Scotland the Beautiful; BBC TV TRIBUTE TO A NATION OF ART INSPIRATION

The Mirror (London, England), June 4, 2005 | Go to article overview

Scotland the Beautiful; BBC TV TRIBUTE TO A NATION OF ART INSPIRATION


Byline: EXCLUSIVE By ANNIE LEASK

SCOTLAND'S stunning scenery has inspired works of genius from the world's greatest artists.

And, sadly for us, it has now even forced Beeb legend Jonathan Dimbleby into song.

The veteran presenter is fronting a new series exploring the landscapes behind some of the best artwork of the last 300 years.

Linked with a major Tate Gallery exhibition, A Picture of Britain will take viewers on a breathtaking trek through the hills and valleys of the UK.

But it is Dimbleby's journey through Scotland which steals the show.

The Land Rover-driving host pops up everywhere from Edinburgh to Balmoral as seeks out the places which inspired national heroes like Walter Scott and Rabbie Burns.

And it's on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond that Dimbleby makes his own contribution the world of art.

"Oh ye'll take the high road and I'll tak the low, but I'll be in Scotland afore ye," he sings.

But the flustered Question Time star quickly admits: "I don't know why I did that. I had a Scottish music teacher and she will be turning in her grave."

He then explains how the banks of the Loch were first immortalised in song by a Highlander awaiting execution.

The condemned man was comparing the journey of his spirit to that of another prisoner who'd been spared death.

Dimbleby's version doesn't have quite the same emotion. And, after filming, the presenter said: "I recommend viewers to block their ears until it's over."

However, it's easy to understand him being moved to song as the camera reveals the beauty of a country which captured the imagination of Sir Walter Scott.

The writer fell in love with the Highlands and his novel Rob Roy described Loch Lomond as "one of the most surprising, beautiful and sublime spectacles in nature".

Scott was a publishing sensation and, in 1822, arranged a visit to Edinburgh by George IV, the first British monarch to arrive there since the Act of Union between Scotland to England in 1707.

In fact, his novels and poems encouraged many travellers who had previously avoided the Highlands because they were thought wild and dangerous.

They came clutching copies of his books, but Scott was alarmed by the arrival of so many fans.

He wrote: "Every London citizen makes Loch Lomond his wash butt and throws his shoe over Ben Nevis."

But Scott had succeeded in igniting a fascination for Scotland - and artists soon followed looking for inspiration.

In 1842, keen painter Queen Victoria made her first journey to the Highlands.

And it was the start of a love affair that would last a lifetime. In 1848 she had a new castle built at Balmoral.

Here she created hundreds of sketches and watercolours of the breathtaking landscape. …

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