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Coastal Railways with Julie Walters TX: 26 Nov 2017, Week 47

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Series Synopsis:

One of the country’s best loved actors, Julie Walters, presents a four-part series in which she travels the most beautiful and interesting stretches of coastal railway routes in the UK. This series sees her take the train for a magical mystery tour around our shores, getting lost in dramatic landscapes, uncovering surprising historical secrets and discovering how life really can be a beach!

From pristine Scottish shores to Cornish fishing villages, hers is a journey of discovery, learning how our coastal railways routes helped shape us as a nation, finding out about the people who brought them to life, and stopping off to meet the fascinating characters who live and thrive along the routes today.

Programme 1. The West Highlands – Sunday 26 November, 8pm Channel 4

Julie rides the West Highland Railway in Scotland on board the famous Jacobite steam train, memorable for its starring role in the Harry Potter films, before getting some practical training in “extreme violence” and blowing up railway lines at Arisaig House – home to the Special Operations Executive that trained agents in the WW2.

Arriving at Mallaig, once the biggest herring port in Europe, Julie gets a lesson in, among other delicacies, herring gutting and smoking before catching the ferry to the Isle of Skye where she meets one of the last ‘seanchai’ or traditional Scottish storytellers. Julie is entranced by his powers.

At Kyle of Lochalsh she catches the Inverness bound train stopping at Duirinish, one of the remotest communities in the Western Highlands, where she works with the Highland cattle and their wrangler, the redoubtable Morag, who takes her into the bosom of the hamlet.

Programme 2. The East Coast Line – Sunday 3 December, 8pm Channel 4

Julie starts in Newcastle, famed for its ‘Brown Ale’, which brings back some difficult memories for her so she quickly hops aboard the mainline high-speed train bound for Edinburgh.

First stop is the beautiful coastal town of Alnmouth and its neighbour Alnwick where she discovers the disused station still in use but now as one of the biggest and most beautiful second hand bookshops in Britain. Its enthusiastic owners first discovered the original “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster that sparked the whole craze. Julie joins local enthusiasts determined to privately reopen the railway line back to Alnmouth. The track is being laid and Julie is roped in to help out.

She hitches a ride in the driver’s cabin of the 125 train speeding north to North Berwick where she meets Jane McMinn, IT consultant turned master mariner and lobster breeder, who takes her out to sea to the spectacular Bass Rock and the biggest gannet colony on Earth.

The last leg finds Julie in Edinburgh where she discovers the intriguing connections between the railway and the famous Balmoral Hotel’s Palm Court and Clock Tower.

Programme 3. Devon and Cornwall – Sunday 10 December, 8pm Channel 4

Julie is on the famous Great Western Railway heading down to Cornwall and first arrives at the English Riviera town of Torquay, where she revels in the memorable, if damp, beach holidays of her childhood. She meets eccentric Lionel Digby - famed for bringing Rock and Roll rock to the South West.

At Paignton Julie boards the heritage steam line to Kingswear. Building this line was a labour of love by its creator, who also converted the tiny coastal Kingswear Castle into his summer residence. Julie is meant to stay there but is scared it is haunted.

Next day she rides back, on the footplate this time, and catches the mainline towards Polperro. The cute fishing village is full of smugglers tales and Julie sets out to get to the facts behind the fables. At St Ives Julie joins the RNLI on a practice, only to return as seasick as a dog!

In Penzance there’s just time to meet extraordinary cake makers at Peboroyon Cakes. Their amazing creations can cost thousands and, thanks to the overnight train to Paddington, can arrive fresh and safely next morning in London.

And finally, Julie catches the night sleeper back to “The Smoke”…

Programme 4. North Wales – Sunday 17 December, 8pm Channel 4

Julie’s journey from Cardigan Bay to Liverpool begins in Aberystwyth, Wales, where she was once “banned from every pub” in the town, so she heads off! Travelling north she arrives at Tywyn – famous for its heritage steam railway and the inspiration behind Thomas the Tank Engine.

Next, Llwyngwril, where the tiny community is literally trying to knit itself famous by “yarn bombing” the whole village. Then on over the beautiful Barmouth Bridge to Boston Lodge, home of the oldest working locomotive builders in the world. She tries her hand at carriage painting before catching the famous Ffestiniog railway through Snowdonia National Park.

Julie takes a trip on the fastest zip wire in Europe, based in a huge, semi abandoned, slate quarry. Then on to Llandudno to meet sheep farmer Dan Jones who ‘won’ his million pound coastal hillside farm for a pound a year rent. It’s tupping time and Julie must help prepare the rams for breeding.

Before Liverpool there is time to drop off at Flint and the largest pet cemetery in Europe. Sceptical at first Julie is won over by the sheer attachment people have for their animals. Final stop Liverpool, where Julie first started her acting career and time for that drink she was denied in Aberystwyth!

Coastal Railways with Julie Walters begins on Sunday 26th November at 8pm on Channel 4

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