An Island Parish moves to the Falklands – “it’s Broadchurch times five” says BBC producer

There’s lots to learn and see on this archipelago in the South Atlantic, from off-road treasure hunts to penguin and dolphin-watching...

Offering a rare peek into close-knit community life, BBC Two’s gentle An Island Parish series has documented life in quant rural pastures including the Channel Islands and the Scillies. Tonight (7pm, BBC2) the team ventures to overseas British territory the Falklands, which possesses a landmass as big as Northern Ireland but a population below 3000 – not including the penguins.


The promise of offshore oil riches has dangled over the Falklands for years, but this year the drilling schedule will finally begin, and potentially change the landscape forever. The new industry will bring an influx of Chileans and Uruguayan workers. “There will be the need for more hotels, more restaurants,” explains series producer Lionel Mill, who was able to capture decidedly British island life before the landscapes and customs change forever. 

“All most people know about the Falklands is that there was war there 30 years ago,” explains Mill, “but it’s Broadchurch times five.

“It’s also a time of change,” he explains, “in a delightful way this series is capturing island life now…in 10 years it will be a different place.”

From the stark, striking landscapes to red post boxes, patriotic locals and penguins by the colony-load, the BBC2 series gives a fascinating insight into life at the bottom of the world. Aside from military support, the Falklands are entirely self-sufficient, there’s no unemployment and the community is sustained by its fishing industry (most of the squid we eat in Europe comes from the Falklands).

Visit the Falklands on a Radio Times Cruise, see here for more details

Islanders live modest, basic lifestyles and import any special produce from the UK. “The people are pioneers,” explains Mill. “They’re like a Swiss Family Robinson, making do. There are proper ranches and it’s a wildlife photographer’s dream.” 

“It looks very colonial, there are colourful houses, which are all exactly the same,” explains the show’s location assistant Eliana Lafone. “What struck me the most is how content everyone is there.” In a bizarre twist of fate, Lafone discovered that her great great great-grandfather founded The Falkland Islands Company, while filming the show. “There’s a big area of land on the east Falklands called Lafonia,” she explains. “There was also a hotel right next to where we were staying called the Lafone Guesthouse… the people who were true Falkland islanders were amazed. They knew more about my family history than me.”

She wasn’t the only crew member whose expectations were exceeded. “There are these incredible birds of prey called Johnny Rooks around the town of Stanley,” explains production manager Charlie Bennett, “they follow you around. It’s pretty odd to be on a beach that could be a home from home, but then to see penguins diving in and out of the water. The wildlife is amazing.”

Below the An Island Parish team offer up the best things to do and see on a trip to the Falklands:

Hop aboard an islander plane

“Get one of the 10-seater islander planes, and fly to one of the 737 different islands,” says Lafone. “There will be a family who owns a whole island – growing up in London, that seems pretty crazy to me. I’ve never been somewhere so remote. Often they will build a guest house, there will be two buildings on the whole island and the rest of it will be farms. I went to Saunders Island to experience that isolation and see the wildlife. This is where the king penguins and rock hopper penguins and elephant seals live. The family will drive you out to the best spots to see them. Meanwhile, on Carcass Island you will find about 20 to 30 elephant seals on the island.”

Try reindeer at the Malvina Hotel

“Reindeers were brought to the Falklands from South Georgia – as the population there was getting too large and the deer was causing environmental issues,” explains Bennett. “Reindeer tastes very much like venison, but more subtle. It was served with creamy mash and a red wine jus.”

Go off-roading with a local tour guide

“The landscape is incredible,” explains Bennet. “I don’t think we saw another person for four hours, it was just stunning. It’s full of rolling hills, every corner you turn there’s a different landscape. I had in my mind that it was going to be this terribly bleak, flat landscape but there are beautifully white sandy beaches.”

Visit the Falklands on a Radio Times Cruise, see here for more details

Have a smoke-o with a local

“This is a coffee or teabreak,” explains Lafone. “It originates from when they would do long sheep shearing sessions, and take cigarette breaks. Now it’s just a coffee break. I ended up having about 10 biscuits everywhere; I put on the ‘Falkland Islands stone’ something visitors gain when they visit.”

Visit Gypsy Cove

“At Gypsy Cove, you could be in the Caribbean, sitting and watching the penguins is hours of entertainment, and you can regularly see dolphins there as well,” says Bennet. You walk down the bank and look into the penguin burrows – they just peer out at you. You have to be careful you don’t disturb them when they are laying or nesting… although you can eat penguin egg. I tried one, it’s quite an acquired taste, but apparently, they make very good meringues. We tried ours boiled, and the white stays clear. There’s only certain times of year you can try them, and only certain people can collect the eggs.

Go fishing on the Warrah River

“The Falklands has some of the best angling in the world,” explains Bennet. Keen fishermen can catch zebra trout, Falklands minnow, mullet and brown trout in coastal estuaries, rivers and streams. The Warrah River originates in the foothills of Mount Robinson and Muffler Jack Mountain and is known for its size and the quality of its fish.

Experience the islander games

Sports week takes place on the east and the west of The Falklands (usually in February). “These involve off-road Land Rover treasure hunts, one of which was out at sea and teams had to jump in the water,” says explains Lafone.  “There are also sheep dog trials, sheep dog competitions (some of the crew got involved in these). They have horse racing with a fake horse – very entertaining. And, at the end of the games, there’s a big dance and party – locals do the foxtrot, which is the national dance.”

Visit the Falklands on a Radio Times Cruise, see here for more details


Watch An Island Parish on Fridays on BBC2 at 7pm