The upcoming broadcast of the second series of “Scotland’s Sacred Islands” with Ben Fogle is eagerly anticipated.
This new four-part series is set to premiere on BBC Scotland and BBC iPlayer on Tuesday, October 17th, at 8 pm. It will also air on BBC One on Sunday, October 22nd, at 10:30 am.
In this series, Ben will embark on a journey to 12 different islands, commencing with Arran and Holy Isle. He will then explore Islay and Jura, followed by a third episode featuring Orkney, concluding the series on Skye.
In addition to showcasing the breathtaking landscapes of some of the UK’s most picturesque islands, the series will honour their distinctive spiritual legacy. Ben will engage with local inhabitants to discover how faith and belief are interwoven into their contemporary communities.
“Scotland’s Sacred Islands with Ben Fogle” is produced by Tern, a division of Zinc Media, and is a joint venture between BBC Scotland and BBC Unscripted for BBC One. This production is in collaboration with The Open University. The series was commissioned by Steve Allen at BBC Scotland and Daisy Scalchi, BBC Head of Religion & Ethics TV.
Steve Allen, Commissioning Editor for BBC Scotland, said: “Ben Fogle forged a link with the Scottish islands which started in his childhood as a young boy visiting Eigg with his family and was fostered by the BBC more than 20 years ago when he took part in the Castaway project living on Taransay, in the Hebrides for a year.
“In this second series of Scotland’s Sacred Islands he connects very directly with the landscape and unique spiritual heritage of the islands, but also with the people and the communities he meets. In these difficult times for many, the series offers a beautiful slice of serenity and a picture of community connection.”
Harry Bell Managing Director of Tern, said: “We’re thrilled to be casting off with Ben on another adventure into the soul of Scotland’s beautiful islands. Celebrating small communities living on ‘the edge of the world’ and sharing their beliefs and way of life has been a magical experience.”
Two academics from The Open University, Professor John Wolffe and Professor Marion Bowman, consulted on the series.
John Wolffe, Professor of Religious History at The Open University, says: “Through its focus on fascinating and scenic islands this series explores changing forms of religious expression and spirituality in the contemporary world and raises important questions about the nature of communities and their relationship to the environment. It has been a rewarding privilege to be involved.”
Marion Bowman, Professor of Vernacular Religion at The Open University, says: “As a Scottish Religious Studies scholar, my research areas are Vernacular Religion (which focuses on religion as it is lived in everyday life), diverse forms of contemporary spirituality, and new non-traditional forms of pilgrimage in Scotland, so working on Scotland’s Sacred Islands has been right up my street! It’s been a pleasure to be involved in bringing to a wider audience some insights into possibly unfamiliar places, spiritual practices, cultural traditions and worldviews. I hope that people will find the beauty and diversity of the islands visited, the insights into traditional forms of religiosity, new spiritual and personal quests and the many means of community-building and meaning-making featured both fascinating and thought-provoking.”
The first series, which aired in 2021, featured Shetland and islands in the Inner and Outer Hebrides, including Iona, Barra, North and South Uist, Mingulay, Berneray, Taransay, Lewis and Harris.
The second series will feature Arran and Holy Isle in the initial episode, followed by Islay, Jura and The Rock of the Saints in the second episode, Orkney Mainland, Shapinsay, Lamb Holm in the third, and finally Skye, St Columba’s Isle, Raasay and Rona.
In an interview with Bradford Zone, Ben Fogle discussed the essence of the second series, emphasizing the diversity of religions and spirituality across the archipelago. He also highlighted the importance of showcasing stories of people helping one another, underscoring the strong connection between spirituality, faith, kindness, and community on the islands. Ben acknowledged that the islands have the power to provide solace and restoration, offering a different pace and way of life compared to mainland Britain. Despite occasional challenges with weather during filming, the team was fortunate to experience a well-rounded Scottish summer.
What for you is the essence of this second series?
The beauty of the Scottish islands is the breadth of religions and spirituality across the archipelago. The series aims to focus on the power of the islands themselves to nurture and nourish religion and spirituality. In the last series we went to some amazing places but we decided there were so many more fascinating places to explore and find out about their culture and their heritage. This time around there is an even wider span of faiths, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, as well as a diverse range of spiritual perspectives
As well as faith and spirituality, the series has some lovely moments which are all about people helping people such as Men’s Shed in Orkney and the quietly wonderful lady on Arran, Fiona, who seems to spend most of her waking life in the service of the community, was it important to you to reflect these stories in the series?
There is a strong connection between spirituality, faith, kindness and community. The islands have quite traditional community values in which neighbours look out for one another.
Sometimes islands are seen by mainland dwellers as being quite ‘closed’ communities, did you find this to be the case?
Far from being narrow minded, closed communities, I have found the opposite. Most islanders welcome ‘outsiders’ to the islands, all that they expect is for newcomers to live with, not apart from the existing communities. To share their values and to be part of, not apart from the community and landscape.
So take us through the series and some of your highlights?
I visited many islands for the first time during this second series. I had never been to Arran, Jura or Skye before. It was also my first visit to Holy isle.
Arran is well-known in central west Scotland as an island that is accessible for trips and visits but like anywhere, you can walk the well-trodden path or you can go off piste and leave the path. Arran has some beautiful, wild, rugged places away from the main tourist hub.
Islay was amazing and we met many amazing people there but I also loved Jura. I had always wanted to visit ever since learning that George Orwell wrote 1984 from there.
History of a different kind intrigued me on Orkney. Many of the people on Orkney relate more to their Norse heritage than their Scottish one. So many of the place names and even the boats are from the north. I loved exploring the rich tapestry of island history that envelopes both Norse mythology and Christianity, it’s what makes the islands so rich and diverse.
As well as Arran another tourist favourite we visited was Skye. It is accessible by bridge so I drove there, which is a first for the series. Fascinating to see modern tourism in action, with so many people visiting, coming to a point, getting off the bus together and taking pictures for social media..but like them I was blown away by the beauty of the island. It was awe-inspiring.
After two series of Scotland’s Sacred Islands, what do you see as the power of the islands?
There is a religious dimension to the series but I’m not very religious…
But I’m very open-minded and I am very spiritual. The islands have the power to calm, soothe and restore. So many people from mainland Britain are in danger of burnout but the islands and island life offer an alternative. A different pace of life. A different way of life. A closer community with some liberal and traditional values.
Going to the Scottish islands in spring wasn’t quite the epic of some of your other recent adventures, but Scottish weather is often its own special filming challenge, not least because it can change so much within the space of a day. How was the weather during filming?
We were surprisingly lucky. We had plenty of sunshine, rain and midges. The perfect Scottish summer really.