The stars of Outlander, Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) and Graham McTavish (Dougal McKenzie), tell all about their eventful road trip around the Highlands of Scotland for new book Clanlands.
What made you decide to trundle around the Highlands in an old campervan?
Graham: Well, that was Sam’s idea. I’d already spoken to him about doing something on Scotland, maybe a documentary.
He suggested a podcast – I didn’t even know what a podcast was – then that expanded to walking around with GoPros, and then that turned into going by van.
The book’s about the whole experience, then there will be a TV show at some point. You’ll see us in kilts, which is both a threat and a promise.
Sam: I wanted to do this because one of the biggest draws of Outlander is, of course, Scotland and its clans – they really captured people’s imagination.
Graham and I are both very interested in our home country [Sam was born in Balmaclellan, Dumfries and Galloway; Graham is originally from Glasgow] and its history. The idea was to travel around, meet interesting characters and learn more about the culture.
What was the plan?
Graham: We just set off from a car park in the Glencoe Valley, with no real idea of where we were going, and it was at that point I realised I had no idea if Sam could even drive this hulking great van.
Plus, Sam and I had never travelled together like this before, so it could have all gone very wrong.
Sam: We didn’t really have one, as such…
What were your favourite moments?
Sam: For me, one was meeting Lady Angelica Cawdor, the chatelaine of Cawdor Castle. Graham and I have both been in productions of Macbeth, where the title character is the Thane of Cawdor.
She had all these interesting stories about the castle. Apparently it was built on the site of a mythological tree – it was all a bit Game Of Thrones.
Graham: At one point she picked up this huge leather book and I asked what it was. It turned out to be a very rare Shakespeare first folio from 1623.
She was kind enough to let me look through it and we had several of those kind of experiences, like holding swords that were used in the Battle of Culloden in 1746 or seeing Mary, Queen of Scots’ prayer stool.
Were there some whisky stops along the way?
Sam: The very first thing we did was a whisky tasting – at 9am! It was the way we wanted to start and the way we wanted to continue.
Graham: We need to stress that after this, which involved trying six cask-strength [undiluted] whiskies at Clachaig Inn in Ballachulish, someone else took over the driving. We were pretty drunk.
Any other mishaps?
Graham: We did some of the route on a tandem. Now, I’ve cycled all over Scotland on a normal bike, and on a normal tandem, but the one we got, it must have been buried somewhere for years, then dug up. It was a piece of rusting iron. I was at the front, which was a mistake as I couldn’t see what Sam was doing. Which was not pedalling.
Where were your favourite places?
Sam: An incredible loch called Loch Awe. There’s a ruined castle on it, Kilchurn, which is spectacular. I went kayaking around it, which was amazing.
Graham: I’d say Loch Leven. We motorbiked along next to it. A lot of people stop on that road, to Balquhidder, to look at Rob Roy’s grave although there’s a huge dispute about whether it actually is his or not.
But if you keep going for a few more miles, it’s just stunning. Hopefully people who’ve never been to Scotland before will be inspired by our journey.
Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, And A Scottish Adventure Like No Other (Hodder & Stoughton) by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish is out on 3rd November.
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