The TV show Men in Kilts begins Feb. 14. Having a kilt myself, I’m quite excited about this!
Stars of the show are both from the worldwide sensation Outlander: the lead actor Sam Heughan, and the guy who played his uncle, Graham McTavish. Before the show was sold to the networks execs who make such decisions, Sam and Graham traversed (and drank) their way through Scotland. The result is this book, Clanlands, which comes with 16 pages of colour plates showing the actors through the years of their career; a few of these are stills from the TV production.
The show and the book are a mix of comedic incidents and sobering moments, the latter mostly focusing on the site of the Battle of Culloden of 1745. It witnessed the deaths of 300 English troops and at least 1500 Scottish men from a variety of clans. It ended the independence hopes of Scotland as a country, which have only recently been revived since political power was devolved from Westminster to Edinburgh.
The authors of the book (or stars of the TV show, if you prefer) have little time to ponder these existential issues as they are too drunk most of the time to care. Graham prefers white wine, while Sam totters from one bar to another to sample every whiskey blend he can lay hands on. Who knew a fish could look so good in a kilt? The American reader may be both confused and amused by Sam’s description of a hangover: “I’m feeling a wee bit peely-wally after another evening of drinking whiskey.”
A couple of examples of the mutual jabbing in the book can be given here. Graham tells of the old game of Shinty, which was featured in a scene of Outlander. “Shinty is – by the standards of most sports – exceptionally violent.” The ball used was made of solid wood, and “some particularly violent players thought nothing about heading a solid wooden ball travelling at great speed towards them. I suspect Sam Heughan would have been such a man. Any opportunity for rolling around, shoving, grappling, and general brawling welcomed by the head of ginger.” His cruelest dig is “Heughan will promote anything – he’s one job away from haemorrhoid cream,” an allusion to a particularly vile episode in the first season of Outlander.
Sam enjoys calling Graham a “Grey Dog,” amongst other endearing epithets and he is always plotting to get Graham into doing something with a high-risk factor. “Hey threw a hissy fit over kayaking,” says Sam, and even getting Graham on a tandem bicycle is hilarious. “Ach, I have never heard a grown man complaining so much. He is about as old as the bicycle in question, and just as rickety.”
The text is really a mixture of three elements: the actors reminisce about their early years (for Graham that includes writing of his father growing up in Glasgow in the 1930s) and experiences on stage and screen; various scenes of the Outlander series; and finally what the book is ostensibly about: a journey through much of Scotland, where they meet with people of both high and low birth, sometimes in the most unlikely places.
The lads climb mountains, canoe on a loch, bike to Kilchurn Castle, and navigate their motorhome around a “Highland gang” of sheep. From the warp of a loom at a woolen mill to the warp of time that makes Outlander a truly Scottish story of time travel, this rollicking view of Scotland is unlike any you (the gentle reader) have ever taken. A delightful read that will make a lasting remembrance of a TV show that is sure to please millions. And it will make a great Christmas gift for those who like to think ahead that far!
Clanlands includes a Foreword by Diana Gabaldon in Scottsdale (AZ), author of the books that inspired the Outlander series. A map also shows the locations of the places visited by the lads, including these castles: Finlarig, Cawdor, Kilchurn, Leod, Urquhart, and Achnacarry.
Clanlands, by Hodder & Stoughton, is $26.99.
The TV show will be broadcast on Starz beginning Feb. 14. The production company is Sony.