Christine Bleakley on awkward celebrities, moving to the States – and her return to Ireland

The This Morning presenter gets walking in new ITV series Wild Ireland...

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New series Wild Ireland sees Christine Bleakley return to her homeland on Mondays for ITV – but what made the former One Show presenter turn walking tour guru? Well, why not ask the lady herself?

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Why have you made a walking programme?
My sister and I were brought up in Northern Ireland going for walks every weekend, so it wasn’t a lot of bother to go back to that. There’s a lot of walking in this, and indeed, hiking. What’s the difference? More expensive boots, I think! We were very lucky with the weather too, unusually for Ireland.

Is this a deliberate move away from entertainment shows?
When I first started presenting with BBC Northern Ireland, this is exactly the sort of series I used to do. Don’t get me wrong, live shows like Dancing on Ice and This Morning are very exciting to do. But I really enjoyed just chatting away to ordinary people about their stories. It was a fantastic experience and lovely to get back on the road. But there’s nothing quite like the buzz of a live show, so of course if there’s something brilliant, I wouldn’t turn it down.

Do you prefer that to awkward celebrity interviews?
Sometimes you’re warned about people but I kind of make it my mission to come away, thinking, “They were OK”, by being really nice to them and grabbing them for a chat before the interview. But I do remember on The One Show, Morrissey came on – his mum was a big fan of ours. But Adrian Chiles called his mum by the wrong name and he got quite upset! It was a complete and utter disaster after that and it was all a bit awkward.

What are your earliest memories of watching TV?
The other day, my dad and I caught a bit of Bullseye on Challenge TV. That was a staple of my childhood. I loved that, and Catchphrase, and Strike It Lucky with Michael Barrymore.

If you could bring back an old format, what would it be?
I miss Saturday morning telly. I know there are children’s channels now but that was real event telly and it crossed over – you’d watch it with a hangover when you were older too. We need Phil and Gordon the Gopher to come back.

What makes you turn off?
Very little. I’m not a great one for anything scary, though. I’m a bit of a wimp. The kind of things you get on those crime channels, I find quite disturbing. I much prefer comedy and having a bit of a giggle at the telly.

Who’s the funniest person on TV?
Ant and Dec are fantastic. They’re funny as well as being brilliant presenters. I’ve never been more embarrassed in my whole life than when I did I’m a Celebrity… Get Out of Me Ear for Saturday Night Takeaway (above). I had to be a real show-off, and it brought me out in a nervous rash on my chest.

Will you move with your fiancé Frank Lampard to the States when he goes to play for New York Cosmos?He’s not entirely sure when he’s going so, as usual, life is up in the air. We’re only renting a small place over there, so we’ll just see how it goes.

I do enjoy New York when I’m there. It’s a crazy sort of place. Mind you, I thought London was crazy when I first got here! 

Wild Ireland begins on ITV today (Monday 13th April) at 8.00pm


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