Ben Fogle became a household name when he appeared on the ground-breaking reality show Castaway 2000, which followed 36 men, women, and children over the course of a year as they built a community on the remote Scottish island of Taransay.
The presenter and adventurer has had a passion for islands ever since, and now he’s embarking on a very personal pilgrimage around some of Scotland’s spectacular isles, including Taransay, in a new BBC1 travelogue.
We caught up with Ben, 47, to find out more…
Why did you want to make Scotland’s Sacred Islands?
“I have my own personal history and connection with the Western Isles, from visiting the island of Eigg when I was seven, right up to going to Taransay for the Castaway project. I wanted to understand more about them and how they vary.”
Did Taransay start your love affair with the islands and with Scotland?
“That year changed everything, and I fell in love with island life and with that part of Scotland.
“My late grandfather grew up in Scotland, and I still have lots of family there, so I’ve always had a connection.”
Have you revisited Taransay before, and are you in touch with the other castaways?
“I went back for the wedding of two of the castaways, and also for my honeymoon 15 years ago. Sadly, three of the original participants have passed away.
“There is no legacy of our time on the island, and none of the buildings survived. The final thing to go was the wind turbine.”
What was it like to return this time?
“My visit was quite melancholy. They say you shouldn’t go back to a place after you’ve had an extraordinary experience, because it will never be the same as the experience was also a product of the people.
“But I owe so much to that island, and this whole series is a thank you letter to Scotland and the Western Isles for changing my life.”
Did Castaway 2000 feel like a pioneering project at the time?
“It was really the first reality TV show, in terms of taking people out of their natural environments and putting them in an artificial one.
“A whole year of filming has never been done since, and reality TV is obviously very different today – Love Island couldn’t be more different from Castaway!”
Scotland’s Sacred Islands with Ben Fogle starts on BBC BBC1 on Sunday, Oct. 10 — see our TV Guide for full listings. It is already available on BBC iPlayer.