EVERY good bodice-ripper needs one. No period drama is complete without a leading man who gets the ladies’ hearts fluttering.

There was shirtless Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy wading out of the lake in the 1990s TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Or Clark Gable setting southern belle Vivien Leigh’s lips quivering as rake Rhett Butler in the “glorious colour” of Gone with the Wind.

But the hunk who really makes history is Scotland’s Sam Heughan.

The actor has developed a cult following for his portrayal of Highlander Jamie Fraser in American time-travel drama Outlander.

But it is not just his swishing kilt and Gaelic charm that thrills many a viewer.

Heughan has been named the sexiest TV period drama star. And not just of Scotland, or of just now, but of the world and forever.

The 39-year-old, who seems blissfully unaware of his great honour, vanquished Aidan Turner – that is TV’s Ross Poldark to most of us – for the title. Heughan became a star in America while still enjoying anonymity at home in Scotland, where Outlander is available on catch-up service Amazon.

Speaking to The Herald in 2015, the Kirkcudbrightshire-born actor said he was not being mobbed by fans on his visits home.

“In Scotland we are very different, aren’t we? We do take it with a pinch of salt. Glasgow is certainly a place where they will tell you if they don’t think you are anything special.

“So far people have been really delightful when they do recognise me.”

As the new survey of history hotties shows, Mr Heughan is now in a different league.

In fact he is up there in with Sean Connery and Gerard Butler – stars of the big screen – among Scotland’s loveliest lads .

Buzzfeed, the online news site that pioneered listicles, puts Mr Heughan at number six.

That is ahead of Mr Connery – Double Oh Seven is number eight – but behind Dougray Scott, James McAvoy, Ewan McGregor, Richard Madden and the reigning champion of cute, Gerard Butler.

Heughan, who had turns on English idyll homicide-fest Midsomer Murders and Edinburgh crime drama Rebus before getting his Gaelic gig, has other projects coming up. He recently wrapped filming on the fifth season of Outlander which is set to premiere in February.

Outlander author Diana Gabaldon praised the star’s performance, saying: “That man is a Scot to the bone and Jamie Fraser to the heart.”

Over 150,000 TV fans voted in the final for the website British Period Dramas. Heughan took nearly three quarters of the votes.

The final followed a semi-final this summer, in which Colin Firth and Dan Stevens (from Downton Abbey) were knocked out of the running.

The search to discover TV’s sexiest British period drama star ever began earlier this year with a shortlist of 25 actors, which included Richard Armitage in North & South, Sean Bean in Sharpe, James Norton in Grantchester and Richard Madden in global sensation Game of Thrones.

Also on the list is Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders, Alexander Dreymon in The Last Kingdom, David Oyelowo in Les Miserables, Damian Lewis in The Forsyte Saga and Tom Hughes in Victoria.

Outlander charts the adventures of Claire Randall, a former Second World War nurse played by Irish actor Caitriona Balfe.

Randall is on a second honeymoon to Scotland with her husband Frank in 1945 when she is transported back to 1743 courtesy of a mysterious set of standing stones.

It is here, on the cusp of the Jacobite rising, that she meets the dashing Fraser and a mesmerising love story unfolds.

But Gabaldon, who wrote the books the series is based on, this summer rejected criticism that Outlander’s popularity was down simply to the star’s raw sex appeal. “What women mostly say they like is the intelligence of the story and the complexity and strength of the relationship between Jamie and Claire,” she said.

“They also love the visual beauty of the show and the emotional depth of the acting.”

She added: “If you’re looking for a place to lean in, though, I think maybe ‘intelligence’ might be a good place to start.”

True enough, it’s not just Scots manhood that lures viewers of Outlander.

Our landscape does too. Sex sells but so does scenery.

To capitalise on the Outlander effect, VisitScotland has revamped a locations map – to include scenes from the fourth season of the show.

For tourism bosses, Heughan and his character look pretty sexy.