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television: Robbie makes B-line for Scotland; BEST OF THE WEEK.

Byline: BY STEVE HENDRY

ROBBIE COLTRANE - B-ROAD BRITAIN WEDNESDAY, ITV, 9PM

The big man has long been a member of the Scottish showbiz A-list...but he's more interested in the B-list for his latest project.

The Harry Potter and Cracker star squeezes himself behind the wheel of a vintage red Jaguar and swaps the highways for the byways as he meanders his way north on a journey from London to Glasgow.

This show does exactly what it says as Robbie switches off the sat-nav and just drives, uncovering towns, characters and customs which lurk beyond the hard shoulder.

He said: "If we'd made this journey in 1957, before the first motorways were built, we'd have gone through 140 villages.

"Basically, the arrival of the motorway destroyed thousands of small places all across the country. One day everyone had to come through your town - the next, it was deserted.

"In this series we've set out to find the Britain that's been left behind, the Britain that's still out there waiting behind the hedge.

"It's hard to believe driving was once a joy, something to relax you rather than stress you out. I'm about to rediscover that sense of joy, driving the 400 miles from London to Glasgow, going off the beaten track to find the real heart and soul of Britain."

First stop in the three-part series is High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, which is in the midst of an annual custom weighing the town mayor on a huge pair of scales.

It sums up the eccentric goings-on which lurk off the beaten track.

Robbie, 57, also learns all about asparagus - including its windy side-effects - in the Vale of Evesham, flies with a wing-walking team in Gloucester and tries out his skills as a stonemason in the Cotswolds.

He said: "When I was at art school about 40 years ago I made lots of pretentious rubbish out of almost every material known to man but I never got a chance to make something out of stone, something that would last for ever, and I'm going to put that right."

His further adventures also see him attempting to pull a wheelie in a 20-tonne truck at a drag strip in Stratford-upon-Avon, trying out "disc golf" - golf with frisbees - in Warwickshire, making shoes in Northampton and enjoying a spot of tiddlywinks at Cambridge University.

He said: "It's not just the scenery that changes when you go off the beaten track - the people do too."

The first show sees Robbie ending up in Hallerton in Leicestershire, witnessing two entire villages meeting in a field to battle over a barrel of beer.

It sounds like something his Harry Potter character, Hagrid, would surely approve of.

He said: "It's a kind of no-holdsbarred rugby, with the ball replaced by a barrel of beer.

"It's the most almighty ruck you've ever seen and this game only has one rule - there aren't any. The game can go on for hours with 1000 people all trying to wrestle a wee barrel over the try line "It's completely insane."

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Robbie explores the heart and soul of Britain in vintage Jaguar
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 12, 2007
Words:521
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