Call the Midwife Christmas special ‘not a licence for overtourism’, says Scottish tourism chief

Scenes from the Call the Midwife Christmas special, which has been partly filmed in the Outer Hebrides.
Scenes from the Call the Midwife Christmas special, which has been partly filmed in the Outer Hebrides.
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As fans eagerly await the Call The Midwife’Christmas Day special filmed in the Outer Hebrides, the islands’ tourism chief executive says he will not allow the wild landscape to be overrun by tourists like Skye.

Rob MacKinnon, head of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said while visitors were welcome he would not be encouraging Call the Midwife tours – such as run in London – for people to visit filming locations.

The award-winning BBC series is watched worldwide with Call the Midwife tours in London attracting thousands of fans from countries such as the US, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Finland.

The series features midwives based at the Nonnatus House Catholic Order in Poplar in the east end of London during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

While being “feel-good” Sunday night programme it also tackles hard-hitting issues such as thalidomide, abortion, prostitution, poverty, domestic violence and female genital mutilation.

The Christmas Day feature-length episode sees the midwives head to Harris to help with a midwife shortage.

Luskentyre beach on Harris has a starring role and the episode also features scenes of black houses, the island of Scalpay and sweeping landscapes.

Mr MacKinnon said: “This Christmas Day episode is a great showcase for the islands. There’s lots of anticipation to see what it will be like.

“When people come here it has an effect on them, they see the scenery and culture and it gets under their skins.

“But while we expect our websites to be hit with people wanting to come and visit, especially the locations they see, we know people want to come here for a bit of an escape. There are all kinds of good things about Skye, but we don’t want tourism overcrowding here.”

Heidi Thomas, Call the Midwife’s writer and creator, said: “I felt it was time to take Call The Midwife out of Poplar, out of their comfort zone and show the realities of what health care would be like in the Outer Hebrides.”

Catherine Morrison, a retired district nurse from Stornoway, and author of Hebridean Heroines about Queen’s Nurses sent to the Highlands and Islands 35 years before the founding of the NHS, said: “The ladies who worked as nurses and delivered babies said there was a real sense of community in these isolated places.

“Nine out of ten babies were born at home. The nurses could be called out in the middle of the night and in emergencies would have to get a woman to hospital in Stornoway, sometimes making use of a fishing boat for transport.

“If someone was needing a nurse then people would know whose home she was in.

“They were strong, confident women who knew what they were doing.”