In March 2016, Channel 4 marooned 23 strangers in the Scottish Highlands for a year. They were supposed to create a self-sufficient community but – as we’ll see in Eden: Paradise Lost, which airs on Channel 4 this week – it turned out to be more Lord of the Flies than paradise.
Channel 4 were initially coy about their exact whereabouts in Scotland. Fortunately – unlike the contestants – we had access to the internet, which revealed that Eden was a 600-acre estate on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Inverness-shire.
This 50-square-mile peninsula is halfway up Scotland’s rugged west coast and home to half a dozen small communities. The nearest village was Acharacle, which sits on the edge of Loch Shiel and boasts a bakery, hotel and GP surgery. The loch is popular with hikers and naturalists, and it’s easy to see why.
The Glenfinnan monument on the shores of Loch Shiel, Ardnamurchan peninsula
The contestants were less than five miles away on an uninhabited private estate that the Ministry of Defence used as a training ground during the Second World War. There was no chance holidaying hikers would accidentally stumble onto TV because the Highland Council temporarily revoked the usual “right to roam” access rights.
Just in case, a 6ft fence was also erected on three sides of the estate. The fourth was bordered by the sea – stunning Cul na Croise Ba.
Even Channel 4 didn’t need to scale that wall. The cameramen were also contestants and the rest of the action was captured on personal cameras or one of the largest fixed rigs created for television (basically a network of posh CCTV cameras controlled remotely), which had to be flown in by helicopter.
Ardnamurchan peninsula on Scotland’s west coast
The Ardnamurchan estate is owned by a chap called Donald Houston, who was bemused when Channel 4 first approached him about Eden.
“We laughed and thought they were completely mad at first, as we know how challenging the landscape is around here and it seemed impossible people could survive out on their own”, he told the The Scottish Mail on Sunday (presumably before Channel 4 asked him to keep shtum).
Houston continued: “The area they have chosen has been uninhabited for many years. We know people lived there in the Bronze Age but, as people have gradually become less self-sufficient, they have left for more accessible areas… It can get very wet and windy here, which will make it difficult to build shelter and to find food – the weather will be a big issue – and the land is not very fertile for growing crops. There are a few more sheltered areas on the site, but they will need to find them.”
So even if the contestants had got along brilliantly, Channel 4’s paradise involved a lot of gales and midges.
Eden: Paradise Lost is on Channel 4 on Monday 7 August at 10pm
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