Comedian and presenter Fred MacAulay shares his personal best of Scotland


I have a deep connection with Harris, it being the birthplace of my grandfather. He left in 1915 to go off and fight in the First World War, and was hospitalised in June 26, 1916, just days before the Battle of the Somme. His entire battalion was more of less wiped out. One night I was gigging there on Midsummer and I drove up the west side of the island. I stood looking down over Luskentyre beach, which was almost in broad daylight. It was indescribably beautiful. The sand. The turquoise water. Something ethereal happened that I couldn't explain and I wept. It catches me every time I talk about it.


The one that has perhaps has most significance is one that isn't there anymore. It would have to be the Gilded Balloon building that was in the Cowgate in Edinburgh. It was destroyed by fire in 2002, which wasn’t too long after I had done four years of my first one-man Fringe shows. I associate that building with what was probably the most fruitful time in my career in terms of gigging.


It's not a street but I'd have to choose the road from Blairgowrie to Glenshee. Skiing has always been my passion. Even when I was 11 years old I wouldn't wait for the first service bus that ran from Blair because it didn't come until 10.30. So I used to walk down in all my ski gear, including boots, to the corner and hitchhike to Glenshee. Even now, driving up that road feels like a promise. The freedom of the slopes is waiting for me again.


It might not be the best but it’s certainly memorable. I was sent to Perth Grammar instead of the High School because “I had the Latin” I think. Both buses left from the same stop and on the first day I was the only grammar boy in the sea of high schoolers at the stop. A bus came and I was so scared that another one wouldn't so I got on thinking they couldn’t be too far apart… A kindly conductor got me off at the right stop where Academy pupils were standing, and I had to put up with being called an idiot from both sides. It was an early lesson in learning to listen to instructions.


I would say the view from the bridge over the River Ericht in Blairgowrie. We lived in Rattray and I had to cross that bridge six times a day between picking up papers for my round, going back and forward to school, and other activities. I always stopped and looked upstream. It changed throughout the year. Sometimes it would be just bare rocks, sometimes a crescendo of water.


I was a Saturday boy in John Temple, a classic gentlemen’s outfitters in Perth. I started when I was about 16 and was there for about two years. We’re talking about the 1970s remember, so it was all platform-soled shoes and ridiculously outlandishly coloured suits. The clientele fell into three categories. There were gentlemen from African nations who were learning to fly at Scone aerodrome. There were the ruddy Perthshire farmers. There was everyone else. And they were all sold the same sh*te. Watching a Perthshire farmer crippling himself in platform shoes and squeezing himself into a slim cut purple suit with light blue lining – that’s a sight that never leaves you.


To be honest I don’t have to go far from my front door. We can walk around the roads around the farms here at Thorntonhall. They’re great walks and being farms anything that provides new smells for the dogs is a bonus. I started cycling with my daughter during the first lockdown but again, we could just go out from the front door. If we go back five years, it was just the MacAulays and the dogs but that has changed, especially during lockdown. Get lost!


It’s all about context. I was fortunate enough to be good friends with the late and great Andrew Fairlie. We summited Kilimanjaro 11 years ago and did a Burns Supper up there. Andrew cooked the haggis of course and I addressed it, all to a group of fairly bemused African porters. It’s not registered by the Guinness Book of Records, but we reckoned it was the highest-ever Burns Supper because it happened at around 16,000 feet.


My own garden. No doubt. We’ve been here for 20 years and there has been a pile of logs the height of a man there since then. During lockdown, I decided that I would shift them. Underneath we found these great slabs, I power washed them and we’ve created the greatest little sundown corner for summer.

Fred can be heard on Clyde2/Forth2/Tay2/Westsound/MFR/Northsound every Sunday from 10am to 1pm. He will be (hopefully) touring Scotland with “2022 Hindsight” in June and July before taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Fred was speaking to Lorraine Wilson