TELEVISION presenter Paul Murton's curiosity for exploring Scotland's hidden gems was first piqued as a bored teenager when he decided to hitch-hike from his home near Dunoon, Argyll, to Skye.

The following year, then 15, he thumbed a lift to Istanbul, Turkey, with only £25 in his pocket.

That early wanderlust has never waned and Murton, now 56, has since spent the best part of the past decade filming in some of Scotland's most remote and rugged locations.

His adventures continue with a new six-part BBC Scotland series that will chart the rich tapestry of the nation's island life.

Grand Tours Of The Scottish Islands, which returns next Monday, will see the filmmaker and presenter visit some of the far-flung nooks and crannies around our coastline to meet the people who call them home.

"The Scottish islands have fascinated me for years," he said. "I have been almost like a Munro-bagger with islands throughout my life and it was a pleasure and delight to take part in the series and visit some I had never been to before.

"I find Scotland's history, landscape and culture an endless source of fascination and a richly rewarding creative vein for me to explore."

In the first episode, Murton travels to Eriskay, Barra and Vatersay in the Outer Hebrides, the most westerly inhabited islands in Scotland.

Among those featured in the programme is Neil MacLean, a firefighter and crofter living on Barra.

The island's famed pristine white sandy beach welcomes some 10,000 air passengers every year and Mr MacLean's job is to make sure the aircraft land there safely.

It is made all the more complicated by the fact that twice a day, when the tide is high, the runway is under water.

Mr MacLean, 52, must scour the sands for potentially dangerous jetsam washed up along the shore. Hazards can include dead seals, dolphins and sea birds, as well as decaying barrels from passing ships.

Those are not the only obstructions to keep his eyes peeled for. Mr MacLean wryly recounts the day when visitors built a vast sandcastle complete with moat - only to be quite put out when he arrived with his tractor to flatten it so the plane could land.

Barra has the distinction of being the only airport in the world where scheduled flights land on the beach, a fact that escaped clearly one young lad flying in from Glasgow who, until the plane began its descent, was blissfully oblivious to the location of the runway.

"He thought the aircraft was crashing, started to panic and made for the emergency exit," recalls Mr MacLean. "Luckily, he hadn't paid any attention to the safety briefing beforehand either, so didn't manage to open it."

Having left Barra for 22 years, during which he served in the Armed Forces, since returning Mr MacLean has taken on the family croft where he lives with wife, Karen, 53, a nurse.

Home to an eclectic menagerie of sheep, pigs, ducks, geese and turkeys, he describes it as "an expensive hobby".

With the growing of carrots, onions, leeks, apples, plums and pears mastered over the years, Mr MacLean's latest project is not one conventionally associated with the Hebrides: making his own wine.

He managed to make 50 litres from one vine but cheerily describes it as "a work in progress".

"The wine wasn't that fantastic, but I think that's more down to the vintner than the quality of the material," he admits. "With a bit more work I think I could make something quite palatable. The last batch we ended up using mostly for cooking."

Crofting is unique to the Highlands and Islands, with this traditional way of life remaining hugely important to Barra.

"It ties people to the land," says MacLean. "In the past people were at the beck and whim of land owners who didn't have their best interests at heart. One thing about this part of the world is that people have very long memories and the Clearances are still quite a sore in their minds."

l Grand Tours Of The Scottish Islands, Monday, BBC1, 7.30pm