Today Debbie Mason, official tour guide of Highland Falls, North Carolina, stops by to share all the details for your next visit.
What’s the inspiration for Highland Falls: I’m a HUGE fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, but I wasn’t really a fan of the television adaptation. Then, one night, when my husband was away, I stayed up until five in the morning binge watching a couple of seasons, and I was hooked. Around the same time, knowing I’d be wrapping up the Harmony Harbor series within the next couple of years, I’d begun playing with ideas for another contemporary romance series. And that’s when it clicked. I’d set my new series in North Carolina near where Jamie and Claire were reputed to have made their home on Fraser’s Ridge and create a small town whose residents shared my love of everything Scottish, including hot Highlanders. 😉
Is there a backstory? After being defeated by the British at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, a large number of Highland Scots immigrated to North America, with many of them settling on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. But upon their arrival at Cape Fear River, two adventuresome lads and best friends, Iain MacLeod and William Mackenzie, set off to explore their new homeland. Ten days into their journey, as they sat by a waterfall, taking in the mountain vistas that reminded them of the home they’d left behind, Iain and William agreed that this is where their clans would settle, and the town of Highland Falls was born.
How are the main characters of Christmas on Reindeer Lane connected to the town? Mallory Maitland spent the first twelve years of her life in Highland Falls. Upon her mother’s death, she was removed from her father’s care and put into the system. Mallory went on to build a life for herself far from the small town she’d grown up in. She married right after getting her medical degree and lived most of her adult life in Atlanta. Now a widow, she’s returned to Highland Falls with her stepsons to take on the position as director of senior care. Gabriel Buchanan loved New York and his job as a big city homicide detective. But he’s a father of three young boys who he loves even more and his late wife’s parents had been pressuring him to leave New York and move closer to them. When the pressure began to feel more like a threat, he caved and applied for the position of Highland Falls Police Chief. He’s been in the position for five months, much to the chagrin of the seniors in town, who are loyal to the former chief of police.
The place to hangout: The Christmas Market at Blue Ridge Tree Farm is a popular place for locals and out-of-towners to hangout right now. Between sleigh rides, bonfires to roast marshmallows, and the gorgeous handmade gifts the local artisans have for sale—not to mention finding the perfect Christmas tree—there’s something for everyone. But if you don’t find what you’re looking for at the market, you can always head to Main Street with its wonderful mix of high-end and eclectic stores. My personal favorites are Three Wise Women Bookstore and I Believe in Unicorns. In between shopping and taking in the holiday decor and gorgeous mountain views, I’d recommend stopping by Bites of Bliss, the local bakery, for some sweet treats or Zia Maria’s for thin-crust pizza. Highland Brew, the pub-slash-coffee shop with an incredible view of the falls, is another popular place to hangout with some serious eye candy behind the bar. Dot’s Diner is another local favorite, especially on Sunday mornings after church, so be sure you get there early.
What’s one thing that might surprise people about your small town? Agnes MacLeod, known as Granny MacLeod to the locals, is a Betty White look-alike with a soft, Scottish burr. Agnes owns I Believe in Unicorns, so it’s probably not too surprising that she really does believe in unicorns. But what might surprise you is that Agnes has the second sight. She can tell your future simply by holding your hand… unless she’s wearing gloves, which her granddaughter insists that she does. Word of warning, if you catch Agnes on a glove-less day and get her to tell your fortune, don’t let her trance-like stare or monotone voice freak you out. Her fortunes usually turn out all right. Usually.
Is there anything else we should know? As much as the natural beauty of Highland Falls, including the hot highlanders and gorgeous mountain men, are some of the biggest selling features of the town, it’s the warm and welcoming nature of its residents that are the biggest draw. You’re not a stranger for long in Highland Falls. The locals go out of their way to look out for one another. They’re always there to lend a helping hand. Sometimes whether you want them to or not.