Stephen Mangan, Sue Perkins and Alison Steadman travel the UK. Stephen Mangan leads Sue Perkins and Alison Steadman on a journey across Ireland, back to where his parents lived.
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'Where are we?'
-That's west. That's north,
so we got to just...
-'Well, we're lost.' We're getting nowhere.
'We've taken on the challenge of finding our way around the country
'with just nature as our guide.'
-I've never been more lost.
-Where's an oak tree, please?
-'We have no maps'...
-So I suggest we head that way.
Oh, no. I'm just doing... This isn't helping.
..'and no compass.'
You will not look at that compass!
'Instead, actress Alison Steadman'...
SHE HONKS HORN Oh, my...
..'presenter Sue Perkins'...
Even our three minds aren't equivalent to one normal-sized mind.
..'and me, actor Stephen Mangan'...
We're all going to die!
..'have all been learning to navigate the natural way.'
I think this must be the southwesterly path,
because of the wind.
'We've been trained by explorer and navigator extraordinaire,
-The sun is really important,
and we can use it as our compass. They're all pointing the same way.
It's quite a strong clue as to southwest.
'Each of our journeys has a special connection for one of us.'
It's just, er, so uplifting and...and moving.
'And in this programme, I'm taking Sue and Alison
'to my family homeland, the west coast of Ireland.'
Alison! Wow, just incredible.
'We're arriving at Knock Airport at the height of the Irish summer.'
This is a trip to the west coast of Ireland
that I've been making my whole life, and it was made a lot quicker
once they built an airport here in the mid-'80s.
I've come here because it's from this area that my parents are from,
although on a day like today, I kind of wish they'd come from Jamaica.
-It's a uniquely...
-It's a uniquely beautiful and...
-It's a really...
-It's really hot.
-And hailstones in my eyes.
-We're so glad we're here.
-I said, "Come and have a holiday"...
-You said it was paradise!
-.."on the west coast of Ireland."
I'm hoping that doing our natural-navigation walks
will show me aspects of this area that I've never seen before.
Our journey will take us from the island of Achill,
across the water to the mainland, and on to Doohoma,
the village where my father was born.
'The reason we're starting in Achill is because it has a special place in my heart.'
This is the spot, five years ago,
that I asked my wife Louise to marry me,
and I'm very happy to say that she did say yes.
Mind you, she could hardly say anything else, really.
It's a very big drop.
My late parents loved it here,
but they moved away to England in search of work,
and I was born and grew up in London...
..although I come back often to see my extended family
of uncles, aunts and cousins.
I'm hoping this trip may help me better understand my roots
in this country.
I'm torn, I suppose, like a lot of second-generation immigrants.
I feel very attached to this place.
I spent hours and hours on this beach as a kid.
I feel like I come from here, but at the same time,
I was born and brought up in London.
I can imagine, if your parents came from India
or Jamaica or Australia or wherever, to England, you'd feel the same.
You'd feel partly English, and I feel partly Irish.
Our first challenge is to naturally navigate our way
from the centre of Achill to a deserted village
on the other side of the island.
But between us and our goal is the small matter of finding a safe path
between the sheer cliffs of the Minaun mountain,
and beyond that, acres of treacherous peat bog.
"This is your first easy walk."
'Our teacher Tristan Gooley has given us guidebooks
'with just a few clues.'
"If you stray from the correct direction,
there are dangerous cliffs on either side."
That's a way to start a tourist brochure, isn't it?
'Does Tristan really have this much faith in our skills?'
-"Firstly you need to determine southwest."
-"Use the sun"...
-No, there isn't any.
.."and the wind." There's plenty of wind. No trees.
-OK, there's a lot coming from there.
'We know we need to head in a southwesterly direction,
'but there's nothing obvious we can get our bearings from.
'Or is there?'
If you're really struggling for clues,
there's the chance you've missed a big one,
a really big one.
One of the best clues is actually the shape of the land itself.
So if we have a look this way,
can you see how the hills roll into the distance?
But then, if we look down to the south,
it drops down to low country,
and the hills don't rise up to the level we're at here.
And again, if we look out to the west here,
we can see it holds this high level of ground.
And you can get to know each range of hills.
You can get to know its profile, almost like its personality.
We're on the South Downs here. They run west to east,
and once you've tuned in to that, you can use them like a compass.
Local knowledge - we're on a mountain.
We're at one of the most westerly points of Europe.
So if we can see a lot of land...
Basically the Atlantic is west. So if you can see a lot of land,
that ain't west. You can see the bridge over there,
so that's the link with the mainland,
-and that's all to the east of us. So southwest is that way.
-What have we got to lose?
-Our lives, over a cliff.
Apart from that.
'After walking over a small summit,
'there's another main one in the distance,
'with something on it.'
It looks like a lump of rock with something on the top.
-I think we should go...
-Let's do it.
You wouldn't want to run up here in a hurry.
You know it's windy when even the sheep don't go up here.
'Conditions are terrible.
'I'm just surprised that Stephen's toupee's holding fast.
'And, of course, the normally well prepared Alison Steadman isn't
-'when she really needs to be.'
-You haven't got your stick.
I knew there was something missing!
This is the one place I should have my stick.
This is exactly when your stick would be good.
Wait for me! SHE LAUGHS
I'm walking behind you two. I'm like the sort of old Labrador
that you've brought with...
'As we approach the summit,
'the form of a lady appears from the mist.'
She doesn't seem to be getting any closer, this woman.
"This woman"? That's the Virgin Mary!
'Oh, no! Sorry! I didn't know.'
-Oh, I see her now.
-That looks like the Virgin Mary to me.
That looks like the Virgin Mary, definitely.
-We did it.
-We did. Well done.
'From here, we now have to find the deserted village.
'Our guidebooks say the safest way down the mountain is east.
'But which way is that?'
'We need some divine inspiration.'
'Or maybe just some help from Tristan.'
One of the senses you might get to use
if sight and smell aren't working for you
is the sense of touch. What I'd like you to do
is just feel two sides of this stone here.
Feel nice and low down on this side here,
and then low down on this side as well.
And just see if you can pick up any difference in temperature.
-It'll be very, very slight.
-It's cooler this side.
And what's happened is, the southern sun, of course,
has warmed one side and not the other,
and even though now we can't see the sun at all,
the stone has a memory. But even if the sun hasn't come out all day,
the light and heat of the sun is still reaching us.
It would be night-time otherwise. Get your hands on there.
Feel the temperature, and it might give you a clue
to where the sun is, even though you can't see it.
'So, where can we find a handy lump of rock?
Yeah. Feel the temperature of the rock.
I don't feel comfortable about groping a major Catholic icon.
Oh, God. I now feel like a proper penitent.
-This is tough!
-She's warmer on this side.
-I can't believe I'm saying that about...
Yeah. She's slightly warmer on this side.
'And although there's no sun in the sky,
'as usual, smarty-pants Gooley's right.
'The southern side of the statue is definitely warmer. Sorry, Our Lady.'
So, she looks like she's facing east...
-..I would say.
She's a reliable icon.
'We might know which way to go, but now the weather's closing in,
'we need to get off this mountain as fast as possible.'
OK, look. The clouds are approaching rapidly.
I can see it's going very grey all around us.
So I suggest we head that way.
'We head off east, as guided by the Virgin Mary herself.'
The locals would consider this bikini weather.
'According to our guidebooks, we now need to find a path
'to the northwest, to take us towards the abandoned village.
'We're now entering bog territory,
'and we've been warned peat bogs can be pretty tricky.
'One false step, and you'll never see your boots again.'
"Look for signs around you and head northwest." OK.
Has the sun appeared yet? The sun feels like it's coming from...
I think it's due in 2014 here.
'But, as the clouds above the mountains clear,
'the Virgin Mary appears to guide us again, bless her.'
-That's the Minaun we just came from.
And the Virgin Mary pointed east.
Southeast. So basically east is there,
and south is there. Is that right?
Yes, because she was facing towards those things, masts, wasn't she?
-She was facing that way.
-So east is that way.
-So north and west... North and south, rather...
-This is the uncomplicated walk.
-I've never been more lost.
-Where's an oak tree, please?
I'm now going to lose my moral compass as well as my literal one
and just go and offer sex to anyone who can point me in the northwesterly path. Excuse me.
-Isn't that Mary up there, yeah?
-And she's pointing east.
-So that's east that way.
-So that's north...
-So northwest is there.
The best option for northwest is there.
We got the wrong placement of the statue.
-I was that close to offering my body. I was that close!
# Oh, the summertime...
'Stephen might be feeling chirpy, but singing won't get us anywhere.
'I hope we're still heading northwest.
'We could do with something else to confirm we're heading in the right direction.'
-Shall we do a quick wind test?
-It comes from there! Northwest.
-It comes from there, so that's...
-So that's north, isn't it?
'The wind's not helping. We need to find something else we can use.'
It's a pretty exposed location, isn't it?
-You can imagine in the winter...
-Somebody bought it
thinking it was the sunshine state. "We've lived here for 17 years,
and never seen any sun. We're now abandoning it."
Buildings are another clue, if you're lucky.
All other things being equal,
a building, particularly a big, proud building
standing all alone, will face south,
to make the most of the light and heat of the sun.
The other thing to be aware of
is that, if a building is in a very exposed location,
it's more likely to be skewed to negate the effects of the wind.
We know the wind's typically going to be ripping in from the southwest,
so you might find a building that's turned
so that it's not face-on to those winds,
so it's not having to deal with those battering storms the whole time.
That's... That's southwesterly, isn't it,
-so that's the prevailing wind.
-They built it into -
The small end is... So you haven't built it broad-on to the wind.
'So it looks like this house has been built
'with its end facing the southwesterly winds.'
I think we head this way. Did you agree?
-You happy with that?
-Go for it. Sensible Stephen!
'So by our reckoning, the village is this way -
It's pretty boggy, isn't it?
Oh, that's a good old slurp.
'Across the valley we see our destination, the deserted village.'
Surely we wouldn't be sent across that bog!
'Having misinterpreted the natural clues of the house,
'Mangan has taken us on a shortcut by heading straight for it...
'..and into a bog.'
-Is that well boggy?
-Wait for Granny! Slow down.
-Come on, Grandma.
-Wait for Granny.
-Nearly at the ridge, if you come up this way.
'We are literally stuck in the mud.'
God! I'm getting fed up with this now.
'The trouble is, you can't see where the trouble is.
'Everything looks the same. But some places are like quicksand.'
-I can hear water.
'And then there's another obstacle.'
-Look at this!
Stephen, you see, is so good. I mean, I'm hopeless,
and so I'm tending to just rely on Stephen,
because he's so brilliant. We have got to head for the ruined houses,
and they are over there. Um...
But, yeah. So I guess we are.
I'm all muddled. I don't know.
And it's just crossing the stream that's slightly worrying me.
But Susan and Stephen seem to have done it quite easily,
so I'm going to give it a go.
-Sue, take my book.
-So I'm here...
-Whatever the situation,
-I'm always the librarian.
Even in the middle of wilderness, I'm holding a pile of books.
-You did it.
Bloody hell! Sorry. I swore then.
Gosh! SUE LAUGHS
'We're getting nowhere fast,
'and I'm beginning to worry about Alison and Sue.'
I'll have a tea, please. Yes, thank you.
No biscuits, no. Have you got a scone?
An Irish scone? Yes, please. And butter. Yes. Thank you.
Just seven pints of Guinness for me, thanks.
Oh, all right. And a bottle of whisky.
Losing it! What are they talking about?
There's nobody there!
It's getting seriously boggy, guys.
-Promise you'll rescue me!
-Promise I will.
I don't know about you. I'm finding this really exhausting
on this bog. There's obviously a path there.
Can you see those two people? A turquoise skirt and a white top.
-How about if we head for there?
The ones with lightness, with deftness of tread.
We'll be on a path, because I'm finding this...
Listen. If I don't make it, please feel free to eat me if you need to.
Oh, that's such a good slurp under the welly!
Very pretty flowers. I'm loving the flowers.
-Yeah, aren't they?
-If we'd looked less at them, and looked up a bit,
-we might have seen that easy gravel path.
But, hey, I'd much rather go waist-deep in bog land anywhere.
'Tragic, isn't it? Doesn't take much to bring us to our knees,
'but at least the end is in sight.'
-'We're meeting Theresa McDonald,
'an archaeologist who was born and bred on Achill.'
We came through the bog path.
I was going to send out the mountain rescue.
Yes. Just wanted to get the unique Irish experience,
feeling my knees coated in bog slime.
-You could have gone along the old green road.
'Theresa can tell us more about the history of this village,
'particularly during the Potato Famine.'
There were a couple of famines, weren't there?
Well, this was the Great Irish Famine, 1845 to 1847.
For some reason I need it explaining.
Everybody knows about the Potato Famine.
-Was it potato blight?
-It was, yeah.
You can see up the mountain that they continued to open up new plots,
because they thought it was where they were sowing the potatoes,
that there was something wrong with the soil.
So they thought if they opened a new plot of ground
that everything would be OK, but of course it was impossible.
-It really decimated...
-..well, all of Ireland,
most of Ireland, actually, yeah, particularly the west coast.
Some of them went in ships over to America.
A lot of them went to America.
In fact they went to a particular place in America -
Cleveland, Ohio. There are more Achill people in Cleveland
than there are on the island.
'It's the end of our first leg,
'and a stark reminder of some of the difficult history
'this area has seen.'
'Next morning we're up early and ready to take on the next leg.'
Right. So, it's time to leave Achill.
No! I don't want to leave. It's so beautiful.
But it's such a long way round by road, we're going to swim.
Or we could get a boat. It's up to you.
We're crossing Blacksod Bay to the mainland,
which will leave us 18 miles from our final destination,
my father's village.
-Wait a minute. What have I got to do?
-Give me your hand.
-I can do that.
'We've got a lot of ground to cover, and I'm itching to get started.
'But Stephen has other plans.'
'My family used to fish for salmon in these waters,
'and I want to see how they did it.
'Local fishermen William and Anthony Sweeney
'are going to show us the traditional method.
'It's sustainable, and so is still in use today.'
Light a fire. We're going to bring home a lot of fish.
I'm going to keep a candle in my window until you return.
We'll never see him again. Lovely lad, wasn't he?
He was gorgeous.
'I stay on the far bank with one end of the net,
'and the others row back, dropping the net behind them.'
-So, you can only do this at low tide?
-Yeah, low tide.
'The idea is, as the tide falls, fish will get caught in the net,
So, a good catch, how many would you get?
If you were lucky, you could probably get ten.
If a salmon hits that net now...
-..you'll feel it tug,
-and you'll also... See him there?
-Oh, it's gone! I'm sorry.
'My uncle PJ has told me that sometimes
'it would be salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner,
'and at the time, it was a staple food for families in the area.
'But today, due to declining fish stocks,
'wild salmon is an expensive luxury.'
Show us your salmon!
Put the kettle on. Brown bread and a bit of salmon, some butter.
I just thought, you won't get fresher than that, will you?
He's beautiful, isn't he?
I think he's a beauty. I think you did a great job.
'Now I've proved my Mangan manliness,
'we can carry on with our trip.'
Our second leg starts at the edge of the Claggan estate.
We've somehow got to naturally navigate our way across it
to the largest, wettest and squelchiest bog in Europe,
the Ballycroy National Park. Then we have to find a farmer,
who's going to show us how to cut peat the traditional way,
as my family would have done. We just have to reach him
before he heads home for tea at six.
'We need to get our bearings. Our guidebooks tell us
'the best way to check direction is to look for something elevated
-'with a flat top.'
-'Are the Jedward twins here?'
-Is that it?
-It's got a flattish top, hasn't it?
-That is a definite flat top.
So, that is sort of south.
Quarter to 12. Sun is there. Quickly, before it goes in the clouds!
-Yeah. This is the one moment!
-So it's sort of...
-So it's southwest.
-That mountain, flat top.
-That mountain, southwest.
Nice to be walking on a road,
not sinking up to our knees in bog.
'We're looking for a westerly path
'which will take us towards Claggan House.'
-Is that it? No.
'There must be another clue around here somewhere.'
Woodland's one of the toughest environments
to find natural-navigation clues in.
The main reason is because the sun can't find its way in,
so you won't get many clues from the sun.
The wind struggles to get in. The only wind
that really gets properly into woodland is storm winds,
and so one of the clues we can use in woodland
is when a storm has felled a lot of trees,
and as you can see here, we've got lots of trees.
All have been blown down in the same direction.
So all we need to do is remain aware,
and tune to the direction that that storm's winds have come from.
But once you've tuned into it, you can use them
over large areas. Cos out in open country,
if a tree comes down, it'll be cleared away quite quickly.
But in woodland, they can lie there for years or decades.
The trees we're seeing here, almost certainly from the Great Storm
of '87. These have been blown down from the southwest,
as were a lot of trees in that storm,
and as we look around this woodland, we see many, many trees
have been blown down the same way.
So it's the way the wind leaves its imprint in the woodland,
and we can use that to find southwest.
-That tree there...
-That tree's been blown over.
From the southwest, so the direction's the same
as the flat-topped mountain's in that would gauge us southwest,
and exactly in the direction that path is.
That's where the wind came from to knock the trees over.
The wind at our back is a northeasterly,
-so it's directly opposite that.
It is very busy round here suddenly. What's going on?
-I say "mead-OW".
-That is the kind of meadow,
if I was a child, I would love to have played in.
We didn't have anything like that in Liverpool.
We had a recreation field, but nothing like that.
-That would be perfect.
-Croydon wasn't full of meadows either.
No. Nor was Enfield.
Yeah. We come from a fairly unilaterally meadow-free background.
What are we waiting for next? Fork in the road.
'As we reach the fork, we have a choice of two paths.
'We're supposed to head southwest.'
Southwest, so it's got to be...
Oh, God, we're all pointing different ways. Hang on.
There's not much in it, is there, either way.
I'd say that's more west, and that's southwest.
'It's a difficult choice. I think we should go right.
'Sue and Stephen think left.'
That's somebody's house, so it can't be there.
-The "private, no entry" is...
-..making me fearful.
-Fearful of taking that route.
'And we haven't got time to debate all day.'
My first instinct was that, but... Listen.
-So, your instinct is to go there?
-Well, it was, but...
What time is it now? The sun is in the south, isn't it, now.
It's about one o'clock. Can't see the sun.
-Can't see the sun.
-The wind has died down, so that's useless.
OK. "At the fork in the road, head west by southwest."
-Oh, we're getting fancy.
-Yeah. Testing us now.
Well, that's south.
-Is that west?
Yeah. Exactly, exactly. So, that's west. So...
towards the "private, no entry" sign.
-Are we sure?
-The "You will get mauled by a dog" sign.
-That's all right. We can handle it.
Towards the "Don't come here, we will kill you" sign.
Followed by the "We really weren't joking" sign.
Followed by the "How many times do you have to tell you?"
Followed by the "It's too late. The thing you see in front of you
-is a shotgun."
-Followed by a sign saying "bang".
Followed by "If you're reading this, we missed."
'Eventually we glimpse something
'that tells us we are definitely on the right path -
The gables are set against the prevailing wind, southwest there.
There's a weathervane on the top
with north, south, east and west on it.
-According to the weathervane,
-That's pretty helpful.
-I like the house.
-This is just heavenly, this.
-Wow, look at this garden!
-There's suddenly trees everywhere.
-Oh, my God, I want to live here.
-I wonder if they'd mind.
-And you come out your gate...
-Yep. That's your view.
-And that's your view.
-Shall we club together and see if we can make them an offer?
The Claggan estate once belonged to the family of Clive of India,
and in the 19th century, they planted these gardens
with exotic trees and plants brought back from their travels.
MUSIC: "Coronation Anthem No. 1" by Handel
'We've nearly made it across the estate.
'We just need to find a way out. The clock's ticking,
'and we need to get a move on.' Southwest.
Southwest... That way.
Ah! Plenty of puddles here.
Help may be at hand in the form of the West Coast Vintage Society,
and a fleet of classic vehicles.
Our next mode of transport is, I think we can safely say...
-Check it out!
'All we have to do is decide who's going in what.'
What do you fancy, Alison? Which is your vehicle of choice?
The Morris Minor. I used to have a boyfriend
-had a Morris Minor convertible, when I was 18.
Yeah. It's going to bring back all the memories.
If you don't mind, I like the Mercedes.
I have a vintage Mercedes myself.
Let me get this straight. You're going in the sexy Mercedes.
-Alison's going in the cute Morris.
-I'm going in the knackered tractor.
'So, these two have sped off into the distance,
'and I might be quicker walking.'
Now I can get out.
That was great.
Can't resist having a go at this.
Stand by. SHE HONKS HORN
Oh, my God! That is a sound you don't hear any more.
'The lift has put us back on track.
'We're now at the edge of the Ballycroy National Park.'
'We're on a bog again,
'and somewhere in this vast, unforgiving wilderness
'we've got to try and find Hugh McManaman,
'who's cutting peat by hand.'
What's more, we've got to get a move on.
It's 5:00 PM, and we've promised to meet Hugh in an hour.
'We're supposed to head south, but clues are sparse.
'At least we've got a bit of sun.'
The sun's there, isn't it?
The sun is almost where... It's hard to tell where it is.
It's sort of there, isn't it, roughly.
It's maybe not quite west, but almost.
'And some wind. It was northeast this morning.'
-So that's northeasterly there.
'Ooh, and it's still northeast now! Don't tell me I've finally got something right!
'That feeling won't last long. In Ireland, both the sun and wind
'vanish quickly. The only thing constant is the landscape.'
-So, we've got the Minaun...
We've got Slievemore as west, do you think?
-Or just southwest?
-I would say the Minaun is southwest.
'From here we can see Achill Island,
'and the Minaun mountain we climbed yesterday.
'As it's a long way off, even when we move, its direction from us
'remains constant, so this means we can use it
'to work out which way is south.'
So we're saying south is that way?
And if we have to go southwest in a minute,
south-southwest... Is that right?
-And you think that's the Minaun?
-"The path is difficult to follow,
-but heads south to southwest."
So I would say that's a left turn off this path.
There aren't... There aren't definite...
It's hard to be sure, isn't it?
There's a turn-slash-junction there.
So we need to go...
-Yeah. The one that goes up the side.
-I would agree with that.
-Do you agree?
I've lost my page again, as usual.
Path heads south to southwest. This one.
-That one there?
-"The path is difficult to follow,
-but heads south to southwest."
Southwest. I think it's up this little hill, isn't it?
'This bog is really tricky to navigate.
'The landmarks we've identified are still not giving us enough of a clue
'as to the correct direction. We'll never find Hugh at this rate!'
-Someone had a full Irish breakfast.
-I think that's a T-rex, that one.
There's a whole lot of calf going on. Let's have a look.
Oh! It's well embedded.
I'm not going to be sidling up to you in the pub afterwards.
-That's game over.
-Nobody will be sidling up to me.
Apart from another calf, maybe.
'Come on, guys. Hurry up! It's nearly six o'clock.'
We have to go southwest in a minute.
So determined not to slide through another cow pie,
I'm not looking for clues in the landscape.
-You're just looking down now.
-It becomes very confusing.
'Stephen's poo hokey-cokey reminds us that animals can be helpful
'in other ways.'
Now, there are many ways we can use plants to help us find direction,
and there are quite a few ways we can use animals too.
If we're lucky, there are one or two places
where you see the plants and the animals helping us together,
and this gorse bush here is a great example.
Can you see how it's looking sort of reasonably sturdy
all the way down to the ground?
Natural navigation, we're always looking for differences.
If I show you on the other side something...
Have a good look in there.
Below knee height, there's almost nothing.
And if we look really deep in, what can you see in there?
-Yeah. You've spotted it. In there.
So sheep like to graze from one side in particular?
-Do they like the sun in their eyes?
-Are they sheltering?
They're sheltering. The prevailing southwesterly winds,
when a big wind's coming in, it's likely to come from that direction,
so the sheep shelter in on the north and the northeastern side.
Sheep's wool here in the gorse, where the sheep have gone in.
So that is the southwest there.
-Let's mosey on.
'Time is against us, and we're still not sure we're on the right track.'
'Then we see a barn that's mentioned in the guide
'as being on the way to Hugh. Result!
'And we can't resist having a closer look.'
It smells like a stable, but it's got a fireplace.
This is a byre house, a traditional dwelling in Ireland,
where people and animals used to live cheek-by-jowl.
I've never been in one this complete.
So, this would be partly a cattle shed,
-and partly a home.
Probably have a couple of beds,
maybe the other side of the fire.
I mean, it's not dissimilar to the house my mum grew up in.
-You'll notice there's no bathroom or toilet.
So the only wash you would get would be a sort of flannel wash.
You'd heat some water up. Toilet, you had to find somewhere.
-And, you know, it's cold.
-Must've been tough.
-Tough is not the word.
Really, really tough.
It's hard to imagine living here, isn't it?
Just beyond the byre house, peat bogs stretch in all directions.
Peat is still the lifeblood for many communities here.
When it's dried, it's burned to provide heat for houses.
At the end of the path, we spot the man we'd been looking for
all afternoon - Hugh McManaman, who's hard at work cutting peat.
'We've completed this leg of the journey.'
-Are you Hugh?
-Nice to see you, Hugh.
-The same as that. How are you?
-I'm damn good.
-How are you?
-I'm Stephen. How are you doing?
-How are you?
-So, you were motoring. We could see you from a distance.
'Peat-cutting is something my family would have done, and I can't resist having a go.'
So, you start from in the corner.
Oh, that is lovely work!
-Hey! You're a natural!
-Oh, it's beautiful.
-Oh, he's coming out pretty well at it.
That is hard work. How many hours would you be out here?
-Around eight hours a day.
-About eight hours a day.
-I've done about 80 seconds, and I need a break.
You must be a strong man.
You can get down onto it, but it's then when you just...
Well, I've got double peat.
You are holding it on the right-hand side, as we call it.
Go on! Yes!
Hey! Come on. Round of applause, please!
And this is the completely traditional way of drying it,
-cutting it, that you do?
-Yeah. This tradition has nearly gone out.
There's very few doing it today with a hand-cutter. Very few.
-Did you do all that?
-I did, yeah.
-I did, yeah.
-How old are you, Hugh?
-Do you mind me asking?
-I don't mind at all. 63.
-Look at that. That is...
-Put us to shame.
Yeah. All power to you.
'Standing with Hugh reminds me of stories my dad used to tell me.'
Dad would always tell me what hard work it was,
-and I didn't know I was born.
-That is right.
You didn't come out with blisters on your hands when you were born.
He told me about the blisters on his hands,
and all the hair on his legs, carrying buckets back from the well,
-a mile from the well.
-That's right. That was all hard going, like.
-Hard work to make a living.
-Oh, very, very hard.
After overnighting in Belmullet, the weather has finally broken.
Before we set off on our final leg, I want to have a look around town,
where many of the Mangan clan still live.
This is Belmullet, which is the main town in this area.
It's about 15 miles from where my parents are from,
but it's where... It was the focal point for my trips over here
as a teenager and in more recent times.
I've got three uncles who live here now permanently, and a cousin.
But all my cousins... And I've got a lot of them.
I've got something like 40 first cousins.
This is where we congregate.
It's not a huge town,
but there's a marked difference between here and Doohoma.
In Doohoma, everyone will know who my parents were,
who my grandparents were, and they'll be able to place me,
whereas this place is a little bigger,
so you're a little bit more anonymous, but still...
It's about 9:30 in the morning. It's a beautiful summer's day,
and it's rush hour. I know that because at least two cars have come through here.
Hey! Hello. How you doing? Hi, Annie.
-Hi, Jack. How are you?
-Nice to see you.
How's it going? Hi, Kieron. How are you?
-How's it going? We're related, aren't we, Jack?
-How are we related?
-Yeah. Your mum and me are cousins, aren't we?
'There are no post codes in Ireland, so directions are an art form here,
'even at Jack's age.'
So if I was to ask you, "How would I get from here
to your house on Shore Road?", would you be able to tell me?
-OK. You go down there,
then you swing a left on the roundabout,
then you go around, then you go down the main street.
You swing a left again, and then you come to two little cottages.
-The first one is ours.
-That's pretty good. Well done.
While Stephen catches up with his rellies,
I'm off to find Pat Gallagher and Joe Carey.
I'm an old romantic at heart,
and I want to find out how on earth people used to meet their partners in such a remote place.
-Hey, you must be Pat.
-I'm Sue. Hey, Joe!
-You're a legend as an accordion player.
We're in the shadow of this rather forlorn building. What was this?
It was the local dance hall here in the parish of Ballycroy.
-It was built in 1947,
and it closed down in the early '60s.
So, what's the significance of a dance hall in a community?
Well, it's to bring the people together, and a bit of enjoyment,
and where many a husband and wife met each other.
-With the parish priest looking on?
-Well, yes, at one stage,
but that doesn't happen now.
The ladies were all lined up on one side, and the gents on the other,
and when the music would start, the gents had to go across the floor.
Sometimes they'd be refused, and had to come back again.
That's awful! The walk of shame across the ballroom!
But what happened to the ladies that never got picked?
-Oh, very few that happened to.
-It would be me.
They'd go out themselves anyway, and dance two ladies together.
How far would people come for the dance?
Oh, maybe... They'd even cycle about 25 or 30 miles to come here
-from other parishes.
-They'd cycle 25 to 30 miles
and then they would dance for six hours?
Yes, and hop on the bike again and away home again.
It's like a triathlon! What sort of dance would you do?
-Because I'd be rubbish.
-It could be a waltz or a quickstep,
mostly waltz. And then there was other dances -
the Siege of Ennis and the Stack of Barley.
-Shall we do the Stack of Barley?
-We could have a go at it.
Look at you! It's almost like the beginning of sumo.
-I'm waiting demurely. I've got to do my demure thing.
I'm demure. I'm waiting. Oh, Pat's coming over!
-HE PLAYS LIVELY TUNE
-Is anyone going to ask me?
-Will you dance, please?
-Yes, I'd love to.
I feel I gave in too easily.
That's one of two reasons I haven't got a husband yet.
-You're going home on the bike now.
-I've ordered the bike.
-You've done what?
I've ordered the bike to bring you home, if I'm lucky enough.
Oh, is that all it takes? I'm contracted to be married!
So, I just need a turn around the room.
Oh, good Lord! Get your walking boots and your bike.
-She's done the Stack of Barley before, that girl.
-I'd say so, yeah.
The last leg of our journey,
and we're starting in the middle of yet another peat bog.
Our first stop is Tullaghanduff, where Mum came from,
and then we're on to the next-door village, Doohoma,
where Dad was born.
This is our most dangerous walk yet.
The bog we're about to cross looks innocuous enough,
but is in fact littered with deep pools of water,
most of which are not obvious until you've stepped in one of them.
On this leg, we're reliant on finding our way
through the web of peat trenches using another of nature's clues.
-Finally, the Caribbean weather that this area...
-Is famed for.
..is famed for and known for. Beautiful, isn't it?
"This is your most challenging walk yet."
-"You will navigate"...
.."across a blanket peat bog. You must try and follow the directions
very carefully," it says in bold, "as they will take you across
on the safest path. There are very few clues to direction."
"Try and use everything you've learned about natural navigation."
"DO NOT", capitals and bold, "stray from the directions."
"They are very precise. If you take a wrong turn,
retrace your steps. It's very easy to get lost, stuck down, or drown."
-I don't want to drown in a bog.
-I don't want to.
I don't think it's inevitable. We have to try and keep positive.
"Your aim is to keep to the top edges of the peat trenches,
-as they are dryer." Right.
Head southeast on the track.
The sun is almost south, isn't it? It's just fractionally south.
It's nearly midday, isn't it, so it's, er...
-It'll be south about one o'clock.
Well, this is a track. It's got to be this way.
Right. Shall we risk it? I'm worried about drowning.
-I'm worried about getting poked in the eye with Alison's stick.
-Grab it if you're drowning.
I'll pull you out. We're laughing now. Couple of hours...
Yeah. Dead tree there.
-Northeast along the top.
-There we go.
Because if you go on the bottom..
Oh, my God!
Apparently, um, they used to use bogs for refrigeration.
Not so long ago, they discovered some butter,
that had been obviously stored in the bog,
and it was perfectly preserved and perfectly edible.
'This is a struggle.'
If someone had told me a few weeks before my 65th birthday
I would have been walking across a peat bog,
I would have thought they were completely mad.
"At the end of the first trench, head east."
-Ooh, there's a trench.
-The next trench. Is that the trench?
'The barren landscape and maze of peat trenches are impossible.
In which case we want to head this way,
straight in that direction, towards that...
It's just a series of confusing trenches and ridges
and tufts and hollows.
-Hang on. You're getting lower rapidly.
That's not a good sign. And... Stop it!
Ah, it's funny till you want to get out.
Seems to be trenches everywhere.
'I'm finding it really hard going, and it's demoralising not knowing
'if you're going the right way.'
It's almost, like, quicksandy down here.
'The guide mentions a fallen fence post.
'If we can find that, it will put us on the right path,
'heading east out of here. To stand a fighting chance,
'Sue and I volunteer to see if we can find it,
'whilst Alison takes a breather.'
A fence. A fallen fence.
Should be round this corner, if it's going to be here.
-Oh, you all right?
Yeah. I just had a tufty tumble rather than a boggy one.
This is really puzzling. This is a difficult bit.
'Where is this fence post?'
"You've come the right way if you find a fallen fence post
on the top northwest corner of the trench."
I'm sorry, but this is...
-Let's go back.
We're getting nowhere. Let's go back and retrace our steps.
'An hour of walking on wet sponges, and we're back to square one.'
Let's hope we can find Alison.
-She should be southwest.
-She should be south by southwest,
sitting down, going, "Where the hell are the other two?"
'Sue and I head back and rejoin Alison.'
-Oh, look! What's this?
-Look at this!
If we look up at this lantern here,
can you see the spider's web tucked in in one corner, just here?
-Well, spiders have worked out,
over many, many years of trial and error,
that there's no point spinning their webs
in a place where the wind will blow them away straight away,
so you find more spiders' webs in sheltered spots,
which is logical. But we know where the wind comes from
more often than not. It's coming from the southwest.
So you find more spiders' webs on the northeast side
of trees, buildings and lanterns.
-That's a spider's web.
It's like a sort of hole. Is that the spider?
-You can see him.
-Yeah, right in the middle.
-It's like a little hole, isn't it?
-It's almost like a nest.
Yeah. No help in direction, because it's circular.
Yes. And normally it would be sort of northeast, but...
-In fact, it is.
-It is northeast.
-Oh, it is.
-It's facing northeast.
It's a northeastern centrifugal-spinning spider.
'The spider has weaved its web in the lee of a tuft of grass
'facing northeast, thus protecting it from the southwesterly winds.'
'So we can now work out which way is east.'
'Who needs a fence post
'when you've got an eight-legged friend as a guide?'
-That is one beautiful big sky, isn't it?
You can see almost everywhere we've been on this whole trip.
'The spider's web has shown us our way out of the bog.
'We've cracked our biggest navigational challenge yet.
'We've mastered the seemingly impossible, and crossed the bog.
'We did it as a team. Ooh, I've gone all American.'
It's good to be, er, sans bog. What a relief!
Group hug. Well done.
Yeah. We've moved... We've moved on a mile or two.
At the risk of sounding dreadfully smug and self-congratulatory,
-good on us.
'We've reached Tullaghanduff, the village where my mum was born.
'When she left Ireland, aged 17 or 18,
'she made her way to London.'
This is, er, my mum's house.
'She worked in a pub run by friends from this area -
'a home away from home, I suppose.
'And it's over there that she got to know my dad.'
So she lived in here when she was a little girl?
Yeah. She lived here all her life. She was born here.
-She was born here, yeah.
I mean, it's, what...
It's probably ten foot by...12 foot.
And there were seven kids.
My granny and granddad. They had two double beds and a fireplace.
No running water, no electricity, no heating,
-apart from the fire.
-Then there'd be a partition,
and then they'd have their animals in this building.
In the back bit, yeah.
But imagine my grandmother trying to bring up a young family
-in this tiny room.
You know, nowhere to wash. Not even a toilet.
This is poor for even... For round here...
This was a hard situation even for the standards... You know.
'Just down the road from my mum's village is Doohoma,
'where Dad grew up. The old family home went in the early '70s,
'when my uncles built this one.
'The house may be relatively modern, but the greeting is traditional -
'tea and homemade cakes.'
-Just looks fabulous.
-There you go.
-Thank you very much.
We had a look at Mum's house in Tullaghan.
It's very small. How many bedrooms were in the house here?
-Here, in the old house?
-Yeah, the old house.
It started off with two. The old house was built in 1927
with two bedrooms, but my dad, as the family came along,
he added on, so it ended up with four bedrooms.
-Four bedrooms. And there were nine kids.
-This is one hell of a view, I have to say.
-Yeah. It's, um...
-It's not often I can say that here,
but we've got to be careful we don't get heatstroke.
When we arrived at Knock, we arrived at the airport,
we couldn't see our hands in front of our faces.
I turned round and saw you two huddled together for warmth,
or to stop yourselves being blown away.
Now we've come to the end of this journey, and you can see the sea,
-and the mountains...
-I'm glad you didn't turn back at Knock.
I had to do a bit of persuading. I said, "It is beautiful here."
-"You have to believe me."
-Our first day, we went up Minaun.
Oh, it was freezing!
The wind was howling, you know...
I thought, "It's going to be like this all week."
But now look. Today it's glorious.
This area is rich with Mangan history,
and that history is clear to see at the village graveyard,
where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried.
If I was ever in any doubt where I came from,
this place would put that to rest,
because every other grave seems to be a Mangan.
In fact, up here...
I think it's one of these.
Yes. Here we go.
There's my grandparents,
John and Bridget Mangan.
They lived to be 92 and 89 years old.
I remember them both very well. In fact, um...
..er, we would stay with them in Doohoma whenever we came.
Not just us. There'd probably be another family there as well,
so the house was always full of people. Um...
Very smart man, my grandfather.
Not just my grandparents, but literally dozens of Mangans
are buried here. And...
a real strong sense of...
..belonging to this area.
I'm very proud to have come from this area.
'I feel really lucky to have a place that I can come to
'that means so much to me. It's a small village,
'but it holds a wealth of great memories,
'and although my life is a world away from here,
'my connection to this place and to the people
'has never felt stronger.'
'I loved the last walk,
'just because it brought me to somewhere I've known all my life,
'but had never approached it in that way before.'
You normally screech up in a car, jump out,
and go and visit your relatives. But to come across that bog,
um, was fantastic.
I think it's the only time I'll ever read a set of directions,
and in the directions it'll say, "Be careful. You could drown."
It's been a brilliant week.
The beaches, the mountains,
just the general landscape...
Hopefully by the end of this entire journey,
you'll be able to do a walk, and it will be part of you.
There won't be any thinking about it.
It'll be much more intuitive. The day that comes will just be a great day.
I suppose I was a little bit nervous coming here,
bringing Sue and Alison here. I wanted them to love this place
as much as I do.
I really think there's something special about this area.
But I don't think I needed worry, really,
because the landscape and the people do it all for me.
I didn't really have to do anything but just point the way.
'Next time, I'll be taking Sue and Stephen to places I love'...
It's just breathtaking!
..'in North Wales.' Trust me. I don't know what I'm doing.
The G-forces are messing with my head.
If I live, I'm going to have buns of steel.
You have arrived!
'Then to my home town of Liverpool, where, for the first time,
'we'll be naturally navigating in a city.'
Look at all this moss!
'But, as always, things aren't as straightforward as they should be.'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Stephen Mangan leads Sue Perkins and Alison Steadman on a journey of discovery across Ireland, back to where his parents lived. The trio can only use nature to guide them, but with the weather worsening and the landscape conspiring against them, will they make it?