BEST-SELLING author Diana Gabaldon got to experience the Outlander effect for herself when she hit the tourist trail of the show’s top locations.
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The US writer stunned fans of the Jacobite telly phenomenon at the weekend as she turned up at Culross in Fife and nearby Falkland Palace.
It was almost like a surprise royal visit as gobsmacked tourists mobbed the 67-year-old, who happily posed for selfies and signed autographs.
Diana said: “It’s always fun being in Scotland but usually I’m stopping somewhere for research purposes. So it’s been nice to just feel like a tourist for a change.”
The Scottish Sun joined The Outlander creator for the day with tour company Mary’s Meanders, who specialise in the show’s location visits.
First stop was Culross, which doubles, as the fictional village of Cranesmuir in the TV series.
Photographer Graham Harris Graham, who runs The Outlander And Beyond fine art gallery in the town, praised the Arizona-born writer.
The 54-year-old told Diana: “I would like to thank you for paying my mortgage — seriously.”
Next up she visited ancient Falkland Palace, with its famous Bruce Fountain.
Outlander fans will know that’s where the ghost of Sam Heughan’s Jacobite character Jamie Fraser visits time-traveller lover Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe).
Spanish fan Ana Garcia was completely overwhelmed when she spotted her idol.
The tearful 46-year-old from Barcelona, who works for a mobile phone company, said: “I came here to visit Outlander locations but never expected to see the woman who made it all happen. I will never forget this moment.”
Victoria Arias was also delighted to meet the woman whose books have sold 35million copies and been translated into 40 languages.
The 30-year-old French blogger said: “This is my third time in Scotland to visit Outlander locations but the first time I’ve met Diana.
“It was fantastic to see the person who started it all in a place where it is actually filmed.”
Diana’s visit came after tourist chiefs announced visitor numbers continue to rocket — up 67 per cent from 887,000 to 1.5million a year — on the back of the TV smash which is shown in 87 countries around the world.
But humble Diana said: “The Outlander effect is sort of a miracle — I had nothing to do with it other than writing the books.”
The mum of three was working as a professor at Arizona State University when she first began writing her story “for practice” — after famously seeing actor Frazer Hines play a Jacobite warrior in a 1969 repeat of Doctor Who.
It has since spawned nine books — with the latest, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, out later this year. And the fifth TV series — which is shown on Amazon Prime in the UK — will start filming around Scotland from next month.
But aside from all the official stats, Diana also receives personal testimonies about how Outlander has changed people’s lives.
She explained: “When we were filming an episode from the first series in Culross there was a little shop up the back street where myself and another writer went for a sandwich.
“But all we had on us were £20 notes and the owner didn’t have any change.
“I said ‘”We’re with the film thing and he said he knew because we had our cans — headphones — over our arms. He told us he’d trust us to come back and settle up later.
“But just as we left he came rushing after us and said, ‘I saw your name on your headphones and I’ve just realised you’re Diana Gabaldon — for you everything is free. Take anything you want’.”
She added: “Then there are people who make crafts and do art — there are thousands of Facebook pages that sell Outlander gear.
“One woman wrote to me saying she has a business doing stencils to go on bedroom walls of Outlander erotica and asked if she could use some of the more romantic quotes from my books.
“So there are these spin-offs all around the world, although Scotland is where you can see the direct financial impact it has had.”