The next interview in my “Outlander- the fans who make it” series is with Emma Chalmers, one of the two owners of Mary’s Meanders Tours in Scotland. I have met both Emma and her business partner Anne, and enjoyed a day tour with them, visiting season 2 Outlander locations.
- Please tell us about yourself (name, age, country where you live, profession, hobbies, etc)
Hi, I’m Emma Chalmers, 46 years old, born & raised in Dublin. I lived in San Francisco in my 20’s, and moved back to Ireland in 1999, where I met my Scottish husband and moved with him to Scotland in 2003. I have 3 children, 2 dogs and a cat and am now separated, so life is very busy! Thankfully I love what I do for a living, so I don’t really call it “work” and I guess you could call it a working hobby!
- How long have you been doing your tours in Scotland for Outlander fans? Please tell us a little about the history of your company.
I set up Mary’s Meanders in 2013. I had been running a children’s party business for 5 years and was ready for a change. We initially started with walking tours of Linlithgow, and that was when I met Anne and she came on board. Outlander was being filmed near us in Beecraigs Woods, and that was our first experience with the filming of the show. We did a trial tour once for Outlander UK fans and that helped us to put together a filming locations tour, one of the first to be launched! We began to spread the word about how huge Outlander was going to be to the local tourism boards, historical sites etc – they didn’t believe us then, but are now fully aware of The Outlander Effect!!
We have been awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 3 times now, and we are very proud of our 5 star status.
- Please tell us about the Outlander related events you organize in Scotland.
In 2014 we created an Outlander Dinner Show, as we wanted to give people a full sensory experience in the world of Outlander. These events were great fun, and guests thoroughly enjoyed eating the food, listening to the music & hearing readings from the books, it was an immersive experience. We still offer these dinners to groups.
We are part of Filming Fife, which is made up of a number of businesses who are passionate about making sure Outlander fans get great experiences when here, and we put on different events throughout the year too – screenings, attending fetes, quizzes and teaching other businesses about Outlander.
- Please tell us about the shootings you have seen of the show
We have been very lucky and have had quite a few experiences of watching filming. My favourite would be when Anne and I spent a freezing cold afternoon watching them film in Beecraigs woods for the end of season 2. We were the only two people there that day and were allowed to be right up close as they shot. That was pretty special.
- How much time do you spend every day on Outlander?
Gosh, I spend a huge amount of my day in the world of Outlander. I am answering e-mails last thing at night from future guests, and in the mornings I am online looking at groups and pages on Facebook. I don’t ever have a day without Outlander in it somehow!
- What do you like most about the Outlander books and show? What do you like the least?
I guess it would be the development of Jamie and Claire’s relationship over the years. there aren’t many books that provide you with the same opportunity to get to know the characters so well.
I wasn’t so fond of the military aspects of the books and I am sometimes guilty of glossing over those!
- Which character in Outlander is your favourite? Please explain why.
Jenny is such a great character, her strength is really admirable and I love how she tells it like it is! In the last season when Jamie was being taken away, she had me in tears as she cried out “You gave me no choice brother, and I’ll never forgive you, never.”
- How has Outlander affected your life and/or lifestyle?
Firstly, I would say that Outlander has changed my life by giving me so many new friends. You get to a certain age and think that you have made all your friends, but that all changed for me in 2014. It came along at a challenging time in my life, as I was separating from my husband. But through Outlander I have met so many amazing and inspiring women through our tours, trips to conventions, Tartan Week (3 times), that I feel very blessed to have friends from all over the world.
My children are fully involved in the Outlander world too. Even though they have never read it, they have seen the occasional scene. We visit historical sites all the time and the chat generally comes around to Jamie and Claire somehow! They see how history can be interesting and also how it connects to us today.
Our profile has been raised by our Outlander tours and that has helped us gain clients for our Ancestry Tours. A lot of Outlander fans have been inspired by the books and show to research their own ancestors so we now do many Outlander/Ancestry tours too, which are always interesting.
Without Outlander, Anne and myself may not have had a chance to have the friendship and the great working relationship we have. We are both committed to making sure that anyone who books with Mary’s Meanders has a truly fabulous experience. We understand that a trip to Scotland may be the most special trip for our guest and we feel it is our duty to give them a memorable visit.
We have had many fun times together both personally and professionally; one that stands out for me is when we were invited to talk about The Outlander Effect in Westminster to MP’s in London in January this year. That was a proud day for us both.
- Is this the first fandom you are a member of? What made you decide to join this fandom, rather than any other one? What do you like and dislike about this fandom?
I was part of the U2 fandom many years ago, when I was growing up but that was very different. No social media for a start! You only knew if someone else was a fan if they wore a badge really. I have pretty much had good experiences through this fandom, as I don’t read anything unpleasant or move away quickly if I come across it.
By being a part of the Outlander world, I have traveled to the States 3 times for the Tartan Week festivities in New York, attended 2 premieres, went to the official Starz Season 2 premiere party which was a pretty amazing and surreal experience. Most of the cast and writers were there, and I am fairly sure it was Maril who complimented me on my dress that evening.
- Have you met any of the actors or Diana? If so, which personality did you enjoy meeting the most? If not, whom would you like to meet the most?
I have seen Diana speak a couple of times, met Cait twice, watched Sam and Cait film but didn’t get a chance to say hi to Sam, met Graham when he was the Grand Marshal in New York, had my photo taken at a fan convention with anyone I could! Richard spoke at the 2nd Outlandish UK Gathering which was great and I was brave enough to ask him a question!
As a fellow Irish lady I liked getting to have a quick chat about Irish things with Cait. I really admire her and her devotion to causes that are important to her so I would say that was my favourite experience.
- What keeps you connected to the Outlander fandom?
I am in a number of different groups online, but I guess what really connects me is the friends that I have made through what I do. I chat daily to friends from all over the world online, and I love how we all are connected and share details from our daily lives.
- What do you have coming up next?
We started offering week long tours this year, so we have at least two of those next year. They are different to other tours, as we all stay in self-catering cottages (with hot tubs) so its like a week long Outlander slumber party! Honestly the one we did in May was so much fun, I can’t wait to do it again. The group got on so well and there are plans for a reunion in 2019.
I am also hoping to visit Canada and the West Coast later on this year so will be able to chat to people about how to plan and prepare for a trip over here.
We are also launching tours that will include visiting Ireland so that is really exciting.
Lastly the new Mary Queen of Scots movie will be out later this year, so we are looking forward to sharing her story and showing the film locations.