From crofters, mountains and midges to hunting, whisky and the Highland Games, newsreel archive gems and documentary collections create a portrait of the region and its people.
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-That's Upper Glendessary?
-That's right, yes.
How on Earth do you pronounce that thing there?
Sgurr Cos na Breach-laoidh.
# MUSIC: "She's A River" by Simple Minds
There's nothing that encapsulates Scotland's pride
in its history and traditions quite like the Highland Games.
# Shadow, let go, there's something you should know... #
It's quite amazing the people you find wandering around the top of Ben Nevis at any hour of any day.
# Like the air that led me to it
# She's the wind that sucked me through it
# She's a river and she's turning there in front of me
# And I go blind Wasting my time
# The river's in front of me... #
Isn't it grand this stuff's made in Scotland?
# That's where I'm going to be... #
Are you listening? Loch Ness. The monster!
# Shine on, get on... #
I would like to see more people come to the Highlands for their holidays
to appreciate the beauty that we live in all the year round.
The Highlands - uninhabitable.
Anyone who doesn't have to live here is lucky.
That's what I was taught, and in a Scottish school too, but it's a lie.
Mind you, if you select your evidence, like these rocks -
the oldest in the world and the hardest - you can make out a case.
You wouldn't last long here on the scarred slopes of chilled volcanoes
with the eagles and wildcats for company.
And what more glorious setting
than the wild and solemn grandeur of the Highlands of Scotland?
The country of wooded valleys and hills and lovely mountain lochs.
It's here that nature rules in all her majesty.
All over the Highlands, it's the same story.
The eternal whiteness covers all. Scotland in the grip of winter.
Thomas Cook began to organise tourist trips to Scotland in the mid-1800s
and by the 20th century, a winter tourist boom was born.
Winter sports enthusiasts now flock to Scotland,
and if skiing or tobogganing isn't in their line,
they can always enjoy something particularly Scottish in flavour - curling.
Brushing, or sooping, the ice to allow the stone to slide more easily,
is an integral part of the game
and an expert sooper is a definite asset to any rink -
rink being the playing area and the members of a side.
The object of the game, like bowls,
is to slide your stone as near as possible
to the tee at the other end of the rink.
A word of advice though - if you're in Scotland,
don't liken the game to bowls.
A mere Sassenach imitation!
This morning, for the first time ever,
we managed to get live pictures from the top of Ben Nevis.
I think we can probably go over there now,
because Ian McNaught-Davis is in the Arctic conditions up there on the summit.
Mac, can you hear me?
Well, if you've often wondered what the summit of Ben Nevis
looks like in the middle of winter, this is it.
A howling wind, thick mist, howling snow and altogether unpleasant.
It almost makes Scott's last camp in the Antarctic look like home.
If you're young enough to feel the exhilaration of winging down snowy slopes,
then start from the Cairngorm peak of Scotland's Grampian mountains
and ski to your heart's content.
The chairlift has been designed to carry 500 people an hour
in double-seated chairs.
Quite a feat when you consider that in 1947,
only one hotelier in the area was prepared to accommodate skiers.
The rest laughed at the idea of Scotland becoming a centre for winter sports.
So, now in Scotland, where winter once meant hardship,
sportsmen can easily ascend to the level of their Swiss counterparts.
If there isn't the appeal associated with Switzerland,
you at least don't have to yodel for a nice fat glass of Highland whisky at the end of the day.
It's an alpine-style school at Glencoe
for training Alsatians in mountain and moorland rescue.
It combines rescue techniques with methods pioneered by the Red Cross during the war,
when dogs were used to locate the wounded on a battlefield.
Until recently, only the RAF could provide fully-trained rescue units.
Now, civilians are being trained to form voluntary teams
and these dogs will provide invaluable support.
Isn't it grand that this stuff's made in Scotland?
Aye, but that's gey true.
Yes, Scotch whisky is the true product of Scotland.
If your steps take you into the Speyside district of the Highlands,
you'll come across distillery after distillery
in which the first stages of turning barley into whisky are performed.
Now, here's the place for the connoisseur - the warehouse.
Hundreds of casks, stacked and mellowing.
A tap on the cask tells the expert ear
whether it's still sound or not.
That is the reason for the tapping - to make sure the casks are sound.
Awfu' good stuff.
The secret is in the water
and there's plenty of it about in Scotland.
Little springs that become clear, clean streams
darting and flickering over the granite
until they reach the dark peat of the moors.
To guard it, they use geese, not dogs.
Though from the gait of them,
it seems they might well have had a tot or two before coming on duty.
Dewar's biggest advertising hit was this.
What you are watching is a priceless cinematic artefact -
the first ever movie commercial to be screened.
It was shot in 1898 at enormous expense.
Watch the methods of the experienced old blender
who carries out the tests in his sample room.
Believe it or not, it's nose as does it.
Thank you, Maureen. That's absolutely wonderful.
It's got me in the back of the throat.
There are a few articles in this civilised existence which stand out as perfect examples of their kind.
And Scotch whisky is one of them.
My heart's in the Highlands My heart is not here
My heart's in the Highlands A-hunting the deer.
And a-hunting the deer is one of the few energetic occupations
open to a gentleman in the Highlands.
But the gentlemen are decidedly not Highlanders.
Queen Victoria started it when she bought Balmoral
and set up as a laird.
If the wee German lady could be a laird,
what was to stop a Glasgow bottle-maker
or a soap merchant from Lancashire?
The Highlands had become fashionable.
Fine new hunting lodges,
filled with hairless white knees and public-school accents.
This stalker, an hotelier from Glasgow,
has paid £150 for a day's shooting on this deer farm.
The whole secret in deer stalking is you're out to deceive the deer,
so that you can get close enough to them to get a shot which is sure -
or as reasonably sure as you can get it -
to kill them without them having any suspicion
there's a human been anywhere near them.
You must always come with the wind blowing towards you,
away from the deer, because otherwise the deer will scent you
up to a good mile in the hill.
And as soon as they scent you, that's it. They're up and away.
I cannae hold it steady enough.
Ground can be quite difficult.
Flat ground, you've got to go very often on your belly and that's it.
You crawl across a big wet flat.
You use a drain or a burn if it's available.
WHISPERS: That's approaching now.
Somebody once called it a sort of assassination.
The deer is dead and that's it.
There is really no stress in deer stalking.
-Even the sound of a shot to the other deer - it's just a loud noise.
-Congratulations, well done!
-Good morning, Jimmy.
-How are you?
-Very well indeed.
This is some spectacle here. How many beasts are here?
There's exactly 100 stags' heads here.
-That's our season's kill.
-Just one season? That's our season.
Is there one here that you'd call a really good head?
Not really, because the state policy is
that we don't really shoot any good heads at all.
-We leave the good heads to breed with the hinds
and, once they get old, that's when we shoot them.
We try to shoot the weak, old and poor, like I've got on the fence.
This one here is what they call an Imperial, isn't it? It's 14 points.
-I would have taken that for a good head.
You see, this head here is what we would call a very ugly head,
a very goat-like head, very upright and very, very narrow.
This is the type of stag that we try to preserve - some width, some beauty about it.
So that's the reason for shooting that stag there.
-And that's the reason he was allowed to get so old?
There was something addictive about the killing.
As one sportsman said of another, he had blood.
Whenever a person kills a deer, it's like a dog killing a sheep.
They can never keep away from it again.
Whereas a traditional clansman might kill one for the pot
and make use of the entire animal, these kills
are only for the trophy.
All they're interested in is the head. A natural coat rack.
Which makes this place probably the biggest cloakroom in the world.
Highland dancing is second nature to Duncan Maclean.
After all, he learnt the finer points from his mother in Scotland
a matter of 85 years ago. Now 88 himself,
he regularly has a Highland fling in the front room,
to remind himself of his days on the music hall
and to entertain his wife, Elsie.
Danced here by champions, this is by tradition a solo dance for men.
An expression of sheer pride and exhilaration of race.
It is a dance of fierce imagination,
a medley of spring and lightness of foot.
A fine and precise movement, robust and at the same time graceful.
The credit for its birth
was given to the antics of a courting stag on a Scottish hillside.
An old shepherd was teaching his grandson to play the chanter
when they spotted the stag.
The old man asked if the boy could imitate it.
Raising his hands above his head to simulate antlers,
the boy danced about, copying the love dance of the great deer.
These are animals the locals live in fear of.
They approach silently and they hunt in packs.
Once they've attacked,
they return relentlessly in the pursuit of blood.
Escape is impossible.
We tend to do a bit of fishing, so they just make it a misery.
This is midge heaven, or, for the people who live here,
You spend the whole day blowing them away from your face and scratching.
If I mush them around, there are midges all over my face and hands.
Right, that's it! I've had enough. These things are driving me mad!
I'm afraid it's time for the net, the head net.
The number one reason, sadly,
that people don't come back to Scotland for a holiday - midges.
The scene's near Braemar in the Deeside Highlands.
And, in spite of rather miserable weather,
the park was packed in readiness for the Royal arrivals.
Princess Alexandra, wearing an Inverness cape.
The Queen with a feather in her cap.
Princess Anne and Prince Philip.
The Queen Mother was also there,
and, in salute to the Royal Family on holiday in Scotland, the skirl of the pipes.
I now declare these games open!
This is the hammer - another one of the heavy events.
There's one other event, which also takes a great deal of technique.
It's perhaps the most famous event in any Highland Games - tossing the caber.
Unlike golf, this is a Scottish sport that has never found much favour south of the border.
But in Glenfinnan a successful caber tosser
is rated very highly indeed.
Although the day Highland man first tossed the caber isn't recorded,
it happened, legend assures, many hundreds of years ago
when woodmen developed the technique of catapulting trees
into the river for their journey to the sawmills.
It has to land on its nose and pitch right forward.
Otherwise, no go.
Strength and perfect timing are two of the main essentials.
Plus a certain amount of agility if things should not go the right way.
-It's mine if I want it. It is!
That was dreadful.
I don't know how many Highland dancers
get killed by flying hammers in a year,
or tug-of-war teams decimated by shot putters,
or spectators squashed by freshly tossed cabers.
With half the village of Newtonmore watching,
I was determined not to be beaten by Purves.
But something was about to happen that did make me drop the caber,
even though it was only a small one.
SQUEALING AND LAUGHTER
Yes, there's room for more children and more people in the Highlands.
It's terrible to think that little more than a century ago
thousands of crofters were driven from their homes in the glens
to make room for sheep farmers and sportsmen from the south.
The sigh of tragedy still lies heavy on the land.
Oh, I'll not deny things are better now
than when Geordie Mackay was a boy.
But, for all that, crofting is very much what it always has been.
We have our three or four acres,
and we have to work hard to grow our few potatoes,
some vegetables for the house,
a patch of oats, some hay
and a few turnips for the beasts in the winter.
And above the crofts, on the slopes of the hills,
we have our common ground where the sheep and the cattle are grazed.
Highlanders are often visualised as just purveyors of good fishing,
shooting and glorious scenery.
Yet the crofters are very different beings.
With small farms and ancient implements, they toil for their livelihood.
On the moors, the top layer of soil is removed
to disclose the peat beds from which the precious fuel is dug.
It takes several weeks before the peat is dry enough to use,
and it's quite a common sight in the Highlands
to see the dug peat hanging under the cottage eaves.
Time seems to have stayed its hand in many parts of the Highlands
and spinning and weaving is still the work of nimble fingers
and inherited skill.
But the whole world knows the wonderful cloth
that these industrious folk produce.
This is Ian, a boy with a question mark over him.
He is growing up in the Highlands of Scotland,
on a small farm above Loch Ness and the monster.
What does the future hold for Ian
and thousands of youngsters like him in this remote corner of Britain?
For more than a century, there's been a steady drain
of people from the Highlands.
But some do stay. Young Ian's father and mother, for instance.
They saw the Highlands as a place of opportunity.
Mr and Mrs Jack gave up city life and secure positions,
and bought themselves a tough job - a derelict croft,
fields unfenced and choked with weeds.
Certainly, it's been very hard work.
It is hard but, it's morning till night. Every day, seven days a week.
No breaks, no holidays, but I think, in the end, it's worth it.
Worth it for the sake of Ian, to give him the heritage
of a country upbringing in close touch with nature.
The main idea, of course, is to get as much of this land as we can under grass.
And with the grass we then can put cattle
and I think it is in cattle and in young calves that is the future.
At least our future lives, and the future of many small people.
TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWS
They call this the Skye Line, and it runs through
some of the most gloomily beautiful country in the world.
Country which looks and sounds as if it's out of Tolkien,
with names like the Valley of Drizzle,
Raven Rock and the Black Water.
The lochs and lonely crags and empty moors it passes through
are thick with legends of giants and beasts,
and one particularly fearsome witch known in the trade as Hairy Agnes.
Honestly, it says so in the British Rail brochure.
This is without any exception the most magnificent railway journey
in the British Isles.
The Mallaig line, from Fort William to the sea.
And the observation car lets you see it properly.
Rivers and mountains, birch trees,
heather, bracken, and trout rings breaking on the lochs.
Many of these little crofting communities in the Western Highlands
are 60 miles or more from the nearest railway station.
Aye, and before they made the new road
it was three days by horse or five on foot over the hills to Lairg.
But now we have the mail car.
Every day, the mail car from Lairg comes over to Achriesgill,
bringing letters and parcels, news from the outside world and stores for the shop.
A son home on leave maybe.
Hello, here's Andy Ross home on leave.
By Jove, and he's looking well.
It must be three years since he was home last.
But the most devoted family must meet the outside world sometimes.
So usually the farmer provides transport twice a week to the nearest village or town,
so the wife can get her shopping done and her man meet his friends.
Before the trains came,
the 30-mile journey from Fort William to the coast had to be done
in a horse-drawn coach, bumping crazily over rough cart tracks.
It took 7½ hours to get there,
so long that it could never get back the same day.
The railway reduced this time to little over one hour,
an improvement of something like 80%.
It was almost as if balloons had been replaced overnight
by Concorde, with nothing else at all in-between.
Loch Ness, on which the eyes of the world are focused.
The reputed haunt of a prehistoric monster, or monsters,
and the newly found adventure ground of modern Gullivers.
Mr Weatherall, the game hunter and his party,
who have been hot on the trail of the monster for some time,
set out from Foyers to comb the lake.
There is competition from local enthusiasts,
with ambitions to earn eternal fame
for the discovery of a species long thought fabulous.
One optimist has conceived the idea of baling out the lake,
and all along the lochside a well-fortified watch is being maintained by good Scotsmen.
Can you take me rope?
-Are you local?
-Do you believe in this Loch Ness monster?
Er... I've seen it.
-You've seen it?
-What's it like?
It had a long, thin black neck with a small head,
and it was moving a lot.
Whereabouts was it?
It was about half-a-mile out from the shore.
-Were you frightened?
-You were on shore, though?
# I'm the monster of Loch Ness
# Och, aye, och, aye, oh, yes!
# Folk get the needle all around the Isle of Wight
# When they hear me growling in the middle of the night
# I'm the monster of Loch Ness
# I can beat the Scotch Express
# I'm the terror of the north I could drink the Firth of Forth
# I'm the monster of Loch Ness. #
One man who firmly believes in the legend
is a lowly Sassenach called Frank Searle.
For seven years, Londoner Searle has scanned the loch
for sight and sound of its elusive tenant.
He's a firm believer that the monster, or monsters, exists,
and his Lochside Museum sustains interest in Nessie herself.
The Crusader, Britain's new jet speedboat,
arrives at Loch Ness under the watchful eye of John Cobb, the man who is to drive her,
and his manager, Captain George Eyston, another speed king.
The Crusader is swung over the side for her first taste of the water.
John Cobb's wife was up there at Loch Ness with him,
watching his trial runs and, indeed, his last fatal run.
It was just as he'd completed one run over the measured mile at the record speed of 206.8
that the crash happened.
This is the filmed story of the fatal run.
Crusader has plunged to destruction.
John Cobb, a gallant, reserved and truly modest man,
who devoted his life to speed on land and water,
lost his life in a daring attempt to win more laurels for his country.
Rising two-thirds of a mile into the sky,
the West Highland mountain Ben Cruachan
seems to be a magnet for people with big ideas.
The Celts peopled it with mythical beings.
In the '60s, engineers hollowed it out for a power station,
and now there's a sculptor with a truly monumental ambition -
to turn the mountain into the massive figure of a fallen Celtic hero,
to celebrate the contribution of Gaelic culture to Scotland.
The design of the figure, called Oscar,
only exists as a drawing so far.
But even this has led critics
to rechristen the very obviously male form "Chilly Willy"
and to accuse the driving force behind the plans, Sandy Stoddart,
of trying to wage war on nature.
The next job for the monument's backers is to see what it will cost,
and that's only a tiny part of the mountain
they will really have to climb to realise this vision.
You are now looking at another ancient piece of Scottish history.
And I don't mean me, I'm talking of course about Ben Nevis.
The highest mountain in the British Isles. It's over 4,400 feet high.
Climbing it is quite a good sport, so we'll join the party at the hostel.
The sturdy ponies are useful for carrying camera equipment and baggage.
And they're so sure-footed they won't spill a drop.
But the most amazing ascent, I think, took place as far back as 1911,
when a man reached the summit, but in a motor car.
Mind you, I can understand their enthusiasm
for it's really a wonderful view.
It quite amazing the people you find
wandering around the top of Ben Nevis at any hour of any day.
This lady declined to be interviewed, quite rightly,
on the grounds that what she was doing was nobody's business.
To climb to the summit takes between two and three hours
and from the top you can look down
upon a view as gloriously wild as you could wish.
The Hielans of bonnie Scotland.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
From crofters, mountains and midges to hunting, whisky and the Highland Games, key archive gems from newsreel and documentary collections combine to create a portrait of the region and its people.