Christine Bleakley: ‘We found so many gems off the beaten track’

Christine Bleakley talks to TV Times magazine about kicking off her heels and heading for the hills in a new ITV tour of the country’s overlooked gems in Off the Beaten Track (ITV, Friday, Nov 1)…

We’re surprised to see you swapping the high heels for wellies to go around the British countryside!
“The studio is a very nice place because you’re not going to get wet and you’re spoiled rotten. But it’s so lovely to get out and about – it’s a bit more real because you never know what’s going to happen every day.”

Is this more the sort of TV you used to present?
“It’s how I started out years ago when I was at BBC Northern Ireland – I was out interviewing people all the time. You get proper, real stories from people when you’re out there seeing them in their world, not bringing them into the studio.”

Have you travelled a lot in the UK?
“I didn’t go abroad until I was 18 because my parents had never been abroad – they still haven’t. We always holidayed at home in Northern Ireland, or came over here. We traveled around Scotland and the north-east – all around.”

How did you decide where to visit for the show?
“We tried our best to go to little places that haven’t really been touched upon that much and to experience little museums that no one has heard about.”

Were you surprised by what you discovered?
“We found so many little gems. There are some wonderful stories and people are very proud of where they come from. We live in a really beautiful part of the world and if you’re willing to get off the beaten track you find these beautiful spots and you feel really proud of them.”

Did you go back home in the show?
“Yes! We went back to Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, which is my neck of the woods. I stayed with my mum and dad, which was lovely – my mum thought I was 16 again! We went exploring and I didn’t even know there was a huge bio-experiment going on there to use seaweed as an alternative fuel – this is important research going on 20 minutes from my doorstep and I didn’t know that it was happening!”

Are you tempted to move out of London?
“London to me is still a very exciting place, because I’m still a tourist in it. My escape is going home to my parents – they are 15 minutes from the water and it’s just a different, easy way of life. I just go back for a bit of normality. My career has always just happened and I’ve never had a plan. I would like to get out and about more – the studio is lovely, but I like being with real people and real issues. The mix is good, it keeps it all fresh. One minute I’m doing Off the Beaten Track, the next I’m doing Dancing on Ice. It’s lovely. Life is varied, for sure.”


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