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2014 is an extraordinary year for Scotland.
So much is happening across the length and breadth of the country.
And it's not all about politics and sport.
We're here with a brand-new series,
a journey to discover the events worth celebrating.
And the stories behind them.
Everything from theatre to comedy...
Great music and festivals!
..activities we can all get involved in.
Exploring what's happening inside our buildings...
and what's going on on your street.
We'll tell you about the quirky...
and the exciting.
We'll delve into Scotland's tastiest food and drink...
..and meet the people creating these incredible experiences for all of us.
So plan your summer with us. Join us as we head On The Road 2014.
Our route tonight - I'm in Inverness proving dying is easy.
Phew... Tough crowd.
Comedy is hard.
What do you do for a living?
We're joined by weatherwoman Carol Kirkwood...
They are enormous!
..who's exploring the £22 million extension
of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
Some fine sailing ahead.
And Martel reveals how one Glasgow company is leading the world
in a Commonwealth sport.
This is a family business - father, then passed to son -
-is it a marriage made in heaven?
But first, this...
I'm heading to Kirkwall in Orkney, where islanders are preparing
for the magnificent St Magnus International Festival.
This group of 70 islands - yes, 70! - has stunning scenery,
incredible wildlife and is infused with 10,000 years of history.
But today, I'm in search of some culture.
For 30 years, the stunning scenery of Orkney has formed the backdrop
to one of Britain's most highly regarded
art and music festivals,
with world-class musicians performing alongside home-grown talent.
And as it's the 80th birthday of festival founder
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, it's going to be a bumper year.
The week-long musical celebration will attract
thousands of visitors to 42 events across Orkney.
And the St Magnus Cathedral, which is almost nine centuries old,
is its epicentre.
Here, eight events will take place.
It just takes your breath away, it's incredible.
And it's no wonder this is the focus of the festival.
But none of it would happen year after year
without the dedication of local people.
One of whom is festival chairman
and expert bell-ringer here at the cathedral, Leslie Burgher.
Totally not what I expected at all!
Leslie's job is to make sure this year's festival is a belter,
and to help him do that are a ream of volunteers.
We've got people doing things like being behind the stage,
we've got front of house,
and on top of that we've got over 400 local people
taking part in the performances as well.
So, it gives people here the chance to see these top-class performers
in action, and it gets them the chance to be alongside them.
And this year, what are you looking forward to most?
I will always have to say that I look forward to the Festival Chorus.
It brings well over 100 of our local singers,
and I think that's going to be something really special this year.
And here they are.
# ..Shall be found... #
They've been rehearsing since February
for a performance of William Walton's contemporary Belshazzar's Feast,
which they'll be singing alongside the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
and the BBC Singers.
The St Magnus Chorus is a choir of architects, policemen,
farmers, shop assistants, who come from all over Orkney to rehearse -
a feat of organisation in itself.
# ..Shall be found... #
Well, I live and work on one of the outlying islands,
so it involves an hour-and-a-half commute into the rehearsal,
and an early start in the morning to get back out to the island
in time for work.
Being involved in this choir
means that I am taking part in something
that's bigger than just myself.
I'm an architect working from home, so when I come to the choir
I meet with a whole team of people and work together with them.
# ..Sing us one of the songs of Zion... #
The main thing about singing in the choir,
it's completely different from my day job.
It makes a change from milking cows 24/7.
# ..Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! #
The choir sound fantastic - full of passion, energy and talent.
You can tell they're almost ready for the big day.
And what's so great is to see a community come together
and make this happen.
The festival runs until 26th June,
but if you can't make it up here,
you can catch highlights on Radio 3,
such as the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's live performance
at the St Magnus Cathedral on Wednesday 25th June.
Last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe was a record-breaker,
though for budding comedians attempting to break through,
there's another festival they consider to be even more important,
as it's here they test their routines for the first time
on what's probably their toughest audience.
A Scottish one.
This is like a secret gig,
and we all have to know a password to get in here.
It's called Happyness,
and it takes place every May in the city of Inverness.
So, we called a seasoned entertainer to investigate
this dog-eat-cat world of stand-up comedy...
and when he wasn't available, we decided to send Fred.
Now in its third year,
the Happyness Comedy Festival pulls in many big names -
every one of them looking for laughs, free drinks
and, more importantly, to make their routine the best it can be.
It's not the easiest of career paths.
I'll be honest with you, I've died on my ar...tistry a few times.
More than I care to remember.
I mean, asking yourself to stand in front of a room full of people
and making them laugh. For goodness' sake.
Any Highlanders in?
Phew... Tough crowd.
Getting here requires not only an audience
but also practice, practice, practice.
Which is just one of the reasons comedian Stuart Mitchell is in town.
Formerly part of a troupe,
this year he's going solo at the Edinburgh Fringe.
But first he wants to conquer Inverness.
I'm trying to make it more personal to me. When I first started out,
-it was all about telling jokes on stage.
Whereas I'm now trying to tell more stories.
And I'm a lot more confident with silence -
-I was a bit scared of silence in the past.
-I think we all are!
Even the audience. Watch this.
Scared them. Will you try some stuff
that you think you might throw in for Edinburgh?
Yeah. You know yourself, you've got to take risks.
You've got to learn to test new material,
and don't rely on the stuff that you know works.
Currently, Stuart works for a charity organisation,
but is hoping this will be the first step
to a career that might pay even less - comedy.
I'm sure you'll agree, when you're doing new material
and you hear that laughter, it's the best feeling in the world.
'But as well as polishing his act,
'Stuart will also have to learn the art of grassroots advertising -
'AKA handing out flyers...'
Come to the Inverness Happyness festival tonight.
..something comedians Patrick Monahan
and Bec Hill are old hands at.
In terms of the number of people that you get through the door,
I mean, is that dependent on how much flyering you do?
In Edinburgh, absolutely.
Here I find that we're getting more and more audiences every year.
Learning to be your own PR machine is essential -
though, of course, the other essential ingredient is being funny,
something Jason Byrne says he's more than happy to help me with. Cheeky.
What do you do for a living?
You do nothing?!
I caught up with Jason pre-gig,
and already he's been inspired by the locals.
-I got the train up here, and I did a lot of listening on the train.
Oh, my God, I hope to have at least half an hour...
-..of new Scottish material.
-Oh, it was great craic.
Are you his wife or partner, or...? Who are you? A friend?
No. Nobody. LAUGHTER
Is it easier for you, because you've been going that length of time,
to make a new hour, or is it just as difficult now?
When I was younger I would go, "Is that funny? Oh, I'll try it."
And it wouldn't be, and I'd go, "Oh, my God."
So I tend to die less now on stage.
But that means that the quality is higher,
but that means that it's harder.
Speaking of which, time for Stuart to road test his one-man show.
At least there's a good crowd.
Please welcome to the stage, the fantastic Stuart Mitchell!
How you doing, Inverness, are you well?
Can I just start by saying,
I'm very conscious there's doctors in the audience.
Cos I don't like waving at audiences,
cos I'm missing the tips of my fingers.
-Do you see that? AUDIENCE:
It's not a magic trick.
Actually, I went to a rough school in Glasgow,
where I lost that in a game of rock, paper and scissors.
After 20 minutes on stage which, believe me, CAN seem a lifetime,
I think Stuart's solo career is off to a pretty good start.
-Anyway, you've been a lovely audience.
But what do the punters think?
Stuart was fantastic.
It was brilliant. I had a really good time.
Definitely see Stuart Mitchell again.
It was the best night you could imagine.
Stuart did a really, really good job,
so I think that augurs well for Edinburgh Fringe.
Well done to Stu! Nice one!
You can see Stuart at the Edinburgh Fringe,
which runs August 1st to 25th.
Meanwhile, the Happyness festival will return next May.
And for more info,
go to our website...
Stay with us as Fred dips his toes...
..and a few other things
in one of Scotland's historic outdoor swimming pools.
And journalist Cat Cubie explores our newfound love of gin.
No, that is really nice!
The Kelpies are not only Scotland's newest icon,
they're also the centrepiece
of a soon-to-be-opened £22 million extension
to our much-loved lowland canals.
And weather favourite Carol Kirkwood is taking an exclusive journey
along this new waterway.
Right underneath me is the brand-new half-mile stretch
of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
It is just lovely and tranquil today, so some fine sailing ahead.
Opening in two months' time, this stretch of water makes it possible
to leisurely sail all the way from the North Sea to the Irish Sea,
enjoying some spectacular sights en route.
The new extension has its beginnings in Grangemouth...
and it bypasses the narrow tidal parts of the River Carron,
so that now boats of up to 20m will be able to join the canal.
Richard Miller from Scottish Canals thinks this will attract
pleasure boaters from around the world.
This new extension of the canal makes it a lot easier
for boats coming in from Holland, from Germany and from Scandinavia,
doing what it was always meant to do,
which was a sea-to-sea navigation.
Year on year out, it will deliver £1.5 million into the local economy.
A fantastic result,
and one that comes from a 16-year investment project,
which allows boating enthusiasts to enjoy, at a pace of 4mph,
everything form the Falkirk Wheel to the revamped Speirs Wharf in Glasgow.
A far cry from the canal's beginnings,
which are rooted in the industrial heyday of the late 1700s.
The idea was really to develop freight,
but also to develop passenger transport,
and it was transformational,
because the canal actually developed the first sleeper service.
So you could travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh overnight,
and it was very, very popular - over 200,000 passengers a year.
The arrival of the railway signalled the end of the canals,
and eventually they were left to rot.
Thankfully campaign groups rallied to their cause
almost as soon as they'd closed - and just look at the result.
Oh, my goodness, they are enormous!
They were created by artist Andy Scott
and called Kelpies after the mythical water spirits
that haunted the ancient lochs and rivers of Celtic folklore.
Inspiration also came from the heavy horses
that once pulled the barges along the towpath.
They are celebrating the industrial past, but also the future.
I mean, just look at them!
Named Head Up and Head Down,
300 tonnes of steel were used in their construction,
as well as 990 unique stainless-steel skin plates,
and it was all assembled on-site in just 90 days.
Well, apparently the thing to do when you come here is a Kelpie selfie.
Everyone's doing it, so here goes.
The new public park also offers visitors a concert space...
a lagoon for watersports...
and, for the very brave, an open-air swimming pool.
But if you don't fancy getting your feet wet,
this is the starting point
of an additional 16 miles of brand-new cycle networks,
all waiting to be explored.
Meanwhile, there are five companies offering boating holidays
and barges for hire along this stretch of water.
Or you could explore Scotland's other famous canals,
such as the Crinan and the Caledonian.
Let's just hope the summer weather is good.
MUSIC: "A Fistful of Dollars (Theme)" by Ennio Morricone
A game that requires power...
and steely determination.
And right here in Glasgow is the oldest
and biggest manufacturer of bowls in the world,
supplying many of the ones being played
at next month's Commonwealth Games.
But before I discover what goes into making a world-class bowl,
I've come to the beautiful Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre,
where the Commonwealth bowls will be held.
In fact, that's the Scottish team practising right now,
and I'm going to find out how a good bowl can help my game.
'Mind you, as I am a complete and utter novice...'
Am I holding it correctly?
'I'm relying on the skills of para-athlete
'and world champ Robert Conway, along with his coach Ron McArthur.'
-You've done this before.
-She's probably a champion.
-You're being kind.
'Even more surprising than my natural ability
'is the fact that bowls aren't actually round -
'they're weighted so they run in a curved line.'
It's a real family sport - it's one of the best sports in the world.
Doesn't matter what disability you've got -
physically impaired, physically disabled...
But it does have a wee bit of a reputation as an old man's sport.
I'm here quite a lot, and I see young kids, teenagers,
who you would never expect to play bowls, come to try bowls.
World indoor champion is an 18-year-old girl, Katherine Rednall,
and she beat a 24-year-old to win that.
And just a few minutes into my training,
I can definitely see the game's appeal.
Oh, great, again!
Now I know how a good bowl can help my game,
I want to find the perfect size and weight for me,
so my next stop is Taylor Bowls in Bridgeton,
a local company that's the world leader.
In fact, it's been going for almost 220 years,
and in all that time has only been owned by two families -
the Taylors and, more recently, the Herons,
father and son duo, Alex and Grant.
This is a family business - father, then passed to son -
-is it a marriage made in heaven?
Might as well be truthful about it!
-We've had a few issues over the years.
-Well, I'm officially retired!
He's officially retired, yeah.
Well, they must be doing something right...
as they're now producing roughly a quarter of a million bowls a year.
Wow! It's massive!
And just in case you were wondering...
..this is how it's done.
First, take a few scoops of powdered melamine...
It then goes into these little machines at the side here,
which are radio wave preheaters, very similar to a microwave.
..heat to 130 degrees Celsius, until it forms a dough,
then place into a cast and apply 150 tonnes of pressure.
And it'll turn that dough into something like a treacle.
Next, cool for 12 hours, then remove all the rough edges...
and add the detailing.
OK, Martel. So, that's the process finished.
Wow! Our very...
On The Road ball, how cool is that?
Right, don't tell the rest of the crew, I want to keep this one myself.
Because now I have the training and the equipment,
it's time to get competitive!
Judging my efforts, the entire ladies team of the Blantyre Bowling Club.
No pressure, then(!)
Well, Ella, I've got a lot of ladies to impress here.
I hope I do an OK job.
And thanks for holding my umbrella, Ella.
# Eh, eh, eh
# Under my umbrella
# Ella, ella, eh, eh, eh... #
If my attempts have inspired you,
there are hundreds of bowling clubs across Scotland you can join,
and you can see Commonwealth Games athletes
compete at Kelvingrove Green from July 24th.
And whether you decide to pick up a ball or just watch the games
from the comfort of your own sofa, remember,
the bowl you see in play was probably made in Glasgow.
# Un-reroute the rivers
# Let the dammed water be... #
Think home-grown booze and, of course, you think whisky.
Though maybe not for much longer, as, surprisingly,
Scotland's becoming increasingly well-known for its gin.
We're even celebrating World Gin Day on June 14th.
So, to find out more about its spike in popularity,
we've sent journalist Cat Cubie to Edinburgh.
Go into almost any pub or club or restaurant these days,
and you're likely to find a whole array of different gins.
It's seriously trendy, and increasingly popular -
and what's more, a lot of those bottles are likely to be Scottish.
Because around 70% of gin made in the UK comes from Scotland -
like whisky, gin starts out as ethanol,
a pure spirit made from grain,
meaning whisky distilleries can easily switch to gin production.
But unlike whisky, gin doesn't take ages maturing.
In fact, it can be produced and sold almost immediately.
It's one of the main reasons we've seen so many new bottles
appearing on the shelves in the last few years.
So, what prompted the gin revolution?
Food and drink editor of the List Magazine Donald Reid
is going to tell me.
We're becoming more expressive,
and I think gin's a great example of that.
People are more interested in ingredients
and the distinctiveness of ingredients
going into different products.
This explosion in flavour has seen seven new Scottish gins
hit the market over the last decade.
But it's not just the big distilleries
who are getting in on the act.
This is Pickering's,
the first artisan gin distillery to open in Edinburgh in 150 years.
Run by Marcus Pickering and Matthew Gammell.
-Are you guys going to show me what you would do to make some gin?
-We can show you the process.
Their unique mix contains nine botanicals -
that's flavourings, to you and me -
including the likes of angelica, lime and fennel.
Mind you, some gins have as many as 31! Others as little as four.
But I digress. The botanicals are added to 96% proof alcohol.
And this is heated by a bain-marie.
Now, a bain-marie, that's what I usually use
when I'm cooking chocolate - is it the same thing?
Very similar principle.
Heat is applied to the outer tank, which contains water.
This gently heats the inner tank, which has the gin,
turning it into gas.
Next it's condensed back into a liquid, water's added,
and the alcohol content becomes a much more drinkable 42%.
In the distillery we only have it neat.
Mm. HE LAUGHS
No, that is really nice!
-It's actually quite palatable.
But it's not just the gin that's undergoing a transformation.
According Paul Reynolds, owner of this specialist gin bar in Glasgow,
the humble slice of lemon has had its day.
Gins are all about tasting the botanicals.
-So you want to complement the flavours.
Paul has three garnishes for me to try.
Cucumber with some Hendrick's...
Yeah, it's really refreshing, and I-I love cucumber anyway,
but you get that mix.
..apple with this Speyside Caorunn...
-Oh, that is so much sweeter!
..and lemongrass with The Botanist from Islay.
It is very smooth. In the other two,
you're getting more of the flavours coming through from the garnish...
-..where that's kind of a little bit more subtle.
To learn more about gin and other spirits produced here
in Scotland, there are distilleries you can visit across the country.
And for more info on any of the items
on tonight's programme,
go to our website, at...
With summer here and the swimming season finally upon us,
I want to pay tribute to a special part of our history -
or, to put it another way...
time for me to take a dip
in one of Scotland's last remaining open-air public pools.
At one stage, we had around 25 of these little beauties
up and down the country.
# We should be swimming... #
It was here we socialised, entered knobbly knee contests
and even fell in love.
But these days, only three remain,
something that makes Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire
a very special place indeed,
as, here, this Art Deco gem has not only survived against the odds,
it's actually thriving.
And this month it celebrates a very important anniversary -
its 80th birthday.
That's right, twice as old as me(!)
This impressive Olympic-sized pool
filled with 250,000 gallons of seawater first opened in 1934,
though, by the '90s,
cheap holidays abroad meant it was facing the wrecker's ball.
Fortunately, the locals swung onto action,
forming the Friends of Stonehaven Pool.
We started in the mid-'90s, when the pool was threatened with closure.
And there it was, "Backs to the wall,
"we must keep this open at all costs."
Eventually, the locals succeeded in lobbying the council,
and 20 years on, they still play a role in keeping the place tiptop.
There's a lot of work gone into this, from lots of volunteers.
-We've over 4,000 volunteer hours.
-Is that a fact?
But we can't sit on our laurels -
we've got to keep the place looking good.
'Thanks to the dedicated volunteers lending a hand...'
'..that doesn't seem to be a problem.'
It nearly looks better than it did when it opened in 1934.
Is that right?
'And Bruce Whitelaw should know. He was actually there.'
I learned to swim in the pool in 1934.
-So you could work my age out.
-I'm going to guess 84, then.
That is dead on. 84.
And this year - what, will you do a few lengths a day?
No, I can't do a length any more.
-Across the way, a breadth?
-Oh, yes, I can do a breadth.
-Never miss one year...
-..in the pool.
Here we go!
Not only is the pool an important part of this community,
it also represented a shift in our values.
That is, according to historian Alastair Durie.
This is the era when the body
-was starting to be...wanted to be seen as beautiful.
-The Victorians had covered up. This generation is stripping off.
And from what I can tell,
swimming wasn't the main reason people used to flock here.
In addition to what's going on in the pool,
you've got beauty parades, you've got amusement competitions -
-best-dressed and all that sort of thing.
They even, in some places, staged naval battles!
It's the centre of everything that goes on by way of popular amusement.
As for the future, I'd say this venue is definitely back in vogue.
One, two, three, up.
Over a good summer, it's attracting more than 30,000 people,
and it's also the perfect place
for local lifeguards to hone their skills...
You're going to get into teams of three instead of your teams of two.
..just one of the reason trainer Gillian Wood is grateful
to the Friends of Stonehaven Pool.
Do you think that the dedication that they've shown
will be echoed with the young ones?
I think it will, yeah.
Everybody's proud of the pool,
so I think you will see younger ones stepping up to the game.
They'll all do above and beyond what they need to do.
Stonehaven's Olympic-sized outdoor pool is open now
through till September.
And you'll also find similar pools dating back to last
century in both Gourock and New Cumnock.
Well, I've had an absolutely brilliant day
here at Stonehaven Open Air Pool.
I enjoyed being in the water - it's Baltic when you get out,
I'm away for a fish supper.
While we won't be here next week,
join us on Monday 23rd June at 7.30pm,
when I'll be showcasing
one of Scotland's multicultural festivals, the Mela.
Martel's back in Orkney celebrating the 70th anniversary
of the island's stunning chapel built by Italian prisoners of war...
..and DJ Ally McCrae will be swapping his headphones
for full battle gear as preparations get going for Bannockburn Live.