GR Direct - Sony - Save up to £300 on selected Bravia OLED & LED TVs
Monday 27 May 2024
 11.2°C   SE Gentle Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Reviews / Review: Alison Steadman in bird heaven

Alison Steadman with Shetland Nature supremo Brydon Thomason - Photo: Courtesy of Shetland Nature

It’s fair to say Shetland has had a pretty good time of it in TV land in recent years.

Simon King, for example, brought the isles’ notable wildlife to national attention – becoming the unwitting poster boy for Fair Isle hats in the process – whilst DI Perez and his crime drama chums liked the place so much that they came back for a second series earlier this year.

On Tuesday night it was the turn of Gavin and Stacey actress Alison Steadman to bring our little archipelago to the living rooms of Britain, with the hour-long ITV1 show giving those bored witless of the World Cup some respite from the schedule-dominating sport.

With the nibble-happy Luis Suarez grabbing the headlines in the hours before the programme aired, thankfully it was Shetland’s wildlife – and not the Uruguay football team – that inspired the soul come bedtime.

The somewhat prosaically named Alison Steadman’s Shetland saw the 67 year old, an RSPB patron and self-confessed wildlife enthusiast, prowl the isles to check out natural hotspots from the south mainland up to Unst.

The city-girl-meets-country documentary opened with a visit to Sumburgh Head alongside the RSPB’s Helen Moncrieff as an appreciative Steadman checked puffins off on her bird watching wish list – something, perhaps, which locals often take for granted.

There was sea kayaking too, as the actress flirted with self-centrism by repeatedly bleating about how scared she was to paddle through a cave, whilst St. Ninian’s Isle reared its golden head in all of its glory.

Well, it wasn’t quite in full glory, with the April weather often crafting changeable weather and dull skies – but thankfully the land and seascapes managed to pierce through with majestic prowess.

What better to dichotomise the grey skies than with some cutesy token Shetland ponies, which were seen chilling on the Reawick beach with breeder Charlotte Cree-Hay.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


It was extremely cold, as the eight-layered Steadman assured us, but that didn’t stop the young stud owner and her valiant pony hitting the sea to do some lengths in nature’s very own swimming pool.

It was from the westside to Noss, where Steadman met up with some bird counters – ‘You stay here for five months?’ – and then on to over the road from Tesco, where she spotted some sunbathing seals after presumably picking up her messages and probably another jacket to warm herself up with.

Amongst the scenery and nature meanwhile was a romantic meal by a beach fire with local forager Kenny Johnson, who went all Gordon Ramsay on us with some spoot and urchin pasta.

This came after he bamboozled her with some local names – skaadman’s head, for instance – which, as a recurring theme throughout the hour, helped to unearth Shetland’s inimitable quaintness.

There was time too for some otter spotting with Shetland Nature supremo and photographer Brydon Thomason, who playfully put Steadman in her place after some more moaning on another brisk day. “This is beautiful Shetland weather,” he said. “This is what you came for”.

A few chunks of otter poo later and the actress was on the tip of Unst, learning about Robert Louis Stevenson’s links to the Muckle Flugga lighthouse before heading to Hermaness to go full circle and revisit birdsong, which she recorded to reel-to-reel tape as a teenager.

It was there, with a never-ending myriad of gannets swirling nearby and massive parabolic microphone in hand, that the programme ended as Steadman, now in bird heaven, reflected on her time in the isles – a place she had wanted to visit for years.

It’s nigh on impossible to fit Shetland’s nature highlights into one hour, so kudos to Steadman and her team for managing to max out a whistlestop tour of the isles with some top scenery, endearing wildlife and first-rate local knowledge.

Some may have come away from the show having learnt more about Alison Steadman than Shetland itself, however, but those watching on from afar will certainly now be encouraged to follow her trail up north and see the isles for themselves.

The programme can be viewed again via the STV Player at:

Chris Cope


Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.