Hey, Outlander fans! Swooning over Jamie and jealous of Claire’s skills, knowledge, and relationships? Where better to indulge your time-traveling fantasies than Scotland France a restored, lively 18th-century town?
Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser is definitely fictional, as readers of Diana Gabaldon’s novels beginning with Outlander are aware—as is that king among men, James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser, and—thank heaven—Jonathan Wolverton “Black Jack” Randall.
These fictional characters won’t be found walking the cobblestone streets and brick-paved walkways of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area, but you will likely run into some recognizable individuals, as well as some new friends you haven’t met yet. And they’ll all be more than happy to tell you about life in the 1700s.
If you’re a fan of the STARZ series, you might want to cover your eyes for some mild spoilers (denoted by ***) ahead. If you’ve read Diana Gabaldon’s wonderful (and thick!) historical novels, you’re home free!
The darker parts of Jamie’s experiences with British justice are illustrated at the Public Gaol, where pirates, thieves, escaped and recaptured slaves, debtors, and political prisoners all once paced the cells as they waited for trial—or branding … or hanging.
Royal justice applied in the North American colonies as well as in Scotland, and Jamie and his fellow prisoners at Ardsmuir and elsewhere would have found much of this gaol familiar, including the spelling.
For more about how royal laws worked, check out the Courthouse, and take pride that Ned Gowan would approve of your interest in law.
***Thanks to Major John Grey, Jamie Fraser left Ardsmuir prison to work as a groom at Helwater. Learn more about the horses in Colonial Williamsburg’s Revolutionary City in the very popular Bits and Bridles tour. On this one-hour guided walk, you can view our facilities and vehicles, discuss animal treatment and training, and get up close to some of our animals. You may have a chance to try out a sidesaddle, or inspect a horse’s hoof—all part of the work of a born horse whisperer like Jamie. Space is limited, so reserve early.
***At the Printer, discover how newspapers, government documents, and other items were printed and distributed in the 18th century, by tradesmen like “A. Malcolm” of Edinburgh, and Fergus Fraser in the colonies. Check out the working press, and in the Post Office upstairs, browse and purchase some of our master printers’ work. You can also mail letters and postcards from you in the 18th century to your friends and family in the 21st.
MARGARET HUNTER SHOP
If Claire’s talents are more your area of interest, multiple opportunities await. Famously reluctant to tame her curly mane with a proper cap, like a proper 18th-century lady, Claire would have visited the Milliner only by necessity, unless outfitting one of the many individuals who strayed into her and Jamie’s paths. The millinery trade—one of the few professions open to women—was the making of fashionable ornaments and accessories, and the importation of other fashion goods. Our milliners can tell you of changing fashions, the importance of appearance in colonial (and Continental) society, and the economics of business, including how these hardworking tradeswomen survived the non-importation agreements that presaged the American Revolution. It’s definitely worth a visit—and you may even find fellow Outlander fans there.
Claire’s interest in healing herbs fostered an expert knowledge of 18th-century gardening. Join one of our gardeners on a “Meet the Gardener” tour, and get the answers to questions Claire found by tedious trial and error.
(For example, what the heck are these, and should we worry?)
Then check out the Apothecary to discover how medicine was practiced in the 18th century. (Psst—it doesn’t resemble Geillis’s attic, and there are no crocodiles as in Master Raymond’s Paris shop.) Compare and contrast the medicinal experience in Europe and the colonies, including, for example, the Virginia and North Carolina backcountry—our apothecaries will be happy to answer your questions.
In the evening, get yourself tickets to “Cry Witch” and join the jury of a witch trial much like the one Claire and Geillis Duncan faced. In this candlelit inquiry into the charges of witchcraft brought against Grace Sherwood in 1706, ask questions of the witnesses, weigh the evidence, and determine the guilt or innocence of this real-life “Virginia Witch.” (Be warned: due to subject matter and intense emotion, this program is not suitable for young children.)
Outlander notwithstanding, the Governor’s Palace Kitchen is a favorite spot for food-obsessed visitors such as myself.
As you enjoy the aromas of hearty onion soup or sweet candied pineapple, explore the “high cooking arts” of a British kitchen in the colonies. Well… the wealthiest British colony in North America. Well, the wealthiest home in the wealthiest city in the wealthiest British colony. You get the picture. The point is, Castle Leoch’s Mrs. FitzGibbons would have known how to cook Lord Dunmore’s Scottish childhood favorites in this kitchen, since she was an epic professional for the McKenzies. Probably would’ve given Governor Dunmore’s cooks a run for their money.
In the Governor’s Palace, take a guided tour of the official residence of Britain’s last royal governor of Virginia, John Murray, Lord Dunmore—who fought, as a teenager, alongside his father at Culloden. Yes. And on the Scottish side. The story of Lord Dunmore’s career—how he went from Scottish rebel to one of the highest-ranking and most trusted agents of the Crown in North America—is one worth hearing. If you’re free in the evenings, try to catch one of the Palace Concerts and enjoy 18th-century music by candlelight.
Dunmore’s direct experience with royal power, beginning in young adulthood, likely had much to do with his decisions as royal governor—including the royal order he obeyed in April 1775 to confiscate the colony’s gunpowder from Williamsburg’s Magazine. While the enforcement of this order in Massachusetts had a very different outcome (AHEM Lexington and Concord AHEM), the results in Virginia were no picnic either.
After an exhausting day, pull up a chair at one of our historic taverns, especially Chowning’s, where family-style dining and Gambols would have made the Frasers feel right at home on any of their campaigns. It isn’t Madam Jeanne’s, but that just means you can be sure the cellar contains no barrels of crème de menthe, with or without a corpse. Slainte!