HER thrilling tales of a star-crossed romance played out across the backdrop of the Jacobite Rebellion have enthralled readers across the globe and amazed audiences after they were brought to the small screen.

Now the Outlander author Diana Gabaldon is to be honoured at the Scottish tourism ‘Oscars’ tonight, as a new research paper reveals the extent of the effect her creation has had on attracting people to the country.

According to the latest research, historic locations used in the TV adaption of the series have seen a huge boost in visitor numbers, soaring from 887,000 to 1.5 million since it first aired in 2014.

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Outlander's central romance between Claire anjd Jamie has set pulses racing

In recognition, Ms Gabaldon will receive a special “International Contribution to Scottish Tourism” award from VisitScotland at the Scottish Thistle Awards, the industry’s premier awards ceremony, to mark the 50th anniversary of the national tourism organisation.

She said: "I'm deeply honoured, and so pleased, at being given the Thistle Award. To be quite honest, I chose Scotland as the setting for my first novel because of a man in a kilt, but upon looking into things more deeply, was enchanted to discover a country and a people like no other, whose traditions and history are as strikingly beautiful as its landscapes.”

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The Outlander Effect & Tourism paper, published today by the tourism body’s Insight team, lays out the startling benefits the series has had on Scotland's visitor hotspots.

Doune Castle near Stirling, which doubles as Castle Leoch in the show, has seen the largest surge in visitor numbers – more than tripling from 38,081 to 124,341.

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Doune Castle

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Glasgow Cathedral

Blackness Castle on the Firth of Forth, which features as Black Jack Randall’s headquarters, saw tourist visits increase from 15,197 the year before Outlander appeared on TV to more than 42,000 in 2017.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Cathedral (66.8%), which stood in for a French hospital during filming, saw visitors rise from 233,172 to 389,101.

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As part of the Insight paper, all Scottish visitor attractions were surveyed to discover how screen tourism and Outlander has impacted on their business.

Almost all respondents considered 'screen tourism' as positive for the industry and a fifth of attractions located adjacent to filming locations said they saw an increase in visitors.

The findings also reveal that the dedicated Outlander page on visitscotland.com was the fifth most popular VisitScotland webpage in the time between the broadcast of Season Three and Season Four of the TV series – with Scotland’s standing stones, castles and ancestry among the most popular link clicks.

Outlander depicts the adventures of English World War II combat nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), who travels back in time to 18th century Scotland where she meets and falls in love with Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).

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A further seven novels and nine spin-off books have been published in 43 countries and in 39 languages, selling more than 35 million printed copies worldwide.

The honorary award is one of a series of activities taking place this year to recognise the Development of Tourism Act which came into force in 1969 and formed the basis for an official Scottish Tourist Board, and the origins of VisitScotland.

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Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “The impact of Outlander on Scotland has been truly extraordinary. It has been amazing to see the global reaction to Diana Gabaldon’s stories of adventure, romance and Scottish history – and the subsequent television adaptation – and seeing it translate into visitor growth for Scotland.

“Over 200 years ago Sir Walter Scott published his first historical novel, Waverley, which inspired visitors and helped create the modern tourism industry. It seems only fitting that during our golden anniversary, we recognise another Jacobean tale and its author for inspiring many more.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: “Scotland’s wonderful landscapes, rich history and culture continue to captivate visitors from home and abroad, making tourism one of our most important industries.

“The Scottish Thistle Awards celebrates quality, innovation and excellence across this industry, and it’s a pleasure to join with VisitScotland in its 50th year to recognise those who make such a vital contribution to our visitor economy.”

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Rebecca Brooks, Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards, said: “The Scottish Thistle Awards is Scotland’s premier awards for the industry and recognises those individuals and businesses who have made a huge impact on Scottish tourism.

"This year, as VisitScotland marks its 50th anniversary, we are delighted to honour Diana Gabaldon for the role she has played in contributing to Scotland's growing tourism sector.”