A historic war grave at Culloden Battlefield is to undergo major repairs after unprecedented visitor numbers – led by a mass of Outlander fans – left the ground bare.
The move to protect the Clan Fraser memorial stone comes just weeks after obsessed fans of the hit time-travelling TV series were asked to respect the battlefield.
The National Trust for Scotland has now applied to Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for permission to repair the turf surface, as the site is a designated scheduled monument.
Katey Boal, interim property manager at Culloden said: “As part of our ongoing maintenance at the battlefield, we’re planning to reseed grass around the Fraser stone.
“Footfall is a factor here, but the wet and cold weather this winter has exacerbated this.
“There has been an increase in interest thanks to Outlander. We see this as an excellent opportunity to engage with a new audience, giving these visitors a deeper insight into the real life events that inspired the series.”
The Battle of Culloden, near Inverness, features heavily in the cult hit series about a time-travelling World War II nurse transported to Scotland during the Jacobite uprising.
And while Alasdair MacNeill, of the Circle of Gentlemen, the once-secret group set up in the aftermath of the Rebellion, appreciates the increase in visitors, he warned it is having an impact on the historic site.
He said: “These graves are only a foot deep. We really would ask that people respect what is a designated war grave where 1,200 men lie.
“Some of the things I have seen at Culloden have really got my back up.
“A lot of the visitors are American and seem to think they are on a film set rather than a war grave.
“They maybe don’t know the history. But how would they feel if I walked my dog across Gettysburg?”
Fans often leave little cardboard cutouts of Sam Heughan, the Scottish actor who stars as Jacobite warrior Jamie Fraser in the drama, and leave the path to gather at the grave.
Ms Boal admitted it was hard to estimate how many visitors were Outlander fans, but welcomed the face more than 180,000 people flocked to the battlefield last year – up 28% on 2016.
She added: “The vast majority of visitors conduct themselves completely appropriately and treat the site and its features with respect. Where there are concerns, our staff always try to deal sensitively with issues as they arise.
“Throughout the peak visitor season staff are on the battlefield regularly throughout the day, and of course, there are signs making it clear that this is a war grave.”
HES last night confirmed they had been in talks with NTS about the damage around the Clan Fraser memorial, and that repairs would start soon.
A spokesman said:“We were recently approached by the owners of the site, the NTS, regarding concerns about the ground conditions around the memorial and its erosion due to visitor numbers and increasingly wet conditions.
“We provided the trust with advice gained from our own experience of similar conditions at our managed sites.
“We recently granted Scheduled Monument Consent to the Trust, which is required for any works to a scheduled monument. This will enable repairs to get underway.”