As you may have expected, the very first episode of Outlander opens with a beautiful shot of a rugged Scottish glen.

Pipes are playing. And as the camera sweeps over the moor and heather and rock, it is not voice of Sam Heughan, the Scottish poster-boy of the £50m American TV series that the viewer first hears, but the clipped tones of Caitriona Balfe, an Irish actress who plays the central role of time-travelling English nurse Claire Randall.

Indeed, as the languorous first episode of Outlander, the Scottish-shot series based on the best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon, gently rolls across the screen, it becomes clear that it is Balfe who is at the heart of the show - her time-travelling adventures as well as an ever-present voiceover which is used to help the viewer become acquainted with her feelings. This is her past and present and future.

Months after it was premiered on the Starz network in the US, Outlander is finally coming to UK viewers - or, at least, for those that pay for it - later this week when it appears on the Amazon Prime streaming service. The first eight episodes of Season One will be available from March 26; the remaining episodes will then launch weekly from April 5, each episode being released every Sunday just hours after broadcast in the US. Amazon Prime has also secured the rights to further "series".

How is it? Well, it is a tale of drama, romance, time-travel, sex (of which there's quite of lot), violence, and 18th-century politics and war. Gaelic is spoken, but not subtitled as the ruggedly handsome "Scottish rebels and brigands" fight against the evil red jackets of the UK state (boo). It is well made and winningly performed by the main players. Balfe has a clipped English middle-class voice straight from 1946, and Heughan, as Jamie Fraser - when not in various stages of suffering - is an amiable romantic lead.

It is Claire, a Second World War nurse on a second honeymoon to Inverness with her husband (the gruff Tobias Menzies), who becomes the key character, especially in the first episode, as she stumbles through time via a bewitched stone circle and ends up literally in the arms of Jamie's Gaelic-speaking group of Highland warriors.

There is, as she relates, "pain and death and heartbreak" in her new world, and Heughan certainly has a tough time of it: we meet him with a dislocated shoulder, before he is shot and covered in both his own blood and that of an enemy or two. There is, as she mentally re-adjusts to her shifting time, also a neat joke: as she spies Highlanders and Redcoats fighting in the trees, she thinks "perhaps I had stepped onto the set of a costume drama of some sort".

Indeed, she has, and one that has made a significant impact on the Scottish screen industry, with implications beyond the well-made drama that viewers will spy next week. The show itself was premiered in the US to generally warm reviews and success, with five million viewers for the first episode. The fact that it was filmed in Scotland has been lauded at every turn by the Scottish Government and has been exploited by Visit Scotland to attract more visitors here. It has been estimated that the series has already has brought £20m to the Scottish economy.

Outlander has also managed to work its own strange magic on Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire. Here, a studio in a warehouse was created by Sony Pictures Television, its producers. This is the production base for the show, but it was also shot on location across the country - at Doune Castle in Perthshire, Falkland and Culross in Fife, Blackness Castle in West Lothian, the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore, and Pollok Park in Glasgow. Around 300 crew and 2,000 actors worked on the show. And the production will return this year, when filming begins on 13 episodes of the second series, based on the second book in Gabaldon's series, Dragonfly In Amber.

Not only that, it appears that this Cumbernauld site, or one close to it, is now in the running for being developed into Scotland's first and long-awaited film studio. Scottish Enterprise are now performing "due diligence" on the site and Fiona Hyslop, the culture secretary, says an announcement on the plan will come in April.

The choice of Cumbernauld for a national studio has already led to a public spat between North Lanarkshire Council and Glasgow City Council over the wisdom of the location - and it remains to be seen whether a private studio there, backed by at least some public funds from the government, can compete in the international film and television world.

Amazon Prime are clearly hoping that the many Outlander fans in the UK can drive more customers to its streaming service, which only launched here in February last year. The show will be in good company alongside original and exclusive TV shows such as Transparent, Ripper Street, Bosch, Vikings, and Mozart In The Jungle.

Heughan, it is understood, is relieved that "finally" Outlander is coming to UK viewers. The apparent delay in the show reaching these shores was never explained by Sony, and at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last year even Gabaldon seemed a little bemused, and added: "There has been talk and rumour and speculation, even though there is no evidence on which to speculate, but the most common rumour is they are waiting until after the Scottish referendum - but there is no evidence to suggest that is true."

The final means of its transmission, on a subscription service and not a more popular format such as a terrestrial TV service or digital channel, has also not delighted all Outlander fans, although it can be viewed on Fire tablets, iPads and iPhones, as well as game systems like Xbox and PlayStation.

Meanwhile, Heughan, 34, from the Borders, said he is looking forward to returning to Scotland to film again with Balfe. "It's nice for me to be working back in Scotland, and it's a new place for her, so she's been discovering it," he said last week in an interview with a fashion magazine. "And yesterday we were both in LA and went out for sushi. We talked about it when we were on the Scottish moors, for the show. We were like, 'Oh my god, let's go and do sushi when we're in LA', so we've been hitting up all the top sushi spots here. But I miss those moors. We were talking about it yesterday, how we can't wait to go back and get out there again."

Creative Scotland, which provided some funding for the Outlander studio, are delighted it is finally being shown in the UK. "Scotland's landscapes have provided author Diana Gabaldon with inspiration for her best-selling novels and the show presents them at their very best," says Natalie Usher, its director of film. "Scottish production spend figures reached historical highs of £33.7m in 2013 and in excess of £40m in 2014 largely due to Outlander establishing itself in Scotland."

Mike Cantlay, the chairman of VisitScotland, added: "Outlander has a massive fanbase, particularly in North America, and audiences have been captivated by the TV show's blend of stunning Scottish scenery, its romance and its history. But with the domestic market accounting for more than 80% of visitors to Scotland, there is a real buzz around the fact the series will soon be available to viewers in the UK.

"Scotland is the land that inspired Outlander and we are seeing more and more tourism businesses, including accommodation providers and visitor attractions, looking at ways they can capitalise on the show."

The first eight episodes of Outlander are available on Amazon Prime Instant Video from Thursday