TOURISM industry leaders have predicted that the Hebrides are set to be the next location to benefit from the “Balamory effect” – thanks to a new wildlife documentary fronted by Ewan McGregor.
The four-part series, Hebrides – Islands on the Edge, which goes on air tonight, was made over the course of three years and features some of Scotland’s most remote landscapes and iconic creatures.
High winds, drought and the most dramatic storm in living memory are all featured in the programme, the flagship of a new Wild Scotland BBC series over the next few months.
It is billed as “an intimate portrait of the lives of an unforgettable cast of wild Hebridean animals”. The crew are said to have deployed the most recent technology and a unique range of cameras never used in this part of the world before.
Locations to be featured include Islay, Mull, Tiree, Coll, Barra, Lewis, the Uists, Rum and Skye. Special preview screenings have already been held around the Hebrides.
Footage captured for the programme by film-maker Nigel Pope is already being used in new tourism campaigns and is being used around the world by VisitScotland.
The cast list includes red deer stags, baby seals, basking sharks, white-tailed eagles, puffins and dolphins.
The tourism body claims its own research has found that one in five visitors to Scotland are influenced to take a holiday here by a film or television programme.
Tobermory on Mull witnessed a 15 per cent increase in visitors at the height of the popularity of children’s series Balamory, which was shot in the picture-postcard village.
Other TV series to have triggered a mini-tourism boom have included Hamish Macbeth, the drama series which was filmed in Plockton, in the west Highlands, and An Island Parish, which was filmed on Barra and neighbouring islands.
Recent boosts for the industry have come from Downton Abbey, after its Christmas special was partly shot at Inveraray Castle in Argyll, and crime drama Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall.
The timing of Hebrides – Islands on the Edge is a huge boost for VisitScotland’s major tourism campaign in 2013, which has been dubbed “the Year of Natural Scotland”. Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “Our research shows that one in five visitors are influenced by seeing depictions of Scotland on film or television, so magnificent exposure such as this can only be a great thing.”
Trainspotting star McGregor, left, who is narrating the entire series, said: “On the edge of the Atlantic lies a world of rock and water, wind-scoured and rugged, yet full of grace and beauty. Exposed to a restless ocean and Europe’s wildest weather, the animals of these islands face challenge after challenge.”
• Hebrides – Islands on the Edge screens at 9pm tonight, BBC One.
Ready to face the storm
IN THE first episode of Hebrides – Islands on the Edge, autumn arrives with a vengeance. Swallows, otters and grey seals face up to the highest tides of the year.
Tens of thousands of geese and swans arrive for the winter only to find predatory white-tailed eagles hungry and ready to hunt them. And a mighty stag faces the ultimate challenge.
In the second programme, the islands are hit by the biggest storm in living memory. The cameras follow the lives of white-tailed eagles, harbour seals, hares, pine martens and short-eared owls as they struggle to raise their families.