The beautiful thing about a show like Outlander, is there are so many things to love about it. The romance, of course, is a big draw, as is the action, drama, incredible acting and writing, and so much more. But the coolest part of about watching it is you learn things that happened in history that you maybe never would have had you not watched the show. But not everything is 100% accurate, of course.
While Outlander may be a show that is considered fantasy/historical fiction there are actually plenty of important events and details that are completely historically accurate. But because it is a fictional show, there are certain things that occur that are plainly inaccurate. These glaring mishaps are hard to miss and make you wonder if it was a purposeful mistake for creative purposes or if they just dropped the ball this time.
Regardless, it is a fascinating story that makes history all the more appealing to learn about for those who may not have been initially interested in it. It is still important to differentiate the truth from fiction and that's where we come in. Read on to see the 10 Things That Are Historically Accurate (And 10 Things That Aren't) from Outlander.
Castle Leoch is a prominent castle shown throughout the series. It is home to Jamie’s Uncle, Colum Mackenzie, and his clan, after all. The medieval castle is actually known as Doune Castle in Perthshire and was built in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany.
Another notable castle from the show would be known as Blackness Castle, but fans of Outlander will know it better as the infamous Fort William. As we all know, this was the setting for Black Jack Randall’s main headquarters in the series. It is an ex-artillery fortress in reality and a 15th-century marvel of a castle.
There was some artistic licensing happening when the author of the Outlander books, Diana Gabaldon, wrote the witch trial scene in the first Outlander book. It was also later portrayed in the show’s first season. This was Laoghaire accused both Geillis and Claire of witchcraft, mostly to get back at Claire for "stealing" Jamie from her.
But the last witch trial in Scotland actually took place over twenty years prior, in 1722. In fact, there was a law by the 1740s that said it was illegal to accuse someone of being a witch. So the whole storyline is completely off-base for the time period.
The Battle of Culloden was a pivotal point in the series, but also in history. The Jacobites were indeed led by Bonnie Prince Charlie into the infamous battle where many Scots’ lives were stolen that day.
The way it was portrayed in the show was very accurate, aside from the fictional characters who were participating in the war. It was a bloody fight that the Jacobites quickly lost. The clans were forever changed after this battle and things never went back to being how they were before the war. And much like the show, no one ever heard from the Bonnie Prince again once he fled.
The standing stones at Craigh Na Dun happen to be what sets forth pretty much all of the events in the series. From Claire going through the stones the first time, to the times she tried to make her way back to get to her own time, to when she was sent back, reluctantly, to her time before Culloden, to finally when she went back to Craigh Na Dun to reunite with Jamie. None of this would have occurred without them.
But in reality, these standing stones don’t exist. At least, not these particular ones. There are, however, other standing stones throughout Scotland that are very similar in nature. Though, they probably won’t send you back in time.
This is an interesting tidbit of information that not all Outlander fans are aware of. Jamie Fraser’s character was actually loosely based off a real-life Jacobite soldier who survived the Battle Of Culloden.
Author Diana Gabaldon said he was developed after reading the book, Prince in the Heather, that describes an account where “19 wounded Jacobites hid in a farmhouse after the battle.” They were all executed after two days under the command of the Red Coat’s, except for one man, of course. This man was “a Fraser of the Master of Lovat’s regiment, who survived the slaughter.”
He likely wasn't named Jamie Fraser, but it's fun to imagine that they are one and the same.
On a sweepingly romantic show like Outlander, it would be difficult to enjoy the passionate and steamy scenes as much if we were hit with the reality of how bad they all must have smelled.
It isn’t portrayed really at all on the show, but in actuality, back in the 18th-century, there were no toothbrushes, toothpaste, or even soap. So you can only imagine if you were around during that time, everyone would be decidedly less attractive and decidedly more stench-ridden.
That may have been completely normal back then, but now it would be quite nauseating. This is one inaccuracy we’re glad to have on the show, all things considered.
Things were not so great for women back in 18th-century Scotland. Well, the 18th-century in general. But in Scotland, women weren’t looked at as even second-class citizens. They were viewed as men’s property.
There were plenty of examples of this in Outlander, including one instance early-on in Jamie and Claire’s relationship. Jamie decided as his husband, it was his “duty” to punish Claire for her behavior that led to her being captured by Red Coats.
Claire eventually showed him that they should be partners, rather than Jamie being in charge of Claire. But most men of that time would not have agreed to these circumstances.
Claire was a WWII nurse before she went back through the stones at Craigh Na Dun. When we first see her, the war has just ended. In the way the war’s ending was depicted in the series, it looked as if everything went back to “normal”, so to speak, soon after it ended.
But it actually took years for things to go back to normal for everyone involved in the war. It wasn’t until 1947 that things seemed to be status quo. So this was definitely an instance where it benefitted the story more than it was actually historically accurate.
Who could forget Jamie's oddball relative, Lord Lovat? He had quite the personality when we first met him in season 2. Simon Fraser, also known as the Old Fox, was also an actual historical figure and the 11th Lord Lovat. On the show, he is the father of Brian Fraser and grandfather of Jamie Fraser, which is how his character is interweaved in the storylines with our lead hero.
Though he was not actually related to a Jamie Fraser, that we know of, in Scottish history, he was a real person that author Diana Gabaldon used as a character in her story. According to her, she also stayed very close to his personality in her portrayal of him in Outlander.
This is actually a pretty big inaccuracy in the story. See, there are two clan Frasers. One is the highland clan - Clan Fraser of Lovat - which is Jamie’s clan. And there is also a related lowland Fraser family.
The Fraser of Lovat’s tartans were actually bold red and green in the clan’s kilts, but on the show, they instead wear grey and blue tartans. This was a creative costume choice but a big historical inaccuracy.
Maybe the actual Fraser clan colors were too flashy for Outlander's setting and story but it is odd that they wouldn't want their key players to be sporting accurate tartan colors.
There are several instances on the show where the Scots superstitions are highlighted in different characters. Even in the pilot, Samhain was being celebrated and is known as the Day of the Dead. Samhain is a Celtic holiday where “spirits are free to roam amongst the living”.
There was also talk of fairies and witches and other Highland myths. The folklore that occurred on the show was also highly believed by the Scots during that time period. It greatly affected their lives and would alter their decisions if something they didn't understand came up. Instead of figuring it out, they assumed it was some type of sorcery or dark magic that they wanted no part of.
The portrayal of the highly superstitious moments on the show was incredibly accurate for that time.
There are weapons that either aid in offensive or defensive moves in a battle. So when going up against your enemy on the battlefield, you should not only have your offensive weapon but a defensive weapon, too. For the Jacobites not to have both was alarming for those who noticed.
Targe is an old-English word for a shield and during the 18th-century battles that the Scots participated in in the Jacobite Rebellion, they used targes as their main defense against the Red Coat’s weaponry, including bayonets.
But during the battles on Outlander, there were very few men on the field with targes, even though they were carrying broadswords. The two go hand in hand if they wanted a chance of getting out of there alive. This was likely something that was overlooked but was still noticeable by viewers.
In rural Scotland in the 18th-century, there were not a lot of options for medical treatments. There wasn’t even much knowledge there about medicine in general. There definitely wasn't a local hospital for the Scots to go to should a problem arise. So seeing Claire go from being a modern-day nurse to a healer in Scotland was very interesting.
We see her adapt to the herbs and natural remedies to treat different ailments that the people in Scotland endure. Modern methods of medicine did not exist during this time, so it was incredibly accurate to see the struggles Claire had in finding correct treatments while still succeeding in her endeavor.
Her success came from her previous knowledge, ability to adapt, and her intelligence level. But not everyone in that situation would be so lucky.
During an incredible scene in season 2 of Outlander, Claire pretends to be taken by the Jacobites so that Jamie can threaten her if the farmer’s son - who grows up to be Lord John Grey - doesn’t help them win the battle the following day. He complies in hopes of saving Claire from harm, though she was never really in any danger.
Their strategy to go through the marshy bog and surprise their enemies camp came from Grey’s information on the show, but in reality, it was a general in the Jacobite army who helped come up with the strategy. He had grown up in the area of Prestonpans and knew about the bog. It was interesting to see how they changed it to better the storyline of the show.
On a historical fiction show like Outlander, it is important to include battle scenes not only for historical accuracy but for drama and action to be a part of the storyline. It ties everything together and one of the best battles shown was the Battle of Prestonpans.
The Battle of Prestonpans was a battle that the Jacobites actually succeeded in, unlike the tragic Battle of Culloden. Because of their astonishing battle strategy of sneaking up on the enemy through the bog to their campsite in the wee hours of the morning, they had the upper hand.
This was a very real strategy, as we discussed, that a Jacobite general came up. The way the entire battle happened on the show was an incredibly realistic portrayal of the real-life battle.
Sure, there were plenty of mistakes made at the hands of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the leader of the Jacobite Rebellion. The first one being he went to Scotland in pursuit of the crown with basically no army at the ready. He quite honestly, had no idea what he was really up against in his fight against England.
He was not the best leader, either. But while Andrew Gower gave a fantastic performance as the Bonnie Prince on Outlander, the way he was written as a bumbling idiot was a bit over-exaggerated. Of course, not all of his personality was false, but he certainly was not as oblivious as he appeared on the Starz series.
Typically, when people think of Prince Charlie, he's either idiotic or a romanticized version. But in reality, there was a middle ground with the Prince.
During the time period of the Jacobite Rebellion, Highlander Scots were largely lower class and did not have a lot of money to their name. This meant that their clothes were ragged and their weaponry was slim. If they even had any to claim as their own.
When we see Jamie forming his army for the rebellion, we see his soldiers from the Highlands depicted in the same way as they would have looked in the 18th-century. From their clothing to their pitchforks in hand and other small details, it is clear that these men did not come from money.
It's this attention to detail that proves that both author Diana Gabaldon and the writers on the show do know their history, very well, in fact.
The way that the Jacobite Uprising was shown on Outlander, it seemed as though it was only England versus all of Scotland in the war. This heightened the tensions between many characters and made Claire’s arrival in Scotland as an English woman all the more frightening for the Scots. This is why Colum and Dougal were so concerned that she was actually a spy for the English. (Little did they know she had accidentally time-traveled.)
But historically, there were Scots on the side of the English rather than all Scotsmen being a part of the Jacobite Rebellion. It was mostly Highlanders who were a part of the rebellion, but even then, not all of them wanted a part in the war.
This change in history was another way Outlander amped up the drama with their creative choices.
We have to give serious props to the costume designer on Outlander, Terry Dresbach, for her phenomenal ability to recreate fashions from the time periods shown on Outlander. This even includes the fashions for specific countries in the 18th-century.
It turns out, too, that her recreations are very spot-on for what women during that time would be wearing. Particularly the Scottish ensembles the women wore. The tight corsets and extra padding of the pannier that we see Claire regularly wear is exactly what a Scottish woman would be donning in the 18th-century.
We can't imagine it is an easy task to undertake. In season 2 alone, she created over 10,000 costumes for the cast that were impeccably detailed and brought you back to that time seamlessly.
Claire not only was a gifted nurse during WWII but became a gifted healer in the 18th-century. But apparently, she could have had even more at her disposal when treating patients while in France in season 2.
When Claire went to Master Raymond’s Apothecary during the time she spent in Paris with Jamie, she received many herbs and natural medicinals to help treat Jamie and others. But France actually had much more modern medical treatments at the time that were not showcased on the show.
This was likely a creative choice to amp up the drama and make the medical treatments seem much more dated, but it was definitely not accurate for 18th-century France. But at least we got to see her friendship with Master Raymond blossom.