Outlander effect could just be for starters in tourism terms

Diane (far left) grew up in the town and is keen to show it off to international delegates, like those pictured in the town last year.
Diane (far left) grew up in the town and is keen to show it off to international delegates, like those pictured in the town last year.

Lanarkshire has targets to hit for tourism with the hope that visitor numbers will grow by 2.5 per cent.

Realistically, though, what part can Cumbernauld play in those statistics?

Even the town’s biggest champion would struggle to find areas beyond the generous proportions of green space which would automatically act as a magnet to visitors.

Lasting historical treasures are thin on the ground. An outstanding example of William Adam’s work, in the form of Cumbernauld House, has, for example, now been converted into a development of luxury flats.

It’s an issue all too apparent to Adam Smith of Cumbernauld Community Development Trust.

He said: “We campaigned as best as we could to secure Cumbernauld House as a community facility but this proved impossible once it was in the hands of the developers, although we do still have Cumbernauld House Park which I always encourage people to visit.

“Cumbernauld, despite the perception otherwise, has many landmarks and points of interest worthy of a visit.

“However, we do hugely suffer from the town’s generally negative reputation and the failure to properly market Cumbernauld’s attractions, including Cumbernauld Theatre, World of Wings, Broadwood Loch, Arria and the World Heritage Site, Antonine Wall, to name a few.

“Cumbernauld has been attracting visitors from around the world ever since the initial construction of the New Town.

“It’s understandable that there remains a high level of interest in how Cumbernauld has developed over the years and what lessons can be learned for future New Towns.”

Adam has been in touch with Visit Scotland in a bid to include Cumbernauld in its promotional campaign for the smash hit Outlander series, particularly in its use of Cumbernauld Glen as a location but this has yet to meet with success.

He added: “Cumbernauld should be able to give Outlander fans somewhere to go to learn about our links when they do visit.

“While the series is still filming at Wardpark Studios access will not be possible.

“But, hopefully, one day Outlander fans will be able to walk round the home of their favourite show.”

A leading tourist expert has also suggested that this should be taken a step further... on the studio set itself.

Professor John Lennon, who is the Director of Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “The critical asset remains the studio and the potential of studio tours.

“This is already exploited in London and the United States but requires a commitment to maintain sets and add appeal to the tour.

“Outlander impacts at attractions and further evidence can be found in the appeal of private sector tours.”

Unsurprisingly, there is also an architectural slant to drawing in more visitors.

Diane Watters, of Scotland’s leading architectural historians who hails from Cumbernauld, was responsible for taking a tour of international experts round town last June during an international conference.

And it is something she intends to build on.

Diane said: “I’ve noticed an increase in interest in the heritage and legacy of our pioneering New Town in the past few years, not only in an architectural scene but among people interested in housing, planning and the social history of Scotland.

“I’ll be taking walking tours around Kildrum and Seafar for a group of Belgium visitors this month and as part of our new ‘What’s it Called’ heritage event on Saturday, June 9, we’ll have another tour.

“We have lost a number of buildings but what makes Cumbernauld special is still there – the housing, the modern churches, the network of pathways, the rich landscaping and, of course, the townsfolk.

“It’s worth promoting and celebrating more.”

Professor Sandy Isenstadt, an American academic who participated in last June’s tour, added: “I do think there is potential for attracting more people to Cumbernauld.

“I could imagine advertising to folks who want to see Charles Rennie Mackintosh sites to broaden their experience and see innovative town planning and architecture in Cumbernauld, to get to know Scottish architectural innovations more broadly.”