9 Reasons Why Outlander is the Best Scottish Book-to-Screen Adaptation

9 reasons why Outlander is the best Scottish book-to-screen adaptation
Category: Reading

The television adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling historical fiction series has triumphed in the Book Week Scotland Scottish book-to-screen public vote. Take a look at some of the reasons why I think Outlander was voted the winner.

1. It’s a love story for the ages

Diana Gabaldon has officially gone on record to say that Outlander is NOT a love story. While I do agree that Outlander has so much more to offer than an epic romance, it is still one of the main reasons the books and TV show are so beloved by many. Fans can’t help but feel a bit jealous while watching Jamie and Claire’s eternal love for one another unfold page after page or scene after scene.

Scene from Outlander

2. It celebrates, and uses, the Gaelic language

One of the really under-celebrated things about the Outlander series is its promotion of Scottish Gaelic. The cast of the TV show were aided by a Gaelic coach, who ensured the actors’ use of Gaelic was accurate and believable. One of the most famous Gaelic words in Outlander is, of course, “Sassenach”: Jamie’s pet name for Claire, which means an English person or an outlander. However, it’s not just the Gaelic language that Outlander celebrates. Diana Gabaldon and the TV show’s screenwriters also showcase Scots and some French.

3. A strong female character in a lead role

As far as strong female leads go, Claire is one of the best you can find in books and on TV. She is clever – a trained nurse (and later a doctor) and an avid student of botany among many other things. She is brave – I don’t know about you but I would not face those Highlanders and Redcoats with quite the same confidence and grace that Claire does. She is also nurturing and caring without losing her tenacity and strength. She saves Jamie as much as he saves her and she keeps him in check whenever his brutish 18th-century ways rear their ugly head.

4. It’s a reasonably accurate retelling of history

Like I said, Outlander is not just a love story. The book-to-screen adaptation tracks the Jacobite revolution from Dougal Mackenzie’s secret fundraising in the first series to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s call to battle in the second. Claire and Jamie’s journey across time and different historical landscapes provides one of the richest portrayals of Scottish history in popular literature – far more accurate than Braveheart, in any case.

5. It’s pure magic!

Outlander is packed with magic. Claire travels through time using ancient standing stones. Pretty cool, huh? There are also allusions to witch hunts and Scottish mythology about baby-stealing fairies and shape-shifting selkies. While the magic is mostly explained away by modern day science, this series is still very much rooted in fantasy worlds.

Clare Randall scene from Outlander

6. The Scottish landscape

It is no secret that Scotland boasts some of the most incredible scenery in the world. Between snow-capped mountains, lush green glens and foreboding, wild lochs, it is easy to see why Scotland makes for such a cinematic backdrop. Through this book-to-screen adaptation, Outlander brings to life the breath taking beauty of the Highlands. The show was filmed in locations across Scotland including Perthshire, Fife and Hopetoun House in Edinburgh. Road trip, anyone? 

7. The music

I get excited every time I hear the “Skye Boat Song”, the title track for the show’s opening credits… “Sing me a song of a lass that is gone…”.  Outlander’s score, written by Bear McCreary, is such a beautiful addition to the show. The traditional Scottish music, complete with bagpipes, adds a sense of triumph and excitement that adds a rich layer to this book-to-screen adaptation

8. The development of a Scottish film industry

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series had already brought fans from across the world to the wild and salty shores of Scotland. The TV adaptation has only added to this. On top of this, unlike Braveheart and Rob Roy, the show is filmed and produced almost entirely in Scotland and it is rumoured that the infrastructure that has grown around it (sound stages, etc.) may lead to the creation of long overdue film studios in Scotland.

9. Jamie Fraser, of course

I couldn’t finish a list about Outlander without mentioning everybody’s favourite wild, red-haired Highlander. Both Jamie in the book and Sam Heughan’s portrayal in the television series have captured the hearts of a lot of fans. Including mine.

Jamie Fraser in Outlander


Find out which Scottish novels Hannah McGill thinks are ripe for screen adaptations

April Smyth

April Smyth is a MSc Publishing Student at Edinburgh Napier University and a lifestyle blogger: https://thefourthmonthblog.wordpress.com.

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