Weir's Way: The Collection (4 stars)

Tom Weir's natural and social history travelogue remains an epic and unmatched view of Scotland

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Weir's Way: The Collection

Author, broadcaster, explorer, environmentalist, World War II veteran, subject of tribute songs named after him by Edinburgh’s indie-pop group Aberfeldy and Aidan Moffat alter-ego L Pierre, and pin-up man for knee-high socks, bobble hats and other knitted outdoorswear, Tom Weir is an icon to a generation of Scots television viewers, whether they know it or not. From 1976 until 1987, his natural and social history travelogue of Scotland Weir’s Way was ever-present on Scottish television, at the time a staid exercise in somewhat conservative local documentary making.

Fast-forward 25 years and these recordings – released here in a 12-disc boxset retrospective of the entire series – have the quality of a time capsule being unearthed. Call it the effects of age and perspective, or the space for greater focus on the history that has made Scotland what it is in this referendum year, but Weir stands as the moustachioed visionary he was in these old recordings.

It’s unsurprising, really, that this show was rebroadcast a decade or so ago in the post-pub zone and went on to be an unexpected cult hit in the timeslot. Weir is unhurried and methodical in his investigations and his tone, traipsing the landscape of Scotland (generally, but not always, the countryside), waylaying priests, crofters and fishermen on the way and greeting them like old friends, richly overlaying a besotted, apolitical verbal history lesson over grand helicopter shots of castles and mountains. Kitsch value aside, it’s an epic and unmatched view of Scotland.

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