Scotland’s coasts and islands are coming to national TV screens in a new TV series presented by Dame Darcey Bussell.
The ballerina and former Strictly Come Dancing judge is swapping her famous pointe shoes for walking boots as she heads to the beautiful islands off the west coast of Scotland to explore their stunning landscapes and find out more about her own Scottish ancestry in Darcey Bussell’s Wild Coasts of Scotland, showing from today on digital channel All 4.
Her Scottish grandfather, as a young boy, spent most of his summers on the isle of Bute, speaking of magical landscapes and spectacular sights, and Darcey has only ever seen it in pictures. Her picture-perfect journey takes in Skye, the Outer Hebrides, Islay, Jura and finally, Bute, where she sees for the first time, the house where her grandfather spent so many of his childhood summers.
Over the four-part series, she’ll meet many different people who call these islands home and gets to indulge her passion for dance, trying out several types of Scottish dancing. In Skye, Darcey samples scallops, fresh from the loch and goes wild swimming in a stunning hidden spot, she comes face to face with one of the rarest breeds of pony on earth in Uist, toasts her granddad with his favourite whisky in Islay, and in Bute, has a go at both sheepdog handling and the fine art of sword dancing!
Darcey’s Scottish odyssey begins on one of the most beautiful and best-known islands off the west coast – the Isle of Skye – where she’ll eat scallops fresh from the loch, be shown how to step dance, and go wild swimming in honour of her grandfather.
On her first stop, she meets weaver Maggie Williams who shows her how to operate a loom. With Maggie’s help, Darcey adds to a tartan based on one worn by her great grandfather.
Darcey then joins the young environmentalists keeping their beaches clean for wildlife and hears about the work being done to look after Skye’s otters.
Sophie Stephenson, who is keeping Skye’s ancient dancing tradition alive, teaches Darcey some new moves and Meena Watts, who runs a successful business making and selling sea salt and teaches Bollywood dance classes, offers Darcey an impromptu lesson on the shoreline!
Diver David Oakes, who fishes for scallops by hand, treats Darcey to an alfresco scallop lunch at the edge of one of Skye’s most stunning lochs but not before she is shown how to shuck her own.
Skye’s dark past is revealed when Darcey pays a visit to Kilchrist, a ruined village laid waste during the Highland Clearances, before her day ends with a wild swim in memory of her grandfather in one of Skye’s many beautiful hidden pools.
Teasing the series, Darcey says we can expect: ‘Intriguing characters set against extraordinary and changing landscapes and vistas! I explore four islands, their history, the wonderful characters who live there and how so many are at the forefront of sustainable living (and the pleasure they derive from that). It is a journey I always wanted to take as I end up in Bute, where my grandfather holidayed as a child in the 1920s. It was a very special place to him.
‘There was so much scenery to capture, not all of which could be put on film, but I loved watching the drones get some stunning footage. What you can’t always capture is that wonderful feeling you get from being outdoors and exposed to the raw elements. It gives you clarity and puts you in touch with all your senses.’
In the series, Darcey gets to try traditional styles of Scottish dance – sword dancing, step dance, Highland dance – and there’s even an impromptu Bollywood dance lesson on the beach. She added: ‘I enjoyed them all to be honest… To watch others enjoying their dance is always a great pleasure for me.’
Citing her highlight, Darcey said: ‘There were many but probably the highland cattle in the Outer Hebrides and the farm in Bute with the border collie sheepdogs.
‘I hope they are encouraged to travel to wonderful Scotland and visit the beautiful islands. Every ferry ride was worth it. There is no better place to bring you back to nature.’
The second episode heads to Uist, the third to Islay and the concluding part heads to Bute.