August 18, 2022

Zaika

Livingston

What Sam and Graham Taught Us About Scotland

6 min read

As promised, men in kilts.
Photo: Courtesy of Starz

Outlander fans rejoiced when season six finally went into production in early February, but since it’s unlikely we’ll see new episodes of the time-hopping series before the second half of 2021, Men in Kilts: A Roadtrip With Sam and Graham is tasked with quenching our extended Droughtlander thirst. So it isn’t any wonder that almost everything about Men in Kilts caters to the fervent Outlander base, from the show’s recognizable hosts, Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish — both native Scots — to the strategically placed clips from the hit Starz drama.

Although it’s not a period piece like Outlander or Bridgerton, the modern-day Men in Kilts still falls into the escapist-TV category. As a travel show shot pre-COVID (with some additional footage filmed during summer 2020) — i.e., a time when two blokes could attend a raucous dance party maskless, share each other’s shellfish platter, and drive the length of Scotland confined to a camper van without risking their health — Men in Kilts can’t help but give off echoes of a bygone era.

That, and it’s just fun to watch two cheeky actors goofing around on a road trip through one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Especially when they wear kilts, which happens quite often.

In the span of eight episodes, Men in Kilts provides a lighthearted education in Scottish history and culture. Sure, there are the predictable lessons about haggis being the country’s national dish and Scotland being the birthplace of modern golf, but whether or not you’re an Outlander devotee, chances are you’ll walk away from this series with a greater appreciation for the birthplace of Jamie Fraser and Dougal MacKenzie. Here now are some of the best things we’ve learned so far from watching Men in Kilts; we’ll check back in at the end of the season with updates on the remainder of Sam and Graham’s journey.

Heughan and McTavish visit Edinburgh and Pittenweem to learn about Scotland’s seafood-rich cuisine and the Isle of Islay for a crash course in whisky.

Fun facts:

1) The village of Pittenweem contains some rock-and-roll history.
The jumping-off point for Heughan and McTavish’s fishing-boat work experience is the birthplace of Rolling Stones founding member Ian Stewart. Stewart was kicked out of the band in 1963 by manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who felt six members were too many.

2) Sam and Graham are rather squeamish.
Their Outlander characters may be fearless warriors, but Heughan and McTavish can’t even bear to witness fresh — read: live — crustaceans being prepared for dinner.

3) A turban pairs quite nicely with a kilt.
Interestingly enough, neither Heughan nor McTavish dons a kilt in “Food and Drink,” but Scottish Sikh chef Tony Singh, who whips up a delectable-looking lobster-and-langoustine meal for the hosts, makes a proud sartorial statement in their seaside-cooking segment.

4) Graham apparently thinks Sam is Jamie Fraser.
To prove McTavish’s theory that Heughan is “prone to overindulgence,” Men in Kilts treats fans to a supercut of Heughan’s Outlander character imbibing a variety of alcoholic beverages.

5) Malted barley makes for a strangely enjoyable ball-pit-type encounter.
While learning about whisky-making at the Laphroaig distillery on the Isle of Islay, Heughan and McTavish bail on their peat-shoveling duties, preferring instead to belly flop into the malted-barley supply.

The boys compete at various Scottish sports (rugby, golf, hammer throwing, etc.). The stakes: The loser must skinny-dip in the North Atlantic.

Fun facts:

1) Sam’s well-documented gym time has paid off. 
Heughan lifts the 100 kg Puderac stone while wearing a kilt! Whereas McTavish, who is also no stranger to going shirtless on Outlander, couldn’t do it. Though it’s worth mentioning that even though Heughan loses the hammer-throwing contest at Braemar, his arms tell a different story.

2) You can surf off the coast of Scotland! 
Heughan and McTavish show off their best wave work at the start of the episode.

3) Sam will honor a bet, even if it might give him hypothermia. 
The only bet Heughan fans have ever wished the actor to lose culminated in his taking a naked plunge — no modesty pouch here; the actor is plainly seen holding his genitals against the bitter cold — off the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides on a very windy, rainy day.

4) Kilts are a must for athletic success.
Both Men in Kilts hosts dress the part when receiving a hammer-throwing lesson at the site of the Highland Games. But note that during the stone-lifting segment, the winner, Heughan, is wearing a kilt. McTavish, who loses, is not. It’s science.

5) Graham is killing it with his newsboy-cap-and-scarf lewks.
Heughan is regularly spotted wearing newsboy caps in Men in Kilts as well, but there’s something about McTavish’s jaunty-scarf game that gives him the edge when it comes to the lads’ travel chic.

Our intrepid hosts visit Doune Castle (which doubled for Castle Leoch on Outlander, and Winterfell on Game of Thrones) and Borthwick Castle to learn more about Scotland’s music and dancing customs.

Fun facts:

1) Bagpipe music not only is great for wartime morale, it can also keep you from getting shot. 
At Doune Castle, Heughan and McTavish meet with Iain MacGillivray, Scotland’s youngest-ever clan leader. He tells the guys a remarkable story about a Second World War bagpiper, Bill Millin, who played during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Apparently, Millin avoided getting shot because the Germans thought he was insane (whatever works!). The 1962 film The Longest Day incorporated Millin’s story.

2) Sword dancing was invented to help soldiers get fit for battle. 
Not, as Outlander fans may think, as a way for Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser (Duncan Lacroix) to draw attention to himself when searching for his captured godson, Jamie, in season one.

3) Sam and Graham’s formal kiltwear does little to hide the sad truth: Young children are more adept at Highland dancing than they are.
During an adorably hilarious lesson with Highland dancer Cerys Jones, the boys are taught a sword dance “that 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds compete with.” While Heughan is actually not bad — which we can chalk up to his experience doing the Highland Fling in Outlander’s fifth season — we’ll let McTavish offer his own self-review: “There’s the Highland Fling, and there’s the Highland Fiasco.”

4) To Graham’s credit, his hips do not lie.
This isn’t exactly news to Outlander enthusiasts — this 2015 clip speaks volumes to McTavish’s dancing skills. But later in the episode, while attending a traditional Scottish ceilidh — think of the Gatherings featured on Outlander — at Borthwick Castle, McTavish and his hips are given their rightful time to shine.

5) Sam and Graham do a mean Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, among others.
There’s road-trip banter, and then there’s road-trip banter with professional actors. This means we’re treated to some pretty funny Flintstones impressions, plus a few bars of the iconic theme song. We also get a taste of “Lil’ Red,” a character of McTavish’s own creation who appears to hail from the American South. A sample “Lil’ Red” observation: “In Scotchland …there’s a lot of skirts.”

Bonus Episode 3 Easter Egg: During the cold open, Heughan and McTavish sing a tune that Outlander fans will instantly identify as the series’ main title theme. But if you listen closely to these “Skye Boat Song” lyrics, you’ll notice they’re slightly different than the ones rewritten for Outlander. Turns out Heughan and McTavish are warbling the original version of the song, which was about one of the few real-life historical figures to rub shoulders with Jamie and Claire Fraser: Bonnie Prince Charlie.

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