Paul Murton continues his loch-hopping odyssey in this new series of Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs, travelling through the lochs of the Highlands to the lost lochs of the Borders.
Part 1: The Wild Way of the North
Paul visits Wester Ross and discovers the heritage of Little Loch Broom. He then travels to the off-grid community of Scoraig where he learns about violin making and wind power, before taking the plunge to explore the hidden depths of the Corrieshalloch Gorge. In Ullapool, on the shores of Loch Broom, Paul learns the Russian word for parsley and how a huge fleet of Russian fish factory ships known as Klondykers used to visit the town. He then follows a red herring that connects the lochs of the west coast to the history of the slave trade. Journey’s end is on the rocky summit of Stac Pollaidh.
Part 2: A Mystical Journey
Paul starts in the hills above Stathpeffer on the waters of Loch Ussie, famous for its connections with the Brahan Seer, who predicted future calamities. Here he meets musician Lauren MacColl, who found inspiration in the legend of the seer. On a golf course above Strathpeffer, Paul discovers an unlikely connection between the conventional old spa town below and the wickedest man in the world, Aleister Crowley. In a nearby wood, the mysterious traditions of a clootie well are revealed to Paul by a member of the travelling community. On the shores of the Cromarty Firth, Paul visits a folly on a hill and discovers an ancient Pictish carved stone. At Tain, the oldest royal burgh in Scotland, he learns to blow glass before heading for the Dornoch Firth where he encounters a witch and a fairy bridge.
Part 3: A Less Travelled Road
Paul follows in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie exploring the lesser-known lochs along the west coast of Scotland. Landing at Glenuig, he makes his way inland to Loch Moidart and MacDonald country, walking the old coffin road, which was used for centuries by funeral parties, taking their dead to a sacred isle. On the track Paul meets a trials bike enthusiast and learns the secrets of a ‘dabbing coat’ before landing off the Green Isle where he rings a 1,100-year-old bell for the dead. Taking a boat north, Paul sails up Loch Shiel to Glenfinnan where Bonnie Prince Charlie officially began his rising to reclaim the throne for the Stuart dynasty. From a forgotten monument that commemorates this event, Paul heads back to the coast and Loch Ailort, where he learns how to knife fight before taking a trip across the loch to a deserted community on the roadless Ardnish peninsula.
Part 4: The People’s Lochs
Paul sails along a much-loved route through the Kyles of Bute to Dunoon, discovering a secret history of WW2 bouncing bombs along the way. From Dunoon and its connections with international singing star Harry Lauder, Paul gets nostalgic about nuclear submarines in the Holy Loch. Here he meets a man with an impressive water-powered organ. Crossing the loch, Paul beats hot steel with a blacksmith whose ancestors have been working Vulcan’s forge for six generations. Their work includes the Golden Gates at Benmore gardens, where Paul learns about a sugar daddy who collected art on a scale to rival the Tate collection. On the shores of Loch Long, Paul discovers a Viking connection in the shape of a vintage sailing boat which takes him to scale the heights of the people’s mountain – The Cobbler.
Part 5: A Double Life
Paul’s loch-hopping journey across Scotland reaches the quiet lochs of the Borders, where he learns dog handling techniques at a school for sheep dogs, and then heads to some man-made lochs in the Moorfoot Hills, where he hears tell of hidden treasure. Then, in Edinburgh he discovers the story of a Dutch-speaking Scottish minister on skates and goes in search of a lost river and two long-vanished lochs in the heart of the city. Crossing the Firth of Forth, Paul travels around the industrial lochs of the old Fife coal field before walking in the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots on a haunted island in Loch Leven.
Part 6: Lost in a Landscape
Paul travels from the shores of Loch Hope to the glorious and lonely expanse of Sandwood Bay on the far north west of Scotland. Along the way he encounters a Pictish king and an ancient broch, discovers wartime secrets in Loch Eriboll and a hidden monument to a naval disaster. The single-track road around Loch Eriboll still uses passing places to allow overtaking. It was on this very same road in the 1960s that John Lennon of the Beatles crashed his car. Reaching the north coast of Scotland, Paul plunges underground at Smoo Cave where he crosses a subterranean loch before encountering the Devil himself. From the tidal sands of the Kyle of Durness, Paul heads to Kinlochbervie where he learns the art of drystone dyking from a master craftsman, before trekking over the moors to the surf of distant Sandwood Bay.