Grand Tours of Scotland's Rivers Series 1

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Travel Documentary hosted by Paul Murton, published by BBC in 2021 - English narration

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Image: Grand-Tours-of-Scotland-s-Rivers-Series-1-Cover.jpg

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Paul Murton sets off downstream to explore five rivers over six programmes from source to sea.

[edit] Chapter 1: The Past Re-imagined

Paul Murton explores the upper reaches of the river Spey - Scotland's third longest river - from its source in the wilds of Badenoch to Broomhill, halfway down. He hears stories of clan chief Cluny Macpherson, who hid with his gold for nine years in an inaccessible cave.

Heading to a hidden tributary, Paul discovers a secret aristocratic Victorian love nest located in a remote glen where the wilderness is returning. In Newtonmore, Paul sees traditional Highland houses that remind him of Hobbit dwellings, before he rides a steam train on a heritage railway that follows the river Spey.

[edit] Chapter 2: A Bountiful River

Paul explores the lower reaches of the river Spey - Scotland's third longest river, famous for its forests, whisky distilleries and salmon - as it flows north towards the coast. On the way Paul hears tales of loggers who floated timber down the river from the 17th century onwards. He then takes to the water in a canoe and discovers the rare and endangered freshwater mussels that were once harvested for their precious pearls, which adorn royal crowns.

Sampling a dram of the original water of life, Paul reaches the mouth of the Spey where shipyards launched vessels to sail the seven seas. Finally, Paul meets the last salmon net fisherman on the river and learns how nets were used to catch the fish, which were then packed in ice and sent by rail to London.

[edit] Chapter 3: Taming the Wild

Paul Murton explores the River Garry and hears tales of clan chief Struan Robertson, who fought in all three Jacobite risings. Paul then discovers the geology of deep time, before restaging the Battle of Killiecrankie with just two men, a musket and a broadsword. After surviving a Highland charge, Paul falls off a bridge. He reaches journey's end on the beautiful Ben Vrackie - the 'speckled hill'.

[edit] Chapter 4: A River of Invention

Paul discovers the source of the remarkable River Nith, high in a remote forestry plantation. Heading downstream, he hears the story of the Knockshinnoch mining disaster – how 116 men were saved from entombment after a massive earth collapse. At Sanquhar, once famous for its unique and distinctive knitting pattern, Paul tries very hard to knit a glove before it all unravels. Kirkpatrick Macmillan was the man first credited with making a bicycle with pedals. Paul wobbles in his wake aboard a replica at Drumlanrig Castle, before heading south to Ellisland – once the riverside home of the poet Robert Burns.

In Dumfries, Paul learns how astronaut Neil Armstrong might not have walked on the surface of the moon without the optical skills of a local man. Journey's end is at Caerlaverock Castle overlooking the shining sands of the Solway Firth.

[edit] Chapter 5: Going the Distance

This Grand Tour begins in the hills above Glen Clova, on a mountainous plateau known as the Mounth. Following the South Esk downstream, Paul enters picturesque Corrie Fee, where he scrambles on the cliffs with two botanists, searching for Scotland's rarest plant. Back on the South Esk, he goes electro-fishing to discover more about the ecology and general health of the whole river system.

Running out of riverside paths, Paul takes to the road for a few miles and rides a motorbike to the ancestral home of Harley Davidson. Later he discovers how social distancing in the 17th century enabled traders to ply their wares during the plague in Brechin, Scotland's smallest city. Where the river enters the saltwater Montrose basin, Paul learns how plans to transform the tidal basin into a Dutch-style polder for agriculture were scuppered by a storm witch – or was she just a scapegoat for competing interests?

During the Second World War, the Norwegian navy was stationed in Montrose. Their mascot, a huge St Bernard dog called Bamse, became a war hero and a national celebrity. Paul pays homage to the giant dog with a visit to his statue before ending his journey down the South Esk at the river mouth, where a lighthouse stands guard over the rocks of Scurdie Ness.

[edit] Chapter 6: Salt of the Earth

Paul follows the River Ayr as it flows from Loch Glenbuck towards the sea and the Clyde coast. The old mining village of Glenbuck was demolished long ago, but its memory is kept alive by former resident Barbara Alexander whose uncle, the famous Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly, was a Glenbuck man. From Glenbuck, Paul follows the river through a landscape pockmarked by the scars of old mineral extraction and industry.

At Muirkirk he discovers how a local man illuminated the cities of the world with gas lighting, and how a certain Mr McAdam invented tarmac for the roads of the world. The course of the river Ayr flows through land rich in covenanting history when religious conflict cost many lives. In the Ayr gorge, Paul encounters the extraordinary tale of the radical preacher Alexander Peden, whose life on the run forced him to hide in caves while still preaching hellfire sermons to the people. Finally reaching the coast, Paul visits the only working salt evaporation tower in the world. Here, with a pinch of salt, he learns how sea water is evaporated by wind and sun to make brine, from which sea salt is made.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x265 CABAC Main@L4
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 21 (~2667Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1920x1080
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frame Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: q91 VBR 48KHz (127/206Kbps avg/peak)
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 6 x 29 mins
  • Number Of Parts: 1 (6 chapters)
  • Part Size: 3.35 GB
  • Source: Webrip (1080p/h264/50 7934Kbps VBR 9.23GB)
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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