Media Release: BBC ALBA captures the beautiful wildlife of the Hebridean islands through poignant Gaelic songs


Islands of the West – Hebrides

BBC ALBA – Starts Tuesday 4 June 8.30 – 9.00pm

THERE are few places in the world where landscape and music are as closely entwined as the Hebrides. Music and song from these Islands have always drawn inspiration from the natural world.

A new, four-part series on BBC ALBA, Islands of the West – Hebrides will combine stunning wildlife footage with a Gaelic musical celebration of the natural world.

The programmes, shot as part of BBC Scotland’s Hebrides – Islands on the Edge series, are narrated by leading Scottish folk singer, Julie Fowlis, who also performs several songs inspired by nature.

Throughout the series, she will be joined by other prominent Gaelic singers, Margaret Stewart from Lewis, James Graham who hails from Lochinver, and South Uist vocalist, Gillebride MacMillan.

Their performances are simply and beautifully-filmed and add a vivid new dimension to the wildlife photography.

The four programmes are themed:  the sea; the shore; moor and machair; and the seasons. The series begins with a look at the waters around the Hebrides which are amongst the richest in Europe, teaming with life both above and below the surface.

Everything in the Hebrides is subject to the power of the sea.

Exposed to the full force of the Atlantic, these islands experience some of the wildest and most unpredictable weather in Europe.

But the sea also provides a livelihood for people and as such it is not surprising that traditional songs are full of stories of wild ocean voyages, long separations between sailors and loved ones.

No matter where you are in the Hebrides, you’re never far from the seashore which forms the theme for the second programme with its wonderful range of habitats and creatures. The shoreline can be a busy place for wild creatures.

After a storm, mountains of kelp can be washed ashore and if the weather is warm, these soon attract large clouds of insects and bugs which in turn, attracts birds.

Waders like oystercatchers, turnstones and dunlin and even raven pick through the seaweed which has always played an important part in crofting.

Ravens can be symbols of learning and wisdom, but they’re also birds of ill omen in many cultures.

They would have been an apt accompaniment to the central figure in the song, A’ Bhean Eudach (The Jealous Wife) sung by Margaret Stewart.

The series continues with beautiful songs and striking wildlife footage associated with the moorland and machair of the Hebrides. The moors that make up more than half the area of islands like Skye, Mull and Rum can seem bleak, lonely places but for many species of animal, the moorland is home; none more so than the biggest land mammal of the Hebrides – the red deer.

On Jura alone, there are close to 6,000 deer – outnumbering human beings by 30 to one.

The final programme observes the four seasons and how life on the Hebrides for both man and beast is at the mercy of the seasons and the elements.

On the west coast of Scotland, the ever-turning wheel of the seasons is keenly felt.

Not surprisingly, spring has inspired more songs than any other season. This is the time of the year when the dawn chorus is at its sweetest – a natural inspiration for Dh’eirich mi Moch Madainn Cheitein (May Morning) sung by Julie Fowlis.

This series celebrates the close relationship on the Islands of the West between people, wildlife and music.

Islands of the West – Hebrides has been produced by BBC Gàidhlig and Maramedia for BBC ALBA and begins transmission on Tuesday 4th June at 8.30pm (repeated on Thursday at 11.30pm and Saturday at 8.30pm.) The series will also be available on BBC iPlayer.


For further information please contact Lorna Gardner or Gary McQueen at Media House on 0141 220 6040 or email /

Notes to editors:

BBC ALBA is available on the following platforms:

  • Sky 143 (UK)
  • Freeview / You View 8 (Scotland only)
  • Virgin Media 188 (UK)
  • Freesat 110 (UK)
  • BT Vision 8 (Scotland only)
  • Smallworld 170 (Ayrshire and North West England)
  • Live on BBC iPlayer (UK)
  • Ten hours of content per week available to view on demand via the BBC PC iPlayer and the BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media

BBC ALBA is run by MG ALBA in partnership with the BBC. MG ALBA is the operating name of Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gàidhlig, the Gaelic Media Service. Find out more about MG ALBA and the partnership at or visit for scheduling and programme information.

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Contact: Gary McQueen
Phone: 01412206040