Paul Murton sets out to experience island life today. He uncovers the past and reveals its connections with the present, pointing to the quirky, the surprising and the beautiful lying just offshore.
Part 1: West is Best: Lewis to Harris
Paul travels to the largest island in Britain: the long island of Harris and Lewis. Paul tries his hand at weaving Harris Tweed, meets the family behind the world-famous Stornoway black pudding and uncovers the remarkable story of how a mysterious medieval chess set was discovered on the remote beach of Uig on Lewis.
Part 2: Atlantic Frontier: The Uists and Benbecula
Thirty miles from mainland Scotland, there is a chain of low-lying islands that face the full might of the Atlantic Ocean: the Uists and Benbecula. On these islands there seems to be more water than land, as a spectacular patchwork of freshwater lochs and pools pockmark the landscape. But it is the unique ecology of these unspoilt islands that makes them so special. Paul’s journey sees him trying his hand at fishing for wild sea trout, uncovering the fascinating story of how South Uist became a missile testing base and discovering the secrets of the beautiful but deserted tidal island of Vallay.
Part 3: Island Solitudes: The Summer Isles, Handa and the Shiants
On the west coast of Scotland are a group of islands that are so remote they almost seem to have been forgotten by the rest of the world and are populated by just a few hardy souls. Crossing the Sea of the Hebrides, Paul sets off to explore the Shiants, heads east to the romantic Isle of Ewe, and onto the Summer Isles, before travelling to the mighty cliffs of Handa. This tour sees Paul go diving at Scotland’s first ‘scallop ranch’, kayak to the Summer Isles and visit the eerie but beautiful island of Gruinard, which was once considered to be so solitary and remote it was chosen to be the testing ground for Britain’s biological warfare experiments during World War II.
Part 4: A Race Apart: Islay
Among the islands of the Hebrides there’s one that can rightly claim to have a separate identity – Islay – which was once the capital of the ancient Lordship of the Isles. This programme sees Paul travel from Finlaggan, where the famous ruler Somerled once held court, along Islay’s windswept coast, through its historic ports and villages to end on its highest mountain. Along the way he will join a dedicated bunch of Ileach who are keeping the seafaring traditions of the island alive, discover the secrets of Islay’s illicit whisky distilling past and travel to the stunning Mull of Oa on the island’s south coast, before climbing Ben Vicar for a breathtaking view across the Hebrides.
Part 5: West of Skyfall: Skye, Soay and Canna
Paul’s journey begins at Loch Hourn on the mainland, takes him over the sea to Skye and then heads to the tiny island of Soay before finishing on Canna. Along the way, Paul visits the house which was the inspiration for Skyfall, home of Britain’s most famous spy James Bond, embarks on a nerve-wracking caving expedition under the summit of Blaven and discovers the remarkable story of shark fishing off Soay.
Part 6: Northern Exposure: The North Isles and Out Stack
Paul is heading as far north as you can go in Britain, to the islands of Fetlar, Unst and Yell. These islands, which lie on Scotland’s northern frontier, are as much Scandinavian as Scottish and were in fact once part of Norway. Along the way he sings with the Shanty Yell Men, who came together to celebrate their Norse heritage, learns how to ‘roo’ Shetland sheep the traditional way, and gets an incredible opportunity to see the wild otters who make their home here in Shetland’s pristine waters. And finally, Paul fulfils a long-held ambition to visit Out Stack, the rocky outcrop that is famous for being the ‘full stop’ at the edge of Britain.