Outer ttis World : Telly star Robson Green claims there is no better place in Britain for peace and quiet than the Outer Hebrides.
Robson rated the Western Isles as he explored the UK's varied coastline while filming his new ITV series Tales from the Coast.
During filming the 51-year-old visited unspoilt beaches of Devon, Essex and Suffolk to the remote islands of Pembrokeshire – but the Western Isles really took his breath away.
Robson said he had only been to the Outer Hebrides once before.
He said: “Only once in the mid-90s, when ITV drama Soldier Soldier was at its height and I needed some time out – all of a sudden I had this life most actors dream of, but it felt like I was a slab of meat on a conveyor belt.
“I took off to the Highlands and hopped on a ferry to Stornoway with my bicycle.
“There’s no better place to go in Britain if you want solitude: sometimes dramatic if the weather batters it !
“But always utterly beautiful.”
Robson also admired the stunning Luskentyre beach on Harris during filming – often named as among the best in the world – as “the kind of beach you’d expect to find in the Seychelles.”
And as for his other adventures on the islands, Robson said: “They let me loose on a loom of the famous Harris tweed. I think I did two grand’s worth of damage.
“And I took on a Highland Games champion in the ancient sport of maide leisg, which translates as “lazy stick” and involves fighting over, you’ve guessed it, a stick. He was so powerful. When he threw a rock, I thought it’d never come back down from the sky.”
The star’s top tip for first timers to the isles was “go cycling. Take a mountain bike if you want to see the island in its true, raw, rugged beauty.”
Photo à gauche: The sands of Luskentyre, the isle of Taransey can be seen on the left and the hills of Harris in the distance.
What else did you get up to on Harris and Lewis ?
They let me loose on a loom of the famous Harris tweed. I think I did two grand’s worth of damage. And I took on a Highland Games champion in the ancient sport of maide leisg, which translates as “lazy stick” and involves fighting over, you’ve guessed it, a stick. He was so powerful. When he threw a rock, I thought it’d never come back down from the sky.
Do you have a top tip for first-timers ?
Go cycling. Take a mountain bike if you want to see the island in its true, raw, rugged beauty.
Did you brave Barra Airport ?
We landed and took off from there. It’s the only airport in the world that is a beach. In the words of a baggage handler: it’s an airport that gets washed twice a day because of the tide. You get a real sense of the soul of the Hebrides from that bird’s-eye view.
So you don’t mind a drenching ?
In the Hebrides the weather can change so quickly. But some of the best days I’ve had when I’ve been walking or hiking or cycling are when there’s a storm on the horizon. I love the rain. It’s liquid sunshine, as we call it in the north-east of England. It’s fine as long as you wear the right gear.
I’d been before, but not to Luskentyre. It was midsummer, and there was hardly anyone else there. I sat alone in my tent for a day and a half.
Were the Hebrides the wildest part of the journey ?
Yes. I felt a sense of isolation. I harvested kelp with a guy who fuses it with gin to make this wonderful liquor. I saw sea eagles taking fish off the water’s surface. Amazing place.
Surely Skokholm was just as wild ?
Skokholm is remarkable. It’s a protected island off the Pembrokeshire coast, and I was interested in the only two people who live there [the island’s wardens, Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle], who are a couple. Could it really be a romantic existence on this wave-lashed seabird haven? But they love what they’re doing. The logistics are pretty basic – they live in a lighthouse, the weather can be brutal, and they can be detached for weeks.
Did you have any encounters with the 'locals’ ?
There’s a seagull there, the great black-backed gull, which rips other bird life to bits. I remember having this eerie vision as the sun was setting – a cluster of them silhouetted, waiting for a kill. I never thought a seagull could be so aggressive. It gave me new perspective on British bird life. On the surface these gulls appear beautiful, harmless, even endearing, but they have this incredibly vicious side – dark and violent.
Was the Essex coast less demanding ?
No. I entered the Maldon Mud Race [the annual spring challenge in which competitors dash 500m across the bed of the River Blackwater]. I knew the history of it, and that up to 3,000 people can take part. But it was hard. I train every week, and I run regularly. But I was nearly hallucinating by the end. I’d like to attempt it again. I only came second, so…
You also met former Mods and Rockers in Clacton. Did old rivalries linger ?
Well, 1964 was the year I was born, so I perhaps didn’t realise how dramatic those seaside clashes were until I saw the newsreels. I still can’t fathom why musical taste and style of dress should be the premise for a fight. But I questioned these lovely women, now in their 60s; asked them if they thought it was all just men being stupid. And they said, “Oh no, we loved being fought over.” Maybe the rivalry is still there – but it’s on a friendly level.
Do you have a wishlist for a second series ?
We’re already talking about it. I think we could go to Orkney and the Northumbrian coast. And the Isle of Man, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight. There’s so much to explore.
Robson Green escapes to the Outer Hebrides and wrestles a Highland Games champion tonight and says on the Hebrides : "Luskentyre is the kind of beach you’d expect to find in the Seychelles."
In Tales from the Coast, the actor explores the UK’s wonderfully varied coastline, from the unspoilt beaches of Devon, Essex and Suffolk to the remote islands of Pembrokeshire. But tonight's location will always have a special place in his heart...
What do you love about being by the sea ?
Some of my happiest times as a kid were on the coast. It makes me feel alive. There’s nothing better than running along a beach as the sun is rising or a swim in the North Sea.
Do you recall your first beach holiday ?
The first real one I had was when my family drove nine hours in my father’s Hillman Imp to Devon. It averaged 45mph and my brother was sick the whole journey. But once we were there it was wonderful.
Have you been to the Outer Hebrides before ?
Only once in the mid-90s, when [ITV drama] Soldier Soldier was at its height and I needed some time out – all of a sudden I had this life most actors dream of, but it felt like I was a slab of meat on a conveyor belt. I took off to the Highlands and hopped on a ferry to Stornoway with my bicycle. There’s no better place to go in Britain if you want solitude: sometimes dramatic if the weather batters it! But always utterly beautiful.
Which is your favourite beach ?
Luskentyre in Harris is the kind of beach you’d expect to find in the Seychelles: powdery white sand and the most turquoise water you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s just extraordinary. I ended up camping there and as far as the eye could see – and this was at the height of summer – I had it to myself.
Robson Green explored parts of the UK’s stunning 11,000-mile coastline for his new TV series. Here he writes about his adventures filming ITV’s Tales From The Coast.
Some of my happiest memories areas a child on the Northumberland coast with my mum and dad, brothers and sisters.
I vividly remember driving down to the coast with my brother being sick all the way.
And my dad would set up windbreaks to protect us from the blast of lorries as we sat by the motorway having our egg sandwiches. It was a bit of a mission to get to the seaside but once we got there, it was more than worth it. To this day I am still happiest when day, I’m near water, whether it’s fishing, swimming or just sitting.
So it was an absolute pleasure to travel to some of Britain’s most beautiful watery locations for my new ITV series, Tales From The Coast.
We picked four very different areas of Britain to explore: North Devon, Pembrokeshire, Outer Hebrides and Essex and Sussex. Did you know we have 11,000 miles of coastline? More than France, Italy or Spain. We are a small nation but our coastline is comparatively vast.
It’s also one of the most varied ones in the world, from sweeping sands and cliffs to mud flats and spits.
And most of the time you can walk for miles and see only a handful of other people.
There’s a beach on the Hebrides that is honestly on a par with some of the greatest beaches in the Seychelles.
Hebrides you think of wild and remote islands, storms and rain, all grey and dour, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s utterly tropical. It’s astonishing.
You get there by plane, and it is the only airport in the world with scheduled flights taking off and landing on a beach.
We went diving there and it was incredible. The wildlife is so abundant. Over in Pembrokeshire, we got to hang out with some amazing wildlife, too. But most surprisingly of all, I bumped into my old pal, my Soldier Soldier co-star and singing partner Jerome Flynn.
I knew he lived in Pembrokeshire but I thought he was in Ireland filming Game of Thrones — and I also didn’t realise how close we were to his house. He got word that I was there, and he just appeared from around a corner.
He took me to all of the places that he loves in the area, so we ended up canoeing with seals and dolphins. I’ve travelled to more than 130 countries, and either swum or fished in the sea at 100 of those.
And yet, no matter where you go, you just cannot match Northumberland, or the Hebrides, or the Devon coast.
We work so hard and we get caught up in all of that, but sometimes I think it’s important to do the simple things in life.
There’s nothing greater in this hectic world than being in a boat with a dolphin swimming around you. It makes your heart sing. Or going to a rock pool and catching a crab. It turns you into a kid again.
I’d like to do more of this. I want to go to West Wittering and Brighton in Sussex, the Orkneys, the Scilly Isles and the west coast.
Reminding people what a beautiful country we have — and reminding them of their childhood, too — is just a wonderful thing to do.
“Throughout my life, I’ve always felt happiest when near the sea. I grew up close to the coast, and I’ve swam or fished off the shores of more than a 100 different countries. Now I want to explore the very edges of Britain. I’ll travel to four very different stretches of coastline, meeting people who share my passion for our shores.”
“I’ve travelled to the very edges of Britain, visited some beautiful places, met fascinating people and done things I never thought I would do. Along the way I’ve learned how our coastline shapes the way we work, the way we engage with nature and how we love to spend precious time here with those closest to us. In every dramatic headland, every idyllic beach, in every grain of sand, there are memories we can all cherish - our very own tales from the coast.”
A familiar face on television screens, Robson Green returns at the helm of Tales from the Coast.
One man’s love letter to Britain’s meandering shoreline, the series takes him along the edges of Devon, Essex, Suffolk, the Hebrides and Pembrokeshire for sharp-toothed wildlife encounters and scenic splendours.
Here he talks about the background to the series and some of his favourite locations.
How did the series come about?
It was a progression from Tales from Northumberland [his ITV series]; I know that part of the country well. The idea here was to do something on a grander scale.
Did you know any of the coastal areas beforehand ?
My family went to north Devon every year when I was a child – nine hours in a Hillman Imp. We’d have a picnic by the motorway, with juggernauts flying past at 70mph. I loved those days, and so did my dad. He worked down the mine, so I guess he had a need, for fresh air, peace and quiet.
Where did the Green family go ?
We went a lot to Ilfracombe and Clovelly. I have fond memories of Dad refusing to wear a shirt. Everywhere we went, he was bare-chested. Even restaurants. No one would argue with him because he was a big, powerful miner; he liked the breeze on his skin.
Has the area changed ?
Not really. Devon still evokes the Seventies and Eighties for me. Of course, you have Wi-Fi in hotels now – but the landscape and the tranquillity haven’t changed.
Was climbing the Devil’s Slide as frightening as it sounds ?
Hell yes. It’s a very acute, steep slab of granite – the largest in Europe – on Lundy, an island in the Bristol Channel. I was assured that it’s possible as long as you are fit – and I am. But I’m not good with heights. Halfway up, I was well beyond my comfort zone. I was attached to a rope – but even so, I was terrified. But that wasn’t the only time I was unnerved on Lundy. I went diving with seals, and a male decided I’d spent too much time around his ladies and pups. He bit my leg and hammered into my chest. I felt oddly humbled. It’s all well and good connecting with marine life, but you have to remember these animals are wild. This chap had had enough of me.
Do we appreciate our own country enough ?
Definitely not. There are places in the UK that people from other parts of the world would pay thousands to see, such as the Outer Hebrides. I’m lucky; I’ve visited more than 130 countries. But I tell you, there are parts of the Hebrides that compare to the Seychelles. Luskentyre Beach [on Harris] is one of the best on the planet.