Outlander star Sam Heughan said the hit TV show has been ‘life-changing’ for the Scottish tourism industry.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the sixth series early next year, Heughan, 41, said the time travelling show spawned an interest in Scotland and helped boost visitor numbers.

Heughan said: “Outlander has spawned an interest in Scotland, it’s created a film studio that wasn’t there before.

“It’s been life-changing for the tourism industry and also for our careers.

"Scotland is always at the heart of Outlander – I’ve always said it’s like another character in the show.”

Filming of series six of Outlander was held up for months by the pandemic, but Heughan suggested the show would be better than ever when it returned.

Heughan said: “It’s a shortened season of eight episodes, but the episodes are much longer – the first episode runs for around an hour and a half.

“That extra time spent with the characters means they are really strong episodes and there are a whole load of new characters coming in.”

The actor and his Outlander co-star Graham McTavish, 60, were speaking at the launch of their new book, a spin-off from travel show Men in Kilts.

The pair developed the new show when the pandemic brought production on Outlander to a halt.

McTavish said he had an idea to make a series of films about clans to sell on DVD to clan members living abroad back in 1991 - but no one was interested at the time.

He said: “I’ve always been very interested in Scottish history and, in particular, the clans.

"I had this great plan in 1991 that I was going to make a series of films about clans and then sell them on DVD to clan members living abroad, but nobody was interested at the time.

“It’s so lovely to be talking about something like that 30 years later that has actually come true.

"We’ve been terribly lucky. 

“We were able to write the first book because of the lockdown we were experiencing. 

“If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t know if we’d have been able to do it.

“The way we did the show it was almost entirely unscripted, but it kept it very spontaneous and real.”

Heughan added: “Men In Kilts was pretty much one of the first shows to start shooting with Covid protocols after the first lockdown.

"We were very fortunate in that we had a very small crew, we were up in the Highlands and we were outdoors a lot as well.

"We drew upon a lot of contacts I had from various photoshoots and we had a fantastic crew from Outlander.

“We have a great core group of people and because everyone had been locked up, we were all so excited to be outdoors and working together. We were like a travelling family.”