TV chef James Martin describes his tour around the islands of the UK, meeting inspiring food producers, for his new book and TV series. Interview Alex Reece
Everybody likes the water, don’t they? I live in Hampshire, so I sail a bit in the Solent. It’s a fantastic part of the world. It’s got its own little microclimate, beautiful weather and, of course, it’s a mecca for sailing. I’ve been sailing for about 14 years. I get less and less chance to do it now, though!
We didn’t really holiday that much when I was a child. We ventured to Scarborough and Whitby and that was the nearest coastline to us – about 30 miles away from the farm (in North Yorkshire, where I grew up), so we went there and on occasional holidays to Blackpool.
I went to college in Scarborough. It’s beautiful, that east coast. Further up you’ve got Whitby – the fish and chips are great there. And then that amazing coastline, north of Newcastle, all the way up to Holy Island, is kind of untouched, really. You walk along the beach and there’s nobody there.
For my new book and TV series, Islands to Highlands, I went to Shetland and I fell in love with it. I’d never been before. It was like being born with new eyes. It sounds daft, but you have less pollution, and the light is very different to what it is down here. The salt cod, or piltock, is really good up there, too. If you’ve never been, I urge people to go – it’s just absolutely spectacular.
Our first show was on Jersey and our last show was Shetland. So that’s how far we travelled. Everywhere from Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland, to the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight. We went to a fantastic duck egg farm on the Isles of Scilly (Salakee Farm on St Mary’s) and I baked a great cake there. The Isles of Scilly are only 20 miles off the coast of Cornwall, but the beaches are like the Caribbean.
There are some amazing food producers all over the place – in the remotest of areas as well, which makes it even more fabulous. It was quite an experience and a great learning curve for me in terms of understanding and appreciating the great quality produce that’s on your doorstep.
James Martin’s Islands to Highlands is published by Quadrille, £25. Catch up with the series on the ITV Hub.