LOCATIONS used in the new series of Outlander have been warned to expect a flood of visitors after a study showed huge jumps in tourism at sites featured in the show.

Series five of the time-travel-history romance starts on Monday in the UK – Sunday in the US and Canada. So far it has been a huge hit, especially in America, with fans swept up in the romance between a former World War II British army nurse, played by Caitriona Balfe, and a rugged Highland outlaw played by Sam Heughan.

Despite the action in series five having shifted from Scotland to the USA, the series is still filmed here, with sites in Glasgow, Perthshire, Stirlingshire, Paisley and East Lothian standing in for places such as North Carolina.

Academics at Glasgow Caledonian University have collated the visitor numbers at 25 sites used in the series from the year it started in 2014 to 2018 to show an average increase of 45% in visitor numbers, far more the average growth levels at all Scottish attractions.

Some core Outlander sites show huge rises in visitors, with numbers at Doune Castle, home of the 18th-century Mackenzie clan in the series, up more than 200% from 47,000 to 142,000. At Blackness Castle near Falkirk – Inverness Castle in the series – numbers are up from around 15,000 a year to 58,000, a rise of more than 250 per cent. Figures for 2019 are expected to show the trend continuing.

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The GCU team say sites featured in the new series should brace themselves for a similar surge, with the Hermitage woodland site near Dunkeld in Perthshire and the Thomas Coats Memorial Church in Paisley – which stands in for a church in Boston, Massachusetts – among the likely beneficiaries.

Shug Sheridan, of GCU’s Moffat Centre for Tourism, compiled the figures. He said much of the rise is down to tourists from North America: “Many people in North America have links to Scotland and therefore it hit home, they wanted to see the history of Scotland, the pipes and drums of Scotland. Attractions that are in the new series should be getting ready for the Outlander effect.”

His colleague Professor John Lennon said: “The sites in the new series, which maybe are not obviously in Scotland, but are located in the new series [in North America] will still see visitors rise simply because of the chatter and the discussion on the internet and the fact that people pick this up and put them on guided tours, so they will see that surge in visitation.

“The beauty of the Outlander effect is that it’s at places that traditionally haven’t seen visitor numbers in the hundreds of thousands up until now.”

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Suzanne Gilles, who helps run the Buttercup Cafe in Doune village, half a mile from the castle, said: “It’s good for business, we get people from all over the world. They ask lots of questions about things like how far away Loch Lomond is, but I am happy to help. You want to sell your own country, want them to leave Scotland with a positive experience.”

Vicki Chapman Campbell rented out the historic manor house Old Newton of Doune, overlooking the castle, to the cast and crew during filming of Outlander. She said: “I like having the buzz so I am pro-Outlander, but I can understand that traffic, parking and those kind of things are a bit of a nuisance for the people that live on the main street.”

Ann Daly of Mary’s Meanders tour guide company, which leads trips to Outlander sites across Scotland, warned sites from series five to be prepared if they want to cash in.

She said: “To really take advantage of what’s coming up, places need to be ready to welcome Outlander visitors – who’re very enthusiastic. One thing you must do if you’re expecting Outlander visitors is you need to have watched Outlander so you know what you’re talking about.”