In Tales from the Coast, Robson Green 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.
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.
Tales from the Coast with Robson Green is on Tuesdays at 8pm
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