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Iain Robertson opens up on why he started walking so he didn't look 'weird'


River City star Iain Robertson started hillwalking because he didn’t want to look “like a kind of weirdo” walking around Glasgow parks on his own.

The 39-year-old, who also starred in the gang film Small Faces and appeared in Grange Hill, took to the Scottish hills almost four years ago after the death of his beloved dog, Lightning.

He said: “You look like a kind of weirdo going to the park without a dog when you’re a middle-aged man.

“I’ve always been a walker but not someone who climbed hills. Instead I’ve always had a dog so I was out everyday with Lightning walking her in the park or out for longer walks in the country.



Actor Kevin McKidd, chef Guy Gowan and Iain Robertson climbing Ben Nevis

“But she died at the grand age of 23 around the time I joined River City about four years ago.

“I suddenly didn’t feel comfortable driving up to Pollok Park or Bellahouston and going for a wee walk myself. And I realised I was getting fat.

“So I thought maybe it wouldn’t look so weird if I got a rucksack on and went for proper hikes and up hills.”

Now a regular hillwalker, Iain’s footage of his walks around Scotland which he’d been putting on Twitter and Facebook last year has landed him a two-part TV show, Iain Robertson Rambles starting tonight, with more planned when Covid allows.

As we start a new year with all the usual resolutions to get fit but with mainland Scotland back in lockdown, the show is the perfect jolt of inspiration for when we are allowed back out to the countryside.

The actor, who plays Stevie O’Hara in the Scottish soap, says hillwalking has transformed his life.

Iain said: “Hill walking is good for mental health and your physical health. I’m no longer chubby Stevie in River City.

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Iain Robertson as Stevie O’Hara in an episode of River City from last month

“Getting away to the hills is something I’m desperate to do every weekend. I can’t wait to get up another hill and explore somewhere I haven’t been. Although the pandemic is curbing that at the moment.”

Hill walking has also made his friendships stronger.

“I’ve got friends who I don’t see much of in a normal non-pandemic year. We are of an age and they’ve got kids so we’d meet up once or twice a year, get something to eat and go and sit in a cinema and not speak to each other.

“So I started involving alot of my friends going up hills and realised my friendships were getting better making shared memories together.”

Iain has even made new friends. Taggart star Colin McCredie got in touch after Iain posted about climbing his first hill, and they’ve become hill-climbing buddies.

Now Iain is bringing this connection to all of us.

Filmed in 2019 Iain’s new TV show is a real tonic. As he takes his time to do the 96-mile West Highland Way we get to see some of Scotland’s greatest scenery in the company of a man who, well likes to ramble verbally as much as he likes to ramble up hills.



Steven Duffy, Colin McCredie and Iain Robertson on the summit of Schiehallion

Iain, who has a brother and three sisters (a fourth sister Nicola died aged three months to cot death) was raised in a Govan tenement before becoming a professional actor at the age of 12 in TV series Kavanagh Q.C.

In 1995 he got his breakthrough role as Lex in Glasgow gang film Small Faces.

Iain moved to London as a teen, going on to have a solid career in Grange Hill, Sea of Souls and Rab C Nesbitt. His passion for the outdoors was inspired by his father Donald, a Highland man, who got his city children out into the country as often as he could including Loch Lomond or Ballachulish where he’s from.

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His new project was never planned for TV. After two failed attempts at the West Highland Way, Iain decided to use some holiday time to try it again – planning and taking his time to do other things while walking parts of the way with different pals on what he now describes as a “holiday of a lifetime”. He would film himself with a GoPro to post up on his Twitter and Facebook feeds.

As he posted clips on his feeds, his followers picked up on the incredible scenery and his cheery chat. A pal, who had a drone met Iain at points of the walk – which adds such a different dimension bringing an epic quality to the show.

When lockdown hit at the start of 2020, Iain offered BBC Scotland the footage to make a programme.

After initially feeling the West Highland Way had been done before they realised watching the footage, especially with the drone work and Iain’s patter there was something there.



Iain aged 12 in a scene from 1995 film Small Faces

In the first episode Iain walks 47 miles from Glasgow to the halfway point at Crianlarich.

Joining him on different parts of his walk include his Small Faces screen brother Steven Duffy, chef and restauranteur Guy Cowan, Takin’ Over The Asylum writer Donna Franceschild and River City co-star Lesley Hart.

Once the Covid pandemic passes, Iain is hoping to do more rambles for TV. He said: “I’d be out wandering about anyway. Last year was hard going because of lockdown.

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“I spent first lockdown in a house where I could see Dumgoyne but was told to stay off the hills. Now I could have scooted up and down the hill and no one would have been any the wiser but if I’d gone over my ankle and needed help I’d have been putting the rescue team at risk.”



Iain’s first publicity still for River City when he joined the soap in 2017 as Stevie O’Hara

Iain reckons he may have exhausted the hills around Glasgow and once he is allowed, he and his pals are going to look further afield. “I could even be tempted into buying a house in the Highlands to live when they kill off Stevie,” he said.

Not that he wants that to happen. It will be four years in March since he joined the soap and he’s loving River City. He said: “I always thought ‘wouldn’t it be dreadful to be in a soap which would be the acting equivalent of having a 9-5 job’. But that attitude changed pretty quick.

“We usually do three months on and three months off and when I’m not doing River City I really miss it. To explore a character over four years has been one of the most enjoyable parts of my career and I’d miss him if I wasn’t doing it.”

Before lockdown, Iain shadowed one of the River City directors, as he is planning on directing his first feature film but the money men want him to get more hours behind the camera.

Three years ago he directed his first short film, Bridge, which starred Katy Murphy and his Small Faces co-star Steven Duffy. It was written by Donna Franceschild who has now written a film script which Iain wants to direct. “It made me cry when I first read it,” he said.

Iain is hoping to shadow a director again soon and said: “Before River City came along I thought I’d reached a point where I would give up acting and move behind the camera. I’d love to direct River City episodes but I’m loving my time in River City as Stevie.”

● Iain Robertson Rambles is on tonight BBC Scotland at 8.30pm.





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