‘Outlander’ Season 5: Is River Run a Real Place in North Carolina?

Outlander is seeing Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) settling into their new home in North Carolina this season. The first came to the colony to visit Jamie’s aunt Jacosta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) in River Run. Since the series often depicts real historical people and events, some might be wondering if River Run is a real place in North Carolina. 

Caitriona Balfe - Outlander
Caitriona Balfe | Starz

The importance of River Run on ‘Outlander’

After suffering through years of torture, war, and violence, Jamie and Claire travel from Scotland to the colonies. Once they reach Charleston, South Carolina, Jamie decides to pay a visit to his late mother’s sister, Jacosta. His aunt, now a widow, is the owner of a large North Carolina plantation called River Run. 

Jacosta asks Jamie to take over River Run. But because of the culture of slavery on the plantation and in the nearby area, Jamie and Claire turn down the offer. They decide to settle on the land they were granted by Governor Tryon (Tim Downie), which the named Fraser’s Ridge. 

However, Fraser’s Ridge is not far off from River Run, and the family stays in contact with Aunt Jacosta. When Roger (Richard Rankin) is taken by the Mohawk tribe, Claire and Jamie leave a pregnant Brianna (Sophie Skelton) at River Run with Jacosta before they set out to rescue him. 

In season 5, Jacosta marries Duncan Innes, and the entire family joins in the wedding celebration at River Run. While they are there, Jacosta names Brianna and Roger’s baby Jemmy as the heir to her land.  So at this point, River Run is like a second home for the Fraser family

Is River Run a real place?

While there are numerous places in the country with a similar name, the River Run from Outlander is a completely fictional place. In Diana Gabaldon’s book series, River Run is located off the Cape Fear River near Cross Creek, North Carolina. 

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The plantation itself is fictional, but the reason Gabaldon probably chose the area is that historically, it was a place that attracted many Scottish settlers in the mid to late 1700s. And according to the North Carolina History Project, Cross Creek was a “hotbed of wartime activity” during the American Revolution. 

“Highland Scots assembled there in 1776 and marched to Moore’s Creek Bridge, only to be defeated by the Patriots,” the North Carolina History Project website reads. “In 1778, the county court issued orders for about four hundred citizens suspected of being Loyalists across Cumberland County, many of them Highland Scots, to take an oath of allegiance to the Provincial government.”

‘Outlander’ films its River Run scenes in Scotland

On Outlander, River Run may well look like a colonial plantation in North Carolina. But it is actually filmed at a private property in Crieff, Scotland called Abercairny Estates. The location is about 60 miles north of Glasgow. 

“This is our most ambitious season, most challenging season anyway because we had to play Scotland for North Carolina,” said executive producer Matthew B. Roberts when talking about River Run to Entertainment Weekly. “Gary Steele, our production designer, designed it and built it. He did a lot of research of period plantations because people kind of instantly go to antebellum type plantations in the deep south. He wanted to build it more like a plantation of the period, an early colonial plantation.”

He revealed that they put a blue facade on the structure so that they could alter its aesthetic post-production. “We found an area that had grass and a thin serpentine pond that ran throughout the property, and it had this perfect little peninsula,” he told the outlet.  “We built the façade on it, and what it allowed us to do is build a road, and a front entrance, then we blued it out. You put the blue screen around the façade, then you can visual effects in the rest of the house.”