When Jamie Fraser first laid eyes on the area that would later become Fraser’s Ridge in Drums of Autumn, he fell in love, and after visiting the area of North Carolina that inspired Diana Gabaldon, I could easily see why. As an avid traveler, I’m always up for a road trip, and when I found out Blowing Rock, NC is only an 8 hour drive from my home in Indiana, I was off on my next adventure!
Driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway is an experience like no other, the sweeping vistas of rolling mountains covered in hardwoods and mountain pines is absolutely gorgeous, and the common haze that adorns the peaks and valleys leaves no question as to why they were christened the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a child, I had driven through the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee many times (all part of the Appalachian Mountain chain), and never thought past the beauty of the untouched wilderness.
Likewise, I had the opportunity to visit Scotland the year prior, and had marveled at its natural beauty and unspoiled landscape. But without Outlander, I can honestly say, I never would have drawn a parallel between the two locations. It actually wasn’t until last week as we rounded a corner and happened upon Price Lake that it really hit me. In fact the view was so similar to the gorgeous lochs of the Scottish Highlands, I had to check myself. My travel companion, who had also visited Scotland in the past year looked at me with the same look of enlightenment, and I felt the slightest sense of relief because she was experiencing a similar sense of shock.
The following day was filled with adventure. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, we needed to make reservations to get into Grandfather Mountain State Park where we would be doing our hike. One of the benefits to an Outlander inspired trip to the Blue Ridge is that the area largely falls under the jurisdiction of state and national parks, leaving the wilderness vastly untouched and very near to how it appeared centuries ago when the first pioneers attempted to settle it.
The most famous trail in the park, Grandfather trail, covers nearly 2,000 feet in elevation change over the course of it’s 2.4 miles, and as I’m not an avid hiker, I decided this was probably too ambitious for me. Instead I opted for the shorter 2.0 mile round-trip Black Rock Trail, and the pay off at the end was STUNNING. It requires both ladder and cable climbing up Black Rock, to give you panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but if you’re up for a challenge, it is worth the effort!
Standing on the side of a mountain looking out over miles and miles of dense foliage, it was SO easy to see why settlers, particularly Scots and Scots-Irish were enamored by the area. Keeping in mind the vivid image of trees upon more trees, it baffled me even more to come across patches of cleared farms as we descended the mountain back to Blowing Rock, because someone had to clear that land. It wasn’t always just an open field, and I had vivid images of Jamie, Ian, and Claire clearing trees and building their cabin in season 4. The mind boggles, truly.
Our final stop of the trip was to the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum where we got to glimpse inside the lives of 18th century settlers of the North Carolina wilderness. Their collection consists of six 18th and 19th century cabins including one from the Linville, North Carolina area that belonged to a family of Frasers–coincidence? Some think not.
In each of these cabins they have common 18th century practices and crafts on display including a cloth loom, spinning wheels, hand made gun stocks, 18th century antiques and artifacts, a blacksmith shop, and one cabin to replicate a fully functional cabin with furniture, beds, and all other matter of things for everyday use. Along the way, we were guided by a museum employee who gave us a tour and answered our questions! It was a truly amazing experience for anyone who is curious about the life and times of early Appalachian settlements.
On a less Outlander related note, Blowing Rock is an absolutely gorgeous town, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who needs a getaway to somewhere quiet and out of the way! The people are incredibly friendly, and the town has a wealth of locally owned stores for everything from clothing, to yarn, to antiques. There are hardly any chain restaurants or stores in the entire town, and it really is a unique experience! Not to mention it is located in one of the most beautiful parts of the United States and the scenery leaves nothing to be desired!!
Despite our jam-packed, whirl wind 36-hour trip, I made myself sit at the top of that mountain and take it all in a la Jamie Fraser in “The False Bride” because, in my travels, I have found it’s the little moments one remembers after all the excitement and adrenaline fades away. The quiet moments when you have time to let your senses expand and take in the world as it was meant to be experienced is something that never grows old. In October, I have plans to go back to Blowing Rock and experience the Blue Ridge in all it’s autumn splendor, which I’m told is another experience unto itself! Rest assured, I will post with more pictures when I return.
Until next time, cheers!!