The broadcaster and author on her favourite views in Scotland, the drinking dens to discover and the restaurants leading the country’s flourishing food scene. Interview by Robert Hull
If I were to describe Scotland to someone who didn’t know it, I’d say it’s a place of vast lochs, gentle hills and mountains – and that it’s beautifully green. I’d add that it’s also very easy to navigate because at its narrowest, between Edinburgh and Glasgow, it is less than 50 miles wide.
Though there are places in Canada,even vistas in upstate New York, that I’ve felt are very Scottish, I’d have to say nowhere can quite compare to Scotland.
The first thing you should do – or taste, actually – when visiting is to find a whisky that you like and have a dram. There are plenty of wonderful whisky shops, particularly in Edinburgh, which can help you with your decision.
My favourite city view has to be from one end of Edinburgh’s George Street to the other. It doesn’t matter which end. I also love the view of the Glenfinnan viaduct in the Highlands. It is a wonderful piece of engineering and, of course, Scotland has bred some great engineers. Viaducts and bridges are wonderful landmarks that string the country together. Continue reading
Reynisdrangar seen from Vik, South Iceland
There is no best-location Oscar. But if there was, as the makers of Prometheus, Game of Thrones and Thor have recently found, it would surely go to Iceland
The sun has yet to rise but the morning light is already illuminating the reasons why Iceland is renowned for its landscape. I’m standing on a helipad in the south-eastern town of Höfn: with its harbour behind me, I can see snow-covered mountains separated by four icy tongues, each part of the enormous Vatnajökull glacier.
A few lights glow yellow-orange in windows but the main colours are sky blue, a sliver of pink around the clouds and the dark-brown mass of mountains yet to reveal their rugged detail. I’m not waiting for a helicopter; this just seemed like a good place to take in the view … sort of. The wind speed is more than 40mph – that’s an eight (fresh gale) according to Mr Beaufort’s scale – and, as I frame a photograph, the wind inflates the hood of my parka and personal lift-off feels imminent.
Despite the conditions, the drama of this view makes it easy to understand why Iceland has, in recent years, become almost as popular with filmmakers as it is with tourists. And I’m here to explore the locations that have tempted Hollywood producers. Continue reading
It’s not uncommon to find Iceland grabbing attention in Hollywood movies – it’s just rare for audiences to know it is Iceland. In the last two years, the country’s glaciers, volcanoes, black sands and waterfalls have lent the required other-worldliness to films such as Oblivion, Prometheus and Thor, while also featuring in HBO’s Game of Thrones TV series.
But in the Ben Stiller-directed The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which goes on UK national release on 26 December, the island’s epic scenery gets a lead role, and this time the locations aren’t supposed to be an alien planet – this time it’s all about Iceland.
Stiller’s romantic comedy, which is based on the classic James Thurbershort story, is about a daydreamer who is forced to leave behind his flights of fancy and challenge himself by seeing the real world. The film features Iceland as an integral part of the story – a first for a blockbuster.
There is an inherent danger in creating a lead character who is trapped in boring, small-town life – the concern being the reader ends up feeling bored and downtrodden too. It’s a problem that Barbara Kingsolver creates and fails to deal with in Flight Behaviour. One of the main reason why this is a frustration is that – unlike a previous novel of Kingsolver’s, The Bean Trees – this book is long. Much too long.
This is a weighty novel about significant issues such as climate change, science, religion and media agendas. Unfortunately, it falls into the trap of using clumsy dialogue to explain these “big” topics and it’s often very difficult to engage with characters whose dialogue feels like it’s being shouted at you: “YOU, YES, YOU. ARE YOU SO DUMB?” There is a science lesson in these pages but the reality is that you don’t need to hear it told in full to grasp the concerns or understand the characters. Continue reading
Stars: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Jonathan Aris, Monica Dolan, Richard Glover, Eileen Davies
Screenplay: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Amy Jump
Runtime 88 minutes|Directed by Ben Wheatley
Dark, deadpan, violent and very, very funny, director Ben Wheatley’s follow-up to Kill List shows exactly why a strong script and performances often defeat even the biggest Hollywood budget. Wheatley’s movie, scripted by its stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram (with additional material from Amy Jump), is a filmic cocktail mixing Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip, any Shane Meadows film and Natural Born Killers. Yes, that sounds weird, but it’s right.
While many of its quotable lines have the potential to become catchphrases and its comic set pieces will no doubt become popular YouTube destinations, what underpins Sightseers is the creation of two lead characters who audiences will root for. And this is the case no matter how twisted or violent their adventures become. Continue reading