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Ben Fogle returns to explore more stunning islands

BBC

Ben Fogle returns to explore more stunning islands

A new series of Scotland’s Sacred Islands follows Ben Fogle making another epic journey across some of Britain’s most stunning islands, including Arran, Holy Isle, Islay and Jura, the Orkney Islands and Skye. 

Following four episodes airing in 2021 the series returns with Ben taking a short but busy ferry trip across the Firth of Clyde to the beautiful Isle of Arran.

Only two hours from Glasgow and known as ‘Scotland in miniature’, Arran is a popular holiday getaway. In this first of four new editions, Ben wonders how the island’s proximity to the big city impacts on community and faith, and whether Arran will still have a sacred island feel. Disembarking at the island’s bustling port in Brodick, Ben’s journey takes him to a tranquil southwest corner of the island with stunning views of the glittering sea.

He meets the Curries, a farming family who can trace their roots back nearly 200 years. He learns about their strong spiritual connection to the land and how they see themselves not as owners, but as custodians for the generations to come.

Arran’s community was once extremely devout, so much so that prefab churches, known as ‘Tin Kirks’ were manufactured from corrugated iron on the mainland and shipped across to the island. Ben visits one of the last on Arran, a fascinating and atmospheric ‘sacred place’ which sadly, due to declining church attendance, closed its doors just a few months earlier after being in use for one hundred years.

But as we become a more secular society Ben discovers that the community spirit in Arran is still strong. He spends a busy morning with Fiona ‘many hats’ Laing, an islander who volunteers for the coastguard, the fire service and as a first responder. In an emotional encounter, Ben learns how Fiona is regarded as a true hero of the island community. The island may be more secular in the 21st century but it’s a haven for diverse faiths. Ben is taught how to make traditional Hallah bread by Barb and Sharon, the island’s only practising Jews and finds out about the sacred practices of the Jewish Sabbath.

He then journeys across to Holy Isle just off Arran’s east coast. Renowned as the home of a 6th-century hermit monk and a site of Christian pilgrimage, today it’s home to a Buddhist Peace Centre. Here Ben has an extraordinary encounter with Buddhist Monk Karma Zangpo.

Returning to Arran, Ben hikes up to a stunning mountain loch lying one thousand feet above sea level, before visiting a beautiful cliff top apothecary garden, where he learns about the ancient links between Celtic beliefs and traditional herbal remedies. Before leaving, Ben is roped into performing at the Arran Folk Festival. He concludes his journey realising that, despite its proximity to the mainland, he’s experienced an island with tremendous warmth and community spirit where diverse faiths thrive.

Scotland’s Sacred Islands with Ben Fogle returns to the BBC Scotland channel on Tuesday, October 17th at 8pm and on BBC One at 10.30am on Sunday, October 22nd.

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