Former TGO editor and broadcaster Cameron McNeish offers an irresistable sampler of his favorite walks around Scotland in this first volume of "Wild Walks" (see also "Wild Walks 2") drawn from BBC Scotland's "Adventure" show. Divided into bite-sized 5 to 10 minute chunks, this program presents 10 relatively short walks (classified by their degree of difficulty), from the Scottish borderlands to the northern Highlands. McNeish begins with a moderately easy 3-mile walk in his own backyard, in the Monadh Liath, featuring moorland, hill, and river, a hike that he takes almost every day while at home for the sake of physical, mental and spiritual refreshment. For this nearby walk, McNeish dispenses with special gear, backpack, or his signature walking poles; the scenery is nonetheless as spectacular as some of the other, more difficult walks. Saving "the best for last," McNeish concludes with the Cairngorms Northern Corries, and its amazing rock architecture, where he first learned to climb, his "hills of home," his "university." In-between, he takes on walks in Lochnagar, The Cobbler, Bidean nam Bian in Glen Coe (the highest point in Argyll), Ben Wyvis, Glenlivet, Hart Fell, Stob Ban and Mullach nan Corein, and Ben Venue.
As always, McNeish is a fount of enthusiasm, inviting us to share his excitement at the scenes before him, as well as a fount of fascinating information about local lore, history, and wildlife. During the Cobbler sequence, he tells us of a "wee dog" that he encountered on this route, that accompanied him to the summit, ate half his lunch, accompanied him down, and then disappeared--and that he connects to the spirit of the Cobbler and the "impudence" of the mountain. In the beautiful hills of Glenlivet, he recounts how the first legal whiskey distiller, George Smith, after receiving threats by the illegal distillers following the passage of the Excise Act of 1823 (which allowed formerly illegal distillers like Smith to apply for a license to produce whiskey) felt compelled to sleep with a pistol on each side of his pillow. On the Ben Venue walk, McNeish tells us of how Walter Scott wrote three of his novels, including "The Lady of the Lake" and "Rob Roy." And he notes that this is the area where Rob Roy MacGregor courted his wife. McNeish points out how the adjacent mountains Stob Bab and Mullach nan Corein display startlingly contrasting shapes, the former characterized by rocky crags, ridges, and buttresses, the latter shaped like an elephant's back, with gently rolling hills. In the same segment, he notes how different seasons are accompanied by different bird sounds.
Consumer note: the last five minutes are essentially an advertisement for the "Walks" series' sponsor, Gore-Tex outdoor wear. But this segment is well integrated into the rest of the DVD, with McNeish and Gore-Tex executive John McDonald in the great outdoors discussing the informative technical specs of what has become essential gear for such excursions (we're a long way from the days of Alfred Wainwright's baggy sweaters and jackets). "Wild Walks" is engrossing; and the sights of McNeish pouring the "healing" waters of a mineral spring near Hart Fell over his bald pate to encourage his hair to grow, and gleefully sliding down an icy Ben Wyvis hill on his backside are themselves worth the price of the DVD.
Larry B | Ventura, California | October 2018