Secret Britain (2010) s02e03 Episode Script

Hidden Highlands of Scotland

This is a story of Britain.
But a Britain we rarely see.
Britain as an undiscovered country.
Our glorious landscape isn't just spectacular.
It's full of secrets and surprises.
It's absolutely beautiful.
We asked you to share your secret places with us.
And your response was overwhelming.
You're taking us to some remarkable sites.
Wow.
It really is magical.
- What a view! - That is glorious, isn't it? We'll also share a few secrets of our own.
Oh, look at that.
Fantastic! Ah, that's amazing! Like being a child again.
This is Britain as you've never seen it before.
Oh, my word! Wow, that's really incredible.
I don't think I could dream up a view as good as that.
- So if you want to know a secret - Then come with us.
Britain is blessed with magnificent mountains.
Uplands which are shrouded in secrets.
In the Lake District, a symphony of rock and water reaches its crescendo with Scafell Pike.
While northern Wales is crowned by the majestic peaks of Snowdonia.
But our most mountainous and mysterious realm is the Scottish Highlands.
With Britain's highest mountain.
And Britain's deepest water.
The Scottish Highlands are the perfect place to keep a secret.
The Highlands stretch across half of Scotland.
We are making for the region of greatest extremes.
The Great Glen, which cuts through the Highlands from coast to coast.
The mighty Ben Nevis, our tallest peak, looms over the glen.
And in its dark heart, the legendary waters of Loch Ness.
I reckon the Great Glen's got to be stacked full of secrets, hasn't it? It has, look at the size of it.
There's bound to be some amazing stories here.
Do you know, I love this part of the world.
I can't wait for this.
To unlock our first secrets, we need a view over the glen, and this contraption's going to help us gain some height.
- So, are you up for it? - I'm really excited.
Yeah, looking forward to it.
- Are you? - But if you want to take a view in, what you need is a little secret cheat.
- How about the gondola? - Oh, yes, I'm in.
Look at that there, that jump.
Come off down those rocks.
Aonach Mor, a mountain just north of Fort William, attracts some extreme outdoors enthusiasts.
- Look - There's jumps! - All these jumps all through the rocks - and through the trees.
- No, thank you.
- Ah, that's terrifying speed! - I did part of it once.
- Did you? - Yeah.
How did you get on? - Very badly.
- Did you? THEY LAUGH But these barren mountains offer a secret source of inspiration for a more serene activity.
Jamie Hageman's spent years living here, working as a landscape artist.
Jamie's artistic eye gives him a unique perspective on the secrets of the Highlands that most overlook.
- You all right, Jamie? - Hello.
- Hi, Jamie.
- Can we join you? Go for it.
In your workplace.
That's good.
You're good.
- Thanks.
- That's amazing.
That's brilliant.
What would you say is the secret to being an artist up here? For me, it's all about painting the mountains at their most impressive.
So it's about finding these hidden viewpoints that show the mountains at their best.
And in the glens, there must be so many secret hidden spots that you can get to that people just don't normally go.
Yes, definitely.
With Ben Nevis, you've got a broad side above Fort William that's the usual way up that I would suggest that you head up, round the northeast side, and look at the northeast buttress of Ben Nevis.
- That's amazing.
- It's not an obvious viewpoint, but this viewpoint shows Ben Nevis looking very alpine and not actually that recognisable.
I think it's about the viewpoints that aren't obvious, - that's the thing.
- Lovely.
You've found all these secret vantage points here, in the Highlands.
We're here for a few days.
Can you recommend where we go and see your secret places? You've got to climb Britain's highest mountain.
You've got to climb Ben Nevis.
But I would recommend climbing it from the northeast side.
Maybe hire a guide to take you up through the 600-metre cliffs.
That's for you.
THEY LAUGH - I'll take that one on.
- Anything else? - Well, you've heard of the Loch Ness Monster? - Yes.
There might be other monsters around in Scotland, so you could search out one of those.
- Secret monsters for me.
- And what else? Well, you've heard of Bonnie Prince Charlie and all his hideaways throughout the Highlands.
- Well, you could try finding one of those.
- Good stuff.
What an adventure.
Thank you very much indeed.
The scale of the Highlands is immense.
Not only is this the most mountainous part of Britain but this region's also the least populated part of Europe.
Leaving plenty of space to hide its secrets.
So, using your suggestions and Jamie's top tips, we're going solo for a spell to cover more ground.
I'm starting with our tallest order - find a secret route up Britain's highest mountain.
This is Jamie's beautiful painting, but when you see Ben Nevis for real, it's pretty daunting.
Now, I'm a farmer, so the great outdoors is no stranger to me, but I'm no mountain man.
And to discover Ben Nevis' secrets, I'm going to have to climb up that beast.
Being Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis attracts tens of thousands of walkers every year.
But few explore the north face.
Its dramatic cliffs make it the mountain's secret side.
John Lyall has spent 20 years mountaineering in Scotland, so who better to uncover Ben Nevis' mysteries? So you're going to be my guide up the mountain for the next 24 hours? Yeah.
That's a fairly imposing sight, isn't it? I must say, I'm feeling quite nervous about this.
At least the weather's on our side at the moment.
Yeah, it's looking super, isn't it? So what's the plan then, John? Well, we're heading up to the Scottish Mountaineering Club's hut at the foot of the cliffs of the north face and then we're going to climb the Ledge Route, which is actually just straight up above there.
Crikey, that sounds a bit scary! You're a man of the mountains.
And what is it that makes it so special to you? Just everything about the Highlands.
Favourite climbs, yeah.
Definitely some favourite climbs.
The Cuillins of Skye, that's an area where I did a lot of my first scrambling and climbing and they're an amazing place above the sea, spiky peaks reaching into the sky, and that's a special area.
But there are lots of them and some of them are just hidden little corners that not many other people know about.
It's a hike up to our overnight hut, and with every step, the weather clears a bit more to reveal the mountain in all its dramatic grandeur.
Ben Nevis is often wreathed in cloud, so it feels like it's enticing me with a secret view all of my own.
- Is that the summit up there, John? - Yeah.
That's it.
You can just see above that tiny, little patch of snow.
- Just come out of the cloud? - Yeah.
- Amazing! Little bit of mist.
It's fantastic, isn't it? And what are your favourite spots up there, up the ben? Well, the summit's pretty good.
I've climbed Ben Nevis getting on to 100 times or more, and you get more connected with it the more time you spend there.
And have you got some favourite secret spots up there - and names of places that you love? - Definitely some favourite hidden little corners that not many people go but are real gems, yeah.
There's really only one gem that I'm interested in right now.
Whereabouts is this Ledge Route then, John? - Well, you see this steepish bit of rock up here? - Yeah.
We go around the left side of that and then up onto the crest of the ridge above it.
And then we go - up there.
- Crikey! What, we're going to walk along there? Are you sure about this? Yeah.
Looks horrible.
This face of the mountain has numerous secrets known only to those bold enough to climb these awe-inspiring cliffs.
Beneath them, nestles our home for the night.
No mere bolt hole, this is Britain's only alpine hut, and it has its own surprises.
Mountaineers have been exploring Ben Nevis' secrets for over 100 years.
To make it easier to open new routes, the Scottish Mountaineering Club built the alpine hut as a permanent base for the harsh north face.
Opened in 1929, it was named in honour of a local climber, Charles Inglis Clark, who had been killed during the First World War.
Since then, the hut has hosted many of Britain's greatest climbers in whose footsteps I must follow.
Here we are, at one of our most famous mountains that's full of secret routes and nooks and crannies.
And the way that I'm going to get up it is supposed to be up there somewhere.
It's really quite daunting.
Have to see what tomorrow brings.
While you've had your head in the clouds, Adam, I've been looking into the glen's hidden depths.
There are more than 30,000 lochs in Scotland, and you've told us about many magical places with water at their heart.
Of course, the most famous up here is the mighty Loch Ness.
It was born millions of years ago with the shift of a seismic fault line, then gouged out by enormous glaciers during the last ice age.
Loch Ness holds more water than all the lakes of England and Wales put together.
And, of course, it's also home to one of the most famous monster mysteries in the world.
Whether Nessie's here or not, she is a global superstar.
I'm on the hunt for another monster.
But this one I won't find in Loch Ness.
A local tip-off is taking me 30 miles west to the magnificent Loch Morar.
It's wonderfully isolated, easily missed if you stick to the tourist trail.
For some, it's the most beautiful body of water in Britain.
What's beyond question is it's the deepest - plunging down 310 metres, that's over 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the loch.
And try and get your head around just how deep this water is.
Imagine this, you can stand the Eiffel Tower in the loch and still there would be 30 feet of water above it.
So if you can lose the Eiffel Tower in here, what else could be hiding in Loch Morar? Rumours of a mysterious monster christened Morag have swirled around this loch for over 100 years.
And to date, there are over 30 reported sightings of Morag.
But a monster? Really? That would be quite some secret.
If there's one person who can lift the lid on the mysteries of Morar, it's Viv De Fresnes who manages the loch.
Go on, tell me about life here.
It's just all about the peace and the quiet really for me.
I love it.
Yeah.
We don't allow jet skies or speed boats on it to try and keep it as peaceful as this.
And I love the fish here.
Wild trout, you can't beat them.
And there's salmon and sea trout in the loch as well.
And obviously the monster.
Obviously.
Obviously the monster.
Viv has treated all the Morag stories with a fair degree of scepticism, but some of his friends, like Ewen MacDonald, are absolutely convinced the monster of Morar exists.
Ewen, how are you doing? Hello, yes, fine thanks.
Good.
So you're a believer in the monster? Yes.
I've seen it a couple of times.
- Oh, you have? - Uh-huh.
- Go on, tell me the tale.
We were cruising here on a motor boat between the islands and we seen this wake running in the water.
We followed it and this head came out of the water and you could see this mane on the back of the head and it sort of moved around a bit.
And then the head down and then it disappeared.
Left a swirl of water.
What did you think at the time? It was a monster, you see.
Um.
Well, a lot of people over the years have seen something and some of them are very believable, they really are.
Well, most of them.
There's a couple of lads here from Newcastle, and they were out fishing for a week.
And I came up to see how they were getting on.
And they were sitting in the car park, very agitated.
I says, "What's the matter?" The monster came up beside them, just beside the surface beside them.
They panicked when they seen this thing.
And they really were very believable, those two.
They were very scared.
Even two terrified fishermen couldn't quite convince Viv that the monster Morag is real, but a recent event may have changed his mind.
My daughter Fiona and I were over the far side of the loch and Fiona said, "What's that, Dad?" I looked out on the loch and there were these two things about a mile away.
I've never seen anything like it in 20-odd years on the loch.
- I managed to get a picture of it.
- Let's have a look.
- Or them, - there's two.
- Oh, really?! - See if I can find it here.
The day before that, I would have stood here and said, - "Nah, load of nonsense.
" - Wow.
It's not like a boat wash, if you know what I mean.
Do you know what shocks me about that? It's quite how big They're big things.
That's nearly a mile away.
Could this really be Morag? And if it is, why are there two wakes? - What do you think it is, then? - I've no idea.
- I love that.
- I really haven't an idea, so The story is that it's land-locked eels, grown huge.
And there are records of land-locked eels having - this membrane-like growth round their heads.
- OK.
- So that could be the mane.
- That could be it.
I certainly don't think it's a monster.
If there is something out there, I don't think it's a monster or a dinosaur of any kind.
This is about the only dinosaur we've got round here.
SHE LAUGHS How rude.
How rude.
Maybe an eel could grow to a monster size here, but I think something else is feeding the mythology of Morag.
It's the magic of this place.
And who better ask about the magical secrets of Loch Morar and monster Morag than a child? Viv's daughter, Fiona.
So can you remember the day that you and your dad were out and you saw what might be the signs of Morag? Yeah, I did.
We were up over there and I said, "Dad, what was that?" Cos there was these two long things swimming in the water.
So it was you that spotted it first just cos it looked so unusual? Yeah.
Cos at first I thought it was two eels, but it wasn't.
Well, I don't know.
There's no sign of the monster so far but the setting of Loch Morar casts its own spell.
I feel like I'm in a child's adventure story, especially with all these enchanting islands.
You're so lucky having this.
Tell me about the islands around here.
- What's are they special to you? - They just seem so magical.
They're really good to explore cos there are loads of little hiding places and trees to climb.
- Do you have a favourite? - Fairy Island, definitely.
Fairy Island? Which one is it? This one here? What a place.
Yeah.
This is your own secret entrance to Fairy Island? Yeah.
That's really hidden, isn't it? As we glide in towards Fairy Island, I feel like I'm entering a land that time forgot.
Wow.
It's absolutely magical.
- It's truly wild out here, isn't it? - Yep.
- There's not a footpath to be found.
- Nope.
Oh, yeah, this is the viewpoint.
You could see Morag from up here, couldn't you? - Yeah.
- What do you think Morag is? Like a big kind of fish thing that has flippers like a seal.
- Oh, right.
- But the back like a big dragon.
And that day that you were out with your dad and he took the photo, do you think that was Morag? I don't know.
- Do you think she has a lonely life out there? - No.
- I think there's six, seven of them.
- So they're sociable? Yeah, cos there can't only be one.
I've found it so enjoyable experiencing and seeing the loch through the eyes of a child.
It's inspired me to think that if I wait here just a few moments longer, I might just catch a glimpse of Morag the monster.
This landscape feels like a fitting home for myths and legends.
They've been a bit of a theme in viewers' suggestions.
Which have taken us all over Britain in search of undiscovered stories.
But right now, I'm tackling a very real kind of secret - finding a route up this terrifying-looking mountain.
Don't let me hold you up.
I've spent the night in an alpine hut built nearly a century ago at the foot of Ben Nevis.
Yesterday, bathed in sunshine, the ben's north face looked bad enough, but now, clothed in mist, it's even more intimidating.
It's like the mountain is hiding its secrets, waiting to catch me unawares.
I'm glad John's climbed Ben Nevis nearly 100 times.
So, Adam, I think we'll just stop up here and put our harness and helmets on and get roped up.
Right.
Things are getting a little bit more serious.
And I am feeling a bit apprehensive.
It seems that this journey up the mountain, for me it's all new.
It's a complete education.
So you're going to look after me, John, aren't you? We're going to look after one another.
It's not long before it becomes all too clear why we've roped up.
Goodness me, John.
It looks like we've come to a mass of cliffs.
Is this a bit of a dead-end? It can look that way with the abyss here in front of us, - but we're actually cross the gully further up.
- Yeah.
Then we're going to traverse round underneath this big steep cliff - and all the way round.
- OK.
- That looks pretty serious down there.
- OK.
Just make sure you get your feet in good, solid footholds as you come round there.
Ledge Route was first opened up in 1893 by some of the pioneers of British mountaineering.
We're walking in the footsteps of giants.
The route combines scrambles, traverses and climbs There's some loose blocks there.
.
.
which is why mountaineers view this as a real classic.
- Right.
- OK.
Until now, at least I've been able to see where I'm going.
OK, climb when you're ready.
Just step up to your left there.
But as the cloud closes in, it's like the mountain is toying with us.
- More exposed here.
- OK.
- Blimey.
- Right.
This is quite a ridge.
The swirling mist obscures my view, suddenly opening up to reveal the hidden, terrifying drops on either side.
- Oh, just stay a little bit away from the edge a bit there.
- Yeah.
Good idea.
There's some great drops down there.
OK.
Crikey, don't want to drop down there.
It's with some relief that we make it off the ridge and onto the plateau.
I'm no mountaineer yet, but I feel it's quite an achievement to have come along that ridge.
And now the top of Ben Nevis is not far away.
Groping our way through the mist, we could be the only people on the mountain.
But Ben Nevis has yet another secret to reveal.
Goodness me, John! We come round the corner from a desolate mountainside with no people and now there's quite a crowd.
What's going on? Well, this is the Ben Nevis Hill Race.
It's an annual event.
Oh, my word.
Cause an accident.
'Suddenly I feel a littleoverdressed.
' They're going at a fair old pace, aren't they? That's the way to go, isn't it? How long does it take them to run up and run down? Er, quicker than us! HE LAUGHS That's all very well, but they haven't have had to climb the northeast face.
They ran up the walkers' route instead.
That has to be cheating.
Apparently, 400 people take part every year and the top runners will climb to the summit and race back down in just over 90 minutes! Astonishing! Let's go and put my hand on this final summit.
The mountain has one final secret, one that even those who make this most demanding of ascents often fail to discover.
What are all these rocky shapes in the mist then, John? They're old ruins of the weather observatory, meteorological observatory, that was up here from 1883 until 1904.
That was when the Victorian's excitement with science reached fever pitch.
Then this weather station was intended to reveal the secrets of the Earth's atmosphere.
21 years it was manned all the time, storms all sorts of things, yeah.
Quite an experience living up here doing that.
Hmm, I think I know why they shut it down.
1883 - cloudy, cold.
1884 - cloudy, cold.
1885 - cold, cloudy.
Finally, I've reached the top, the highest point in Britain.
- Hey, hey.
- Well done.
- Thank you for looking after me.
- Not at all.
Well done.
- The route OK? - Not too bad.
Not too bad.
Just got to get back down again now.
I think I can feel the sun coming out.
'It seems wishful thinking' The mist is clearing.
'.
.
but as we descend, the mountain reveals what's been hidden.
' - Beautiful! What a view.
- Loch Linnhe, Loch Eil.
Fort William is where? - Just down here - Over there, just over the edge? - You're just seeing the edge of it.
- Beautiful.
And the halfway loch just down here.
Nearly 26 hours after setting off, I'm relieved to be back at the beginning.
Well, I have to say, I was pretty nervous about climbing Ben Nevis, but having done it, I can really understand why mountaineers like John are drawn to these extraordinary places, and I feel quite privileged to have shared the secrets of the highest mountain in the UK.
If, like us, you're on a hunt for Highland secrets It's great to go by foot.
The right to roam in Scotland means you're pretty much free to explore wherever your legs can take you.
But 70-odd years ago, access to areas around Fort William was tightly restricted.
Even locals had to carry passes and paperwork.
Because this was a landscape in lockdown.
That's because, during the Second World War, this area of the Highlands became a top secret training ground.
The rugged terrain was ideal for training a new elite force.
The Commandos.
From 1940 onwards, men tested their mettle in these mountains.
The Great Glen and the surrounding area rang with gunfire as Commando warfare was invented here in secret.
I tell you what, having climbed up Ben Nevis, using that as their training ground, these guys must have been as tough as old boots.
But the Commandos weren't the first military figures to operate in this part of the Highlands.
250 years ago, the king's troops were combing the hills and glens for an enemy of the state.
Now, somewhere around here, so the story goes, is the secret hiding place of the Young Pretender to the British Throne - Bonnie Prince Charlie.
- What we've got to do is try and find it.
- Yes.
The grandson of James II, Britain's last Catholic king, Bonnie Prince Charlie vowed to overthrow George II, a Protestant.
But the prince's rebellion was to end in defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
Branded a traitor, the Bonnie Prince was forced to flee.
Pursued by the government's redcoats, he took refuge in a succession of caves and other hideaways right across the Highlands.
One of those secret hiding places is reputed to be nearby.
- Oh, look at this.
- Wow.
- Wow, this is a good one.
- Spectacular! - Lovely, isn't it? - Yeah.
- Right, let's get the map out.
- Are we anywhere near? Well, if my map-reading's correct, I reckon this cave must be up behind the waterfall there somewhere.
So, as much as you'd like to go for a swim, maybe we should get on.
Another time.
Today, this is all Forestry Commission land.
These trees are new growth.
But back in 1745, this was all open moor.
Swarming with redcoats, it would provide scant comfort for a pampered prince on the run.
BATTLE CRY But making his way from one hiding place to another, the Young Pretender wrote his name into the very fabric of the Highland landscape.
Now, Ellie, according to the map, this cave that Bonnie Prince Charlie hid away in, - is somewhere up there.
- Let's crack on, these midges are killing me.
They're horrible, aren't they? - It could well be up here, that view's amazing.
- It is, isn't it? - You could see the enemy coming.
- Yeah, and he was running for his life.
It's got to be round here somewhere.
There's a bit of a hole there.
That's a foxhole, that's not going to fit Bonnie Prince Charlie in there.
HE LAUGHS Or maybe I'm wrong.
Maybe I'm wrong.
- Are we going up? - Yeah, let's go up here.
- Ohh.
- Look, that is.
- Yeah, you're right.
It's the back of the cave.
It's tiny isn't it? SHE LAUGHS Good hiding place.
- You'd never be discovered in there.
- Go on, climb in.
No creature comforts.
After you.
HE LAUGHS You're the red-headed Celt.
THEY LAUGH - Go on.
- All right.
Crumbs.
If you did get discovered though, - you've got no way of running away.
- No.
You're just stuck in here.
Come on, Ellie, there's room for two.
- There isn't.
- You can be my guard.
Look at this.
How the mighty fall.
- He went from leading men to living in a - I know, on the run.
a tiny hovel like this.
- At least the midges aren't coming in.
- That's a bonus.
Looking on the bright side.
- He didn't bother scratching his name on the wall, did he? - No, he didn't.
He did have a good view though.
He certainly did.
Although he didn't have much time to look at it.
He had to keep running.
True enough.
Shame I didn't bring some whisky.
Only these mountains now know whether Bonnie Prince Charlie really stood here, scanning for signs of pursuit.
But he did spend five months on the run, scrambling from one bolt hole to the next, before eventually escaping to Francenever to return.
He has, however, become a figure of Romantic legend and I must admit, I'm keen to see what other secrets might be associated with the prince's adventures here.
Ah, Ellie, you're not alone.
Romance, legend and drama draw millions of tourists to Scotland every year.
Amongst the sights they come to seeare islands like Skye.
Peaks like Ben Nevis.
And the mythological depths of places like Loch Ness.
However, there is one problem many visitors face.
The mountains make it difficult terrain to travel through.
And in the Highlands, the wiggly routes make it difficult to visualise where everything is.
What you're trying to say is, people get lost.
Indeed, but there is a secret solution to this problem, one which you've tipped us off about.
The secret's to be found in Eddleston, near Peebles, in the grounds of this hotel.
Hunt around and you'll come across an incredible guide to Scottish geography.
One which Keith Burns stumbled across completely by accident when he was visiting the hotel in 1996.
I walked into this clearing and saw this pit, full of undergrowth, it was a jungle.
And looking down into the undergrowth, I thought I saw a shape that looked like the Mull of Galloway because the Mull of Galloway's a very characteristic shape.
I thought, no, I'm imagining things.
This is silly.
But if that's the Mull of Galloway, there should be an island where the Isle of Arran is.
And I walked in the direction of where Arran would be and I found the Isle of Arran.
Ten minutes later, having walked over Ben Nevis and the Northwest Highlands, I was at Cape Wrath.
Absolutely astonished to have realised that this was a three-dimensional topographic model of the whole of Scotland.
I was absolutely stunned.
What Keith had stumbled upon was this .
.
the largest three-dimensional map in the world.
Incredibly it had been lost, completely overgrown, a secret hidden in the grounds of the hotel and ignored for years.
It had been commissioned by this man, Jan Tomasik, the hotel's owner in the 1970s.
Originally from Poland, Jan was stationed in Scotland and fought in Normandy during World War II.
He never went home.
Confronted with queries about Scottish geography from his hotel guests, Jan built this enormous map in the grounds.
Sadly, he was forced to sell the hotel before it was completed and the project was abandoned.
Condemned to disappear in the undergrowth for years.
Since rediscovering it, Keith has raised funds and an army of volunteers to complete Jan Tomasik's vision.
Having been overgrown, there's still work to do.
But the map is already a testament to its Polish creator's amazing vision.
That's thanks to its original design, scaled down to the millimetre by architectural students.
For a one-in-10,000 scale 3D map, the accuracy I find quite amazing.
Keith's team hope the map will become a tourist attraction in its own right, one which celebrates the secret links between Scotland and Poland.
The connections between Poland and Scotland go back 400 years or so.
Initially, there were a lot of Scottish immigrants to Poland, merchants, mercenaries, craftsmen, and Bonnie Prince Charlie's mother was Polish.
So the importance of the map is about the connections between the Polish and Scottish people.
The eventual aim is to flood the pit, as Tomasik intended, so that the water forms the lochs and seas that give Scotland her distinctive shape and character.
We hope we can leave the map in the state that Jan Tomasik would be pleased with.
And then hopefully they'll be enough local community involvement that it'll be adopted and looked after for the future.
Your insights have revealed many secrets as we've travelled around Britain.
But now I'm following my own instincts.
My quest to discover more about Bonnie Prince Charlie has led me to an isolated spot on the West Coast of Scotland.
Bonnie Prince Charlie landed just across the water from here in the summer of 1745.
He'd sailed from France to begin a battle not just for the control of the country but for its very soul.
It was a time of huge religious conflict, when kings were crowned as much for their religion as for their ancestry.
The Highlands were a Catholic stronghold, making them a natural power base for Bonnie Prince Charlie's attempt to overthrow the Protestant King George II.
However, when the Young Pretender's rebellion failed his supporters here would pay a bloody price.
New fortresses were built across the Highlands, garrisons for thousands of the king's men.
Catholicism was outlawed.
The Clans were brutally suppressed.
Even the wearing of tartan was banned.
Anyone who raised a voice at the draconian measures was ruthlessly dealt with.
But the battle for the soul of the Highlands continuedin secret.
Facing the complete loss of their culture, Catholic Scots established a network of secret hiding places across the Highlands, to train new priests.
From locations disguised to look like innocent farm houses, priests would disperse across the countryside.
They slept rough in the heather, giving them their name, heather priests.
Constantly on the move to avoid detection by the authorities.
I've joined writer Ann Lindsay to walk to one of the communities that relied on these so-called heather priests to keep their faith alive.
It's so remote that even now the only way to get there is by boat or on foot.
Wow, they're, sort of, revealed to you all of a sudden, these houses.
- I know, it's like a little secret village.
- Yeah.
And there's more, you know, just round the corner and spread around.
Some are still ruined.
But no church? No church because this was the time when Catholicism almost died out.
So how did people who were Catholic take mass? Well, somehow the word would have gone around and so everybody would gather, down on the beach, because the heather priest had to be able to leave very fast and there's a story, how a thousand people gathered right down on the beach to hear mass.
This hamlet is a time capsule, it remains much as it was in those dark days.
The people here lived in fear of reprisal but it was the heather priests who were most at risk.
They knew that the mere act of holding a mass could result in brutal punishment.
SCREAMING If they were caught the first time, practising mass, the heather priest would be banished.
The second time, they would be executed.
Eventually their faith won through.
As the perceived threat the Highlanders posed to the Crown receded, the Acts that banned Catholicism were repealed.
The clouds that hung over this remote hamlet disappeared, to be replaced by a sense of timelessness and magic.
I've written about all sorts of secret and mystical places, and of all the places that I've found, this is my favourite.
- It is absolutely like a little lost world.
- Wonderful.
Wonderful! It's a stunning spot, an unlikely front-line in a secret battle for the soul of the Highlands.
The heather priests have long since faded into history but it's wonderful to wander in their secret steps.
Thanks to your suggestions, we're uncovering all sorts of secrets as we're exploring the Highlands.
From the mountain highs, to the depths of its lochs, you've inspired us to take a fresh look at some of Britain's most glorious countryside.
Now, you can take the boy out of the farm .
.
but you can't take farming out of the boy.
Yes, there's one story that piqued my farming interest.
You know, the last thing I expected to find in the Scottish Highlands was this, an American-style cattle ranch.
Yee-ha! People have always struggled to bring large scale agriculture to the Highlands.
With steep slopes and large areas of bog, the land hasn't leant itself to the kind of mixed farms like mine.
Instead these mountains have largely been the preserve of sheep, which flourish despite the difficult conditions.
So what possessed anybody to try and establish a cattle ranch here? I mean, it's a vision of the Midwest that even has a cowboy and a cowgirl.
It's all thanks to an extraordinary character called Joe Hobbs, a Brit who'd ranched in Canada.
I'm meeting the present-day owners, Paolo and Elspeth Berardelli, to find out more.
Hobbs had a bit of a vision that this land could produce a lot more.
It was relatively unproductive, I think.
It had some sheep on it but he saw the land as very similar to the land that he'd ranched in Alberta and he decided to buy it.
He transformed the place, draining it, doing all sorts, you know.
And these are some of the pictures, are they? Yeah, this is the ranch in it's in its heyday, so Here they are bringing in the cattle into our yards, which are still very much as they were then.
Wonderful, isn't it? Hobbs' massive project was designed to turn the boggy, tussock-covered land of the Highlands into grassy pastures, capable of producing enough good-quality feed for a large herd of cattle during the long winter months.
And in 1950s Scotland, it was a revolutionary idea.
Ever the showman, Joe Hobbs convinced Pathe News to feature his audacious project.
ANNOUNCER: Starting with a herd of 70 Angus Herefords, JW Hobbs, a Britain who once ranched in Canada, has raised his stock in seven years to over 1,000.
And all on land where men thought no sizeable herd could ever find feed.
All the Scottish cattlemen had to wear tam-o'-shanters and everything on horseback, riding around.
I think it was quite it must have been quite a sight, you know? And a lot of people, they had a lot, a lot of men working on the place.
The family still uses horses to help wrangle the cattle.
So I'm joining Anna and Fergus for a Wild West-style round up.
Come on, horse! Walk on, walk on.
Come on, horse.
And, er HE LAUGHS I'm not quite as nimble as the children, who are already showing me up.
And, er, there we go.
And, thankfully, I've got a lovely steady Highland pony to look after me.
Walk on, then so I can get my foot in.
Oh, hello! Ah, it's all gone wrong.
HE LAUGHS We're off to round up some cattle that have strayed from the main herd.
Wait for me.
Tck-tck, tck-tck.
Heyup, hup-hup-hup-hup-hup-hup.
WHISTLING At least I look at home on the range .
.
if not on a horse.
This is absolutely brilliant.
I have to let you into a secret.
When I was a boy, I wanted to be a cowboy, but on a motorbike cos I'm rubbish on a horse.
Come on, then, walk on.
WHISTLING At the moment, Anna's rounding up the cattle .
.
and Fergus is rounding up me.
- He's a bit of a plodder.
- Go on, walk on.
Ferg', watch that one.
Well, it's not exactly been Blazing Saddles but after just over an hour, we've reunited the herd.
Great job, team! Now, I'm looking forward to those cowboy staples - coffee and beans.
Living the dream.
Living the dream.
Shall we head back to the ranch? Let's go, horses roll.
Tck-tck, tck-tck.
Come on.
This big country invites those with grand schemes to make their mark.
The mighty Caledonian Canal links the lochs together, making a secret watery highway, its epic scale only appreciated from the air.
Surrounding this waterway, rock rises up in grand salute.
Yet in the midst of all this majestic landscape is a hidden Highland secret that's very human and deeply personal.
Which is why I've come to the Black Isle, near Inverness at the northern end of the Great Glen.
When we asked you to share your secret places with us, we heard about a rather mysterious tradition.
Now a cloot in Scots is a piece of cloth, like this.
And somehow these cloots are tied up with a secret, intensely private ritual, at something called a Clootie well.
I know the tradition is something to do with hanging cloots, or cloths, in a tree.
Whatever it is, there's a distinctly otherworldly feel to this place, created by an ancient custom sitting side-by-side with our modern world.
Wow, there's more revealing themselves.
Oh, they're quite far flung from the path, they're all out across the trees.
Clearly, whatever tradition was going on years ago, is still very much alive today.
Goodness.
They're certainly increasing in number everywhere you look.
Oh, my word, look at this.
It feels like the whole wood is full of them.
Every branch is covered.
It looks a bit like a festival from years ago and everything's just been left.
I've arranged to meet Dr Alix Powers-Jones, who's going to reveal the ritual of the Clootie well.
- Hi, Alix.
- Hello.
- There's even more of them.
- They're everywhere.
- It never ends.
So this is the Clootie well, then? - It is.
- Right, what's that all about? - The Clootie well's all about the water.
It's in fact not a well, it's a spring that comes out underneath the hill.
- How long have people been coming here? - It's a pre-Christian, Iron Age Celtic tradition, so potentially thousands of years.
And people came to ask for something.
- So it's all for good luck? - More likely for this particular spring, it was about the health of children.
What they would do is they would dip their rag in the water, say you'd got a headache, they would rub it on your head and then they would tie the cloot to a branch.
So instead of you decaying, you being ill, or dying, it was the rag that would decay.
Once, the neighbouring road would have been a pilgrims' route.
Now, it's the A832.
But the well still attracts visitors in the know, which is why there are cloots as far as the eye can see.
Why do you think people still come, even though we've got the Health Service? It's like any superstition.
Why do you not go under a ladder? Why do you throw a coin in a well? It's exactly that same persistence of old traditions, - old superstitions.
- You can see all these trees are completely covered.
- Where is the well? - The well, the spring is actually down nearer the road, do we want to go and have a look? Yeah, let's take a look.
- Yes, that's not much of a well.
- No, it's definitely a spring.
THEY LAUGH But people left rags, cloots.
We think of rags as almost worthless.
But certainly a couple of hundred years ago or 1,000 years ago, cloth was very valuable.
You perhaps had only one skirt and a pinafore and a top.
If you had a cloot that you cooked in, hat you prepared puddings or dumplings in, it would be passed from mother to daughter.
They were valuable things.
So to give it away, to hang it in a tree and to say, "I'm not having it any more," - was a significant thing to do.
- You wanted a wish in return.
- You wanted something in return.
- Absolutely.
- And to that end, do you have a cloot with you? - I do.
- Right.
- I have a cloot with me in my pocket, there we go.
- OK.
- I shall leave you to your moment.
- Thank you.
- Thanks very much, Alix.
- Thank you.
Bye-bye.
- Bye.
The secret traditions of our ancient ancestors are still very much alive in this shrine to healing.
It seems hope springs eternal in the human heart.
Your suggestions have inspired us to take a journey round the Great Glen.
And it's revealed all sorts of secrets, from the mysterious At first I thought it was two eels.
Butit wasn't.
- .
.
to the mystifying - At least the midges aren't coming in.
- Looking on the bright side.
- That's good.
But now we're in search of the magical.
I reckon we're nearly there.
- There's a bit of a clearing on this corner.
- Yeah.
Got to be a view from there, hasn't there? - I'm not going to look until the last second.
- Don't look, don't look! - Are you ready? Wait for it.
Wow! - What a view! That's really incredible with the mountains just falling down into the loch.
This is the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Completed in 1898, it was the largest concrete engineering project in Britain.
And over 100 years later, the 21-arch construction still takes the breath away.
- That's glorious, isn't it? - It really is.
- I don't think I could dream up a view as good as that.
- Incredible.
Overlooking the magnificent Loch Shiel, the viaduct owes much of its recent fame to a certain boy wizard.
HARRY POTTER THEME PLAYING Can you just hear that there coming? I can, yeah.
APPROACHING TRAIN - Look, I can see the steam.
- Oh, yeah, yeah! Oh, wow! - The Hogwarts Express! Harry Potter rides again.
- Yeah! A train full of wizards.
HE LAUGHS Oh, what are we doing up here? We should be on it.
Well, you're always calling me an old witch, let's see what I can do.
BELL CHIMES Goodness me, here we are.
You really have got magical powers.
I told you I was a witch and you will be nice to me, or I'll turn you into a frog.
- This is amazing.
- Look at this.
The views are still good from here.
In fact, this carriage is where they filmed.
- I'm sitting where Harry Potter sat.
- You are Ron Weasley.
I am him.
SHE LAUGHS I'm not quite Hermione but I'll do my best.
The real secret of this train isn't starring as the Hogwarts Express for Harry Potter.
The revelation is the glorious countryside it passes.
Views which cast their own magic spell.
It also has a surprising past.
What was this train originally used for then? Do you know? So, this line was originally built to transport the herring - down to London.
- Oh, right.
Now, I think, it's just tourists, tourists, tourists, enjoying these incredible views.
Running between Fort William, at the foot of Ben Nevis and Mallaig, where ferries depart for Skye and the Outer Hebrides, the track unites mountains and the sea.
Well, it's a lot easier than walking up Ben Nevis, I can tell you.
That's for sure.
Oh, there's some beaches.
That is beautiful.
There's barely a soul, it's lovely.
The track terminates at the sea.
But our journey through Secret Britain isn't quite over yet.
Ahh, we're here.
- I've got one more secret for you.
- All right, come on.
It's a bit of a hike but Adam's secret site is worth the effort.
- This is a beautiful spot to end, isn't it? - It really is.
- I thought you'd like it.
- Love this.
For me, you know, those rugged, unforgiving tops of Ben Nevis, down to the beautiful, tranquil coastline with the sunset - just couldn't be better.
- Mmm.
- This is a lovely end.
- Look at that sun now behind the mountains.
It's beautiful.
People forget how many wonderful places and amazing secrets - we have across the UK.
- Hmm.
Where next? Well, we need a few suggestions, don't we? And that's where you come in.
We'd love you to share your secret places, hidden stories - .
.
and magical mysteries.
- So we can share more of secret Britain.
Visit our website .
.
to get in touch.