When, in 2013, Hopetoun Estate in West Lothian was approached by a location manager about being part of a new historical drama TV series, the possibilities seemed endless.
After agreement, the 500-year-old Midhope Castle on the estate was soon chosen as one location and filming began on what was then a relatively unknown production called ‘Outlander’.
Although Hopetoun had previously hosted short-term filming for UK companies, the scale of this production was something completely new. As well as providing an exciting opportunity, it represented a huge learning curve for the estate team.
Today, Outlander is a worldwide hit and the impact at Hopetoun has been immense. Hundreds of people visit the estate every month to catch a glimpse of Midhope, which is known as ‘Lallybroch’ in the series – the home of one of its main characters.
Camille Craig, Marketing Manager at Hopetoun, explained: “In 2013 nobody could have estimated the impact our involvement would have, but three years on and we continue to be surprised and never fully prepared for the ‘Outlander effect’.”
Until 2015, there was an attempt to keep Midhope’s part in the production under wraps so that business could continue on the estate as near to normal as possible. However, as the fan base grew, the omnipresence of social media meant it was impossible to keep the location a secret and soon visitors began arriving unannounced in substantial numbers.
When planning for the future, the estate must consider the potential increase in the show’s fan base since this will have an impact on visitor numbers. There is the question of how Midhope can be adapted to cope with more visitors, and whether there can be further commercial benefits for Hopetoun.
Camille added: “Our priority is to make this work for the estate and the Outlander team. It’s offered us a fantastic opportunity to promote our heritage and other areas of the estate, including Hopetoun House which has also been used in a number of episodes.
“We are working hard to allow Outlander fans safe access to Midhope. At the same time we have to manage the normal operations of the estate, the heritage of the buildings and relationships with the adjacent commercial and residential tenants.
“Scotland is a popular film location and many landowners will get approached by production companies. It’s a good idea to think what the implications might be if your land or property becomes part of a global TV hit and fans come knocking on your door. The opportunities are endless, but there are logistical, legal and resource implications. There’s no doubt our involvement in Outlander provides landowners with an excellent case study of what might happen.”