IT doesn't seem the most likely destination to find stars of the small screen hanging around.

But a nondescript former factory on an industrial estate in North Lanarkshire is being hailed as a potential "game-changer" for the Scotland's film and television industry.

Filming will begin this month on a time-travelling adventure series for major US cable network Starz, based on the best-selling Outlander novels by American author Diana Gabaldon.

The books - which have sold 20 million copies worldwide and attract a devoted following - tell the story of a 20th-century nurse who goes back to the 18th century and meets a Scottish swashbuckling Jacobite. To the uninitiated, Outlander is a kind of cross between The Time Traveller's Wife and The Highlander.

While the producers have initially committed to filming one series - which will be screened by Starz next year - hopes are high that Outlander will be Scotland's answer to Game of Thrones, the HBO fantasy drama based at studios in Belfast that has provided a huge boost to Northern Ireland's film and tourism industry.

Starz, which is best known for the TV serials The White Queen, Spartacus and Da Vinci's Demons has drafted in some big names to work on the show. The executive producer is Ronald D Moore, known for his work on TV series such as Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, while the first two episodes will be directed by John Dahl, known for his work on hit American shows Breaking Bad, Dexter, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Homeland and Hannibal.

Many details of the production are being kept tightly under wraps and only a handful of cast have been announced so far, including Scottish actor Sam Heughan in the lead role of Jamie Fraser.

However, the Sunday Herald has learned that the huge former Isola plant in Cumbernauld - which closed in 2006 - is being converted to hold two sound stages, half a dozen or so digital editing suites, costume and props storage and manufacturing facilities.

Last week there were few outward signs of activity at the site, and many of those working at nearby businesses on the industrial estate seemed to be unaware of the production's presence.

However, a catering van worker said: "There has been a few comings and goings. I understand there is going to be 200 extras at a time - it is good for Cumbernauld and employment here and it is good for us."

Speaking from her home in Flagstaff, Arizona, author Diana Gabaldon told the Sunday Herald the Scottish setting of her books was a "very strong influence" on their popularity and she was delighted the series was being filmed in Scotland.

Gabaldon also revealed she had never visited Scotland prior to writing her first novel. She said: "I wrote Outlander entirely from library research, but I have visited Scotland many times since. I think I have been there between 15 or 20 times by this time, and in fact my youngest daughter has married a Scotsman.

"Inverness is one of my three favourite cities in the world, along with Flagstaff where I grew up and Christchurch in New Zealand."

She added: "I couldn't tell you how many people I have heard from who became fascinated in their own Scottish roots, their history or genealogy through reading the books and ended up going to Scotland or taking tours round and becoming very interested, joining clan societies and the like."

Gabaldon said she was planning to visit the set in Cumbernauld in November to watch some of the filming and "perhaps do a cameo" for one of the shows.