THEY will travel from as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the US, Spain and Germany to congregate in Scotland and celebrate their shared love of all things Outlander.

 

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Next weekend marks the second annual Outlandish UK Gathering which takes place at Crieff Hydro in Perthshire. Some 200 fans of Diana Gabaldon's books and the television series are set to attend. Testament to the soaring popularity of Outlander, the event is sold out.

Lisa Lyall, who is a co-founder of Outlandish UK Gathering, said that things had "snowballed" since the TV series was announced in 2013.

The Outlandish UK Gathering has grown out of a 30-strong group who decided to meet in Edinburgh last summer and visit some of the locations which featured in the books.

"The second book, Dragonfly in Amber, has a lot of storylines about the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace and the World's End pub," says Lyall. "Last May we had 120 people come to Edinburgh from 10 different countries.

"A lot of people wanted to do it again. This year we have 200 people coming from 15 different countries including Canada, the US, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand."

The convention-style event, the biggest of its kind in Europe, will feature a guided tour of key locations including Doune Castle and Culross, in Fife.

There will also be guest speakers including herbalist Claire MacKay, who worked as a consultant on the show, and Gaelic singer Gillebride MacMillan who played Gwyllin the Bard, followed by a dinner and ceilidh.

Lyall, 40, a commodity buyer from Kelso discovered the books four years ago. An avid reader, the mother of two admits that she "never thought in a million years" it would take her down this path.

"I'm sure a lot of our members will be the same," she says. "We want to make sure Diana's books and the TV show are supported because it's a great story and should be shared."

Edinburgh-based Stephenie McGucken, 25, fell in love with Outlander in her freshman year of college after picking up a copy to keep her occupied on a 17-hour road trip from Phoenix City, Alabama, to Pennsylvania.

"My mother and I were meant to split the driving, but once I started reading I refused to drive and made her do the entire trip herself because I was into my book," she recalls.

After completing her undergraduate degree in medieval studies, McGucken did a masters in history of art at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. She moved to Scotland to work on her PhD at Edinburgh University two years ago.

It was at the Inverness screening of the independent film Emulsion last year - which stars Outlander leading man Sam Heughan - McGucken first connected with other fans. Once filming on Outlander began, McGucken and a few others started to visit the set, taking home-made cakes to help sweeten their passage with the cast and crew. The Outlandish Bakers were born.

McGucken says that their success in regularly tracking down the filming locations was often sheer luck. "Some of the girls would be driving past somewhere and spot a location sign," she says. "I run a post-graduate society at the university and a couple of times I was researching a trip, noticed that certain properties were due to be closed and thought: 'Oh, I wonder if that's anything to do with Outlander?' It doesn't take much to find them. It is a massive production."

There is a core group of 10 bakers but they have collected recipes from fans all over the world which will be included in an Outlander-themed book to be launched in Crieff next week.

It contains many of the favourite treats of the cast, such as the banoffee pie loved by Caitriona Balfe and Heughan's beloved peanut butter cookies (see Magazine interview), alongside traditional fare including tablet and shortbread.

All proceeds from the Outlandish Bakers Guide to Desserts, which will be published in print and ebook format, will go to Scottish Autism.

The cast and crew have been vocal in their gratitude to the Outlandish Bakers. Heughan in particular regularly name checks them in interviews.

"It was never our intention to get any sort of notoriety," insists McGucken "We just wanted to say thanks to the cast and crew for working their butts off to make such an amazing show.

"The first time they mentioned us was at San Diego Comic Con. There was a few of us watching the live stream and heard Sam say: 'the Outlandish Bakers'. We all screamed because we couldn't believe it.

"It has got to the point where my mum, who used to brag about me doing a PhD in Scotland, now tells people: 'My daughter is one of the bakers!'"

For more on Outlander, see our interview with star Sam Heughan and his take on his place in the 'Heughliverse'