Greenock, on the west coast of Scotland, is where actor Martin Compston calls home. It’s where he grew up, where he lives with his family for most of the year and where he invited his fellow Line Of Duty co-stars to experience for themselves the attraction of this former fishing port about 25 miles north-west of Glasgow.
In the ten years that Martin starred in the BBC TV crime drama, playing the role of DI Steve Arnott in the anti-corruption unit AC-12, he grew close to the cast and wanted them to experience his Scotland.
He beams with pride as recalls the scene. ‘AC-12 came to Greenock and I was able to take Vicky McClure up to the spot where you can see for miles around, and it was great to watch her say, “Aah, now I get it.” It’s a beautiful place.’
Duty calls: Martin Compston (left) and Phil MacHugh (right) in Greenock at the end of their road trip across Scotland for the new travel show Scottish Fling
Martin and Phil go coasteering (a form of rock-hopping along the shoreline) on the Knoydart peninsula (pictured) in the show
Adrenaline junkie Martin got a ‘real buzz’ from coasteering
Greenock also features as the final stop for Martin and fellow presenter Phil MacHugh in their BBC 2 travel show Scottish Fling, a 19-day, 1,000-mile love letter to their country and kin.
The lifelong pals set out on the road trip to discover ‘what makes our nation tick today’ and end up trying their hand at land yachting rather than golf in St Andrews, and coasteering (a form of rock-hopping along the shoreline) on the Knoydart peninsula, which gives adrenaline-junkie Martin a real buzz.
‘I’ve loved my time in New York and Los Angeles, and my wife is from Vegas, but when you get older and have your family, to be close to your friends means a lot,’ says Martin.
‘I loved growing up in Greenock. It’s got a very rich history and it’s unbeatable in the sun, although it does rain a lot… We end the series in a very special spot, overlooking the sea where my friends and I would hang out as teenagers with this incredible backdrop. But it’s only now I appreciate it and I feel very emotional about it. On this trip, we get to show who we really are.’
Greenock prospered in the last century with a thriving shipbuilding industry, but the port is now a hub for cruise ships.
‘Tourism is Greenock’s main industry,’ adds Phil. ‘You see cruise passengers all come ashore for excursions to Loch Lomond or to play golf.’
Phil reveals that cruise passengers often come ashore in Greenock for excursions to Loch Lomond (above)
‘I loved growing up in Greenock. It’s got a very rich history and it’s unbeatable in the sun, although it does rain a lot,’ says Martin
Martin as DI Steve Arnott in Line of Duty, with co-stars Vicky McClure (left) and Adrian Dunbar (right)
In Scottish Fling, the pair charge from coast to coast via the highlands and islands to showcase Scotland as a modern, relevant and fun place to visit – not the twee Victorian concept with pipers and tartan as its legacy.
We discover that Dundee is the driving force behind Minecraft, the biggest video game in the world, and that Abertay University is the first to offer a degree in computer games.
But it’s the spectacular landscapes that at times leave these two chatty boys lost for words.
‘It’s an exhilarating place to explore,’ says Phil. ‘We were adamant to get these places right on the map, to show off our communities and encourage visitors.’
The new series reveals that Dundee (pictured) is the driving force behind Minecraft, the biggest video game in the world
Martin adds: ‘We did most of the driving in an electric car, and for anyone who wants to hire one there were more charging stations than you’d imagine, and the roads are far more accessible.’
The most delicious experience sees the pair dine in peace beside Loch Fyne at Inver, the only restaurant in Scotland awarded a green Michelin star for its environmentally sustainable practices.
The former crofter’s cottage and boat store is now a restaurant with bothy-style bedrooms in the grounds. Chef Pam Brunton with partner Rob Latimer offer a contemporary take on traditional and forgotten Scottish recipes using local wild, foraged and farmed ingredients to create dishes such as monkfish, sea and shore kale and seaweed sabayon.
The show sees the pair dine in peace beside Loch Fyne at Inver, pictured, the only restaurant in Scotland awarded a green Michelin star for its environmentally sustainable practices
While Phil is shown shucking the oysters like a pro, Martin now recoils at the memory. ‘No. Oysters are not for me. I loved it when we cooked Arbroath smokies on the trip at Auchmithie Beach but I can’t be doing with bones and skin.’
Martin swings into full animation when asked if deep-fried Mars bars are still on the Scottish menu.
‘No one I know has EVER had one – I see chip shop owners laughing all the way as it’s a thing for tourists, and no local EVER eats FRIED MARS BARS.’ He pauses. ‘It feels very frustrating to think people even believe that stuff!’
Martin says that he ‘loved’ when they got the chance to cook Arbroath smokies on Auchmithie Beach (pictured)
Point taken. Phil jumps in. ‘There is definitely a surge in farm-to- fork dining, even in cities such as Edinburgh. I’d recommend visitors try Tom Kitchin – he’s phenomenal, a pioneer of new Scottish dining.
‘The Kitchin is on Leith waterfront, has a Michelin star and is all about contemporary Scottish dishes.
‘Tom’s not pretentious, and celebrates good food, so for a Sunday kind of gastro pub try The Scran And Scallie or The Bonnie Badger, his restaurant with rooms in Gullane, where in the summer months they offer a very bouji BBQ menu.’
Phil recommends that travellers go to The Bonnie Badger, a restaurant with rooms in Gullane. It’s run by Tom Kitchin, who he describes as ‘a pioneer of new Scottish dining’
In the summer months, The Bonnie Badger offers a ‘very bouji BBQ menu’, according to Phil. Above is a guest room at the inn
Fresh oysters at The Bonnie Badger
Martin, who is currently filming in Glasgow, says the area is flourishing, adding: ‘There are fabulous restaurants which weren’t there 20 years ago, and they’re all independent, all Scottish proprietors.
‘Chateau-X, from young Scottish chef Nico Simeone, is where I had one of the best steaks ever.’
Phil says: ‘It’s reminded me how much there is to discover on your own doorstep. I’m in Edinburgh and had no idea what The Beltane Fire Festival on Calton Hill was all about, but it’s a pagan ritual inspired by the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane to celebrate the start of summer.
‘It’s massive, with 10,000 people. It’s an amazing event.’
Martin nods. ‘I’ve fallen in love with Scotland all over again,’ he says. ‘It’s the people.’
Line of fire: The Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh is a pagan ritual inspired by the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane to celebrate the start of summer. ‘It’s an amazing event,’ says Phil