This program, originally broadcast on BBC Scotland's "Adventure" series, takes us on a 150-mile tour of nine islands in the outer Hebrides, led by Scotland's most well-known hillwaker, Cameron McNeish. As usual for Mountain Media DVDs, the views are spectacular and varied, from pristine beaches to open moorland, to grassy machars (fertile grassy plains near the west coast of the islands) to difficult-to-climb hillsides, to picturesque villages. Sometimes walking, sometime mountain-biking, McNeish follows a route from the southernmost island of Vatersay to the more populated island of Barra, to South and North Uist, to South and North Harris, and finally to Lewis, ending at "the Butt" of Lewis, the northernmost point in the Hebrides. Sometimes, McNeish uses ferries to get from island to island; other times, he island-hops on the recently built causeways.
Before the causeways were built, many of these islands were barely accessible, and travel from one to the next was inconvenient at best. McNeish recounts that it was only after a prize bull named Bernie was drowned during one crossing that a causeway between Vatersay and Barra was constructed. Rheinigidal, formerly known as the remotest village in Scotland, was joined by causeway (at a cost of a million and a half pounds) to Harris primarily through the efforts of a local resident, interviewed by McNeish. And the oldest inhabitant of the island Eriskay ("the loveliest of all the Hebrides") tells McNeish that after the causeway was built in 2001, one elderly resident visited the adjacent island for the first time and was shocked to see a woman in trousers smoking a cigarette.
Other highlights: on Barra, McNeish stops at a roadside Indian restaurant, the Cafe Kisimal, and enjoys a gourmet meal. (It's a bit startling to hear the Indian proprietor and chef--for 40 years a resident of Glasgow--speaking with a thick Scottish accent.) McNeish also interviews a couple of "orchid hunters" who live on the island of Benbecula. He talks to artist and filmmaker Andrew McKinnon, curator of a local museum and art center. He travels along the Harris Walkway (which he opened in 2001), part of which includes an old coffin road, and points out a cairn on which the coffin bearers would temporarily rest their load. He climbs the highest hill in Harris, An Clisham (799 meters), and admires the spectacular view from the summit. He visits the Callandish stone circle, possibly older than Stonehenge, on the west coast of Lewis. And he visits with former cyclist and photographer Andrea Ingram, who, rather than focusing on landscapes, prefers to take pictures of people and their everyday activities, using old-fashioned black and white film
Though the program itself is wonderful, the DVD must be downgraded a notch because of one annoying--and unaccountable--aspect: it lacks a chapter menu and chapter stops. This is also the case with McNeish's other Scottish Walks offered by Mountain Media--"The Skye Trail," "The West Highland Way, "Scotland Coast to Coast," and "Sutherland-The Empty Lands." ("Wild Walks," on the other hand, does have a chapter menu.) You can't get from one section of the program to another by selecting a chapter on the root menu or even by hitting the "skip" button (skip gets you to the next program); you have to scan either on fast forward or fast reverse. What were they thinking?
Larry B | Ventura, California | October 2018