text which repeats and multiplies (almost to a hysterical level) the discourses of landscape, romance and family history which, according to David Martin-Jones, have characterised media tourism to Scotland.


HOLDEN, L. 2014. ‘Outlander series drives Highlands boom’, The Times, 29 Dec, p. 6.

MARTIN-JONES, D. 2014. ‘Film tourism as heritage tourism: Scotland, diaspora and the Da Vinci Code (2006)’. New Review of Film and Television Studies, 12(2), pp. 156-177.

REIJNDERS, S. 2011. Places of the imagination : media, tourism, culture. Farnham, Ashgate.

How to Cite: Cateridge, J., 2018. “What if your future was the past?” Time Travel, Genealogy and Scottish Television Tourism in Outlander (2014-).. International Journal of Scottish Theatre and Screen, 11(1), pp.67–83.
Published on 10 May 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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