Portillo gets up close to a piece of natural history, visits a garden that was used as a viewing platform for public hangings and experiences a timepiece like no other. Portillo takes to the sea with the heroes of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution , visits a stormy coastal railway, and has a close personal encounter with his boyhood hero. Portillo samples 19th-century foodie delicacies, explores a stunning landscape shot to fame by rails and royals, and risks life and limb for the gift of the gab.
Portillo learns the ancient art of butter making, attempts to learn the basics of Ireland's oldest game, and rides the Duke of Devonshire's Victorian Irish railway. Portillo tries his hand at cutting marble Victorian style, uncovers 19th-century Ireland's surprising industrial heritage and learns how the railways helped bring motorsport to the masses.
Portillo visits the Irish National Stud , discovers how harsh life was for the Irish poor and uncovers an astronomical feat of Victorian engineering. On the final leg of his Irish journey, Portillo discovers historic jewellery with royal connections in Galway, meets a people's king and finds his voice with a traditional Irish singing group.
Portillo begins in Manchester, where he finds out how the world's first industrialised city produced a revolutionary political movement, and learns about the railway workers who founded one of the most successful football clubs of all time. Along the way, he does the washing in Port Sunlight —a model village on the Wirral—and hears stories about the aptly named George Francis Train's time in Birkenhead, Merseyside.
Portillo enjoys the fun of the fair beside the sea in Southport, explores the origins of business in Wigan and of the Industrial Revolution in Bolton , and then visits Leyland where he gets the chance to drive a year-old vehicle. Portillo celebrates Victorian trade with the Preston Guild, and then heads to Rochdale to learn about a pioneering movement to improve the lives of working families.
He also follows in the tracks of many 19th-century industrial employees who made day trips to Hebden Bridge to walk in the Calder Valley. He then heads to Oakworth to find out how its station and tracks were used in one of the most popular films ever made, and in Bradford he discovers the ways in which 19th-century workers saved to buy a home. He finishes in Halifax , where he learns how the railways contributed to the town's success. Portillo tunes into the music of the mills and collieries of Victorian England by joining a brass band in Honley, before stopping off in Holmfirth to learn about a tragedy that led to a tourist boom in the town.
He then crosses into Derbyshire to pay homage to railway engineer George Stephenson at his resting place in Chesterfield, before concluding his journey at Chatsworth House , one of the first stately homes to welcome visitors by rail. Portillo finds out what happened to the once proud Euston Arch and heads to Camden to see how goods were transported by rail, road and canal.
He reflects on the Harrow and Wealdstone rail crash of and visits a country estate in Tring , Hertfordshire , before alighting at Cheddington in Buckinghamshire , which is close to the scene of 's Great Train Robbery. In Olney , he learns about a poet whose words are still sung today, and explores the first purpose-built railway town at Wolverton.
His last stop is Newport Pagnell , where he tackles the ancient craft of vellum making.
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Portillo begins in Northampton , where Victorian methods have been used to make shoes for more than years. He then heads to Warwickshire , learning about the legacy of Thomas Arnold at Rugby School and finding out how Coventry 's craftsmen learned to adapt to survive, before ending this leg of his trip in Nuneaton. He works his passage on the Great Central Railway from Rothley to Loughborough , where he learns about a family that has been casting bells in the town since Portillo rediscovers a once-famous poet in Nottingham and travels on a railway line resurrected by popular demand after falling victim to the Beeching cuts.
He finds out how Doncaster rail workers shaped British political history, before reaching his final destination of Leeds, where he auditions at Britain's oldest continuously working music hall.
Portillo is taught to set tables aboard the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth , finds the remains of a military hospital built in the village of Netley by order of Queen Victoria, and learns about a battle in Basingstoke between townspeople and the Salvation Army. Portillo travels through Hampshire and Berkshire, stopping-off at Stratfield Saye House ], the stately home bequeathed by the nation to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, in He then heads to Aldershot Garrison , where he is put through his paces under military instruction.
Portillo begins in Wokingham where he finds out how demand from a growing number of rail commuters fuelled the development of the modern printing press. He then learns about a Tudor businessman who manufactured cloth in enormous volumes in Newbury , and ends this leg of his trip in Bradford on Avon where a local manufacturer describes how his Victorian forebears were the first in Britain to be licensed to vulcanise rubber. Portillo continues his journey in Chippenham, where at Lacock Abbey he discovers how the world's first photographic negative was made and learns how to make a print.
He travels on to Bristol to visit the Victorian Clifton Zoo , where he learns that tigers and polar bears also arrived there by train. Next stop is Severn Tunnel Junction in Wales, where he explores an extraordinary piece of Victorian engineering with its own pump house pumping out millions of gallons a day to keep the Severn Tunnel dry. Finally, in Gloucester, he finds out why the station became infamous for lost luggage, and meets a stonemason who invites him to have a go at Gloucester Cathedral.
Portillo starts in the elegant spa town of Cheltenham, where he discovers a very early locomotive carriage which ran on the road and is allowed to get behind the wheel. Next stop is the medieval town of Tewkesbury , scene of a grisly battle during the Wars of the Roses , where he joins a group of re-enactors for a taste of the action. In Droitwich , he learns of the origins of the local salt industry, and then ends his journey in Wolverhampton, scene of Queen Victoria's first public appearance after the death of Prince Albert.
At Norwich Castle , Portillo uncovers the Victorian public's gory fascination with crime and punishment and finds out how campaigners such as Elizabeth Fry worked to improve conditions for prisoners. Heading west to Thetford , he explores how the Victorian appetite for rabbits and their fur led to special train services to London, and ends in the Suffolk town of Brandon, where he tries his hand at flint-knapping. Portillo travels from Ipswich to Chelmsford, starting at an agricultural implements works with its own railway sidings. Continuing his journey south-west into Essex, he helps to dredge for oysters off Mersea Island before taking the train to Witham , where he discovers a model farming establishment at Tiptree.
He ends this leg at Chelmsford, home to the world's first purpose-built radio equipment factory, established by Guglielmo Marconi. Portillo heads along the Essex bank of the River Thames before crossing the river into Kent. He begins in Barkingside , where Victorian philanthropist Thomas Barnardo made it his mission to transform the lives of destitute children, tries his hand at loading a container onto a pocket wagon at Tilbury Docks , and ends his trip in Rochester, where he encounters a host of familiar characters and explores a town that was an inspiration for many of Charles Dickens ' works.
Portillo starts in Faversham, where he visits the Shepherd Neame Brewery , one of the oldest in Britain.
He then heads to Dover to explore a sunken fortress known as the Western Heights , before crossing into Surrey where he blow-dries a hen in Dorking. Portillo discovers the history behind the Brighton Pavilion and learns that Queen Victoria was not an admirer of the Prince Regent's flamboyant taste.
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He learns that while the railways brought day-trippers to frolic in fashionable Brighton, Victorian engineers built a magnificent underground network of sewers more than 40 miles long, which is still functioning today. At Bramber , he discovers that at the time of his guide tourists flocked to the town in huge numbers to see a Victorian museum of taxidermy.
Portillo's next stop is Arundel Castle , and he's pleased to find that the Duke of Norfolk was a great supporter of the railways. His rail journey ends in Chichester, from where he heads up into the South Downs for a taste of life in the fast lane at the Goodwood Circuit. From Ayr, Portillo admires the granite island of Ailsa Craig before getting to grips with the ancient sport of curling, with help from a Scottish world champion.
The Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers invites him to take part in the oldest archery competition in the world. At Barassie , he rides the footplate of a freight train hauling coal on Scotland's oldest railway line. He caps off this leg of his journey in Stewarton. Portillo begins in the industrial town of Greenock from where he sets sail on the PS Waverley , the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world.
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In Glasgow, he investigates 'Mackintosh style' in an iconic city tea room, before seeing the devastating effects of the fire at the Glasgow School of Art. In Blantyre , he discovers the humble beginnings of Britain's most famous missionary and explorer, and learns to bake sour dough in Scotland's oldest bakery in Strathaven. Portillo celebrates Victorian iron and steel in Motherwell and admires one of its crowning achievements - the Forth Bridge. He journeys through picturesque countryside to admire the raw power of nature at the magnificent and romantic Clyde Falls , which inspired William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge , and where Victorian ladies swooned.
In Cumbernauld , he learns of the birth of one of Scotland's best-selling soft drinks. In Linlithgow , he marvels at the ingenuity of the engineers who built the Union Canal and experiences a 21st-century technological refinement at Falkirk. Portillo begins this leg in Stirling, where he visits the scene of a bloody battle at Bannockburn.
Following in the footsteps of Victorian holidaymakers, he travels north to Crieff to experience the popular Crieff Hydro. In the ancient capital of Scotland, Perth , he learns what it takes to make a sporran before catching the Highland Main Line to Pitlochry and one of Queen Victoria 's favourite haunts. He finishes the day with a wee dram in Scotland's smallest distillery. On the last leg, Portillo pays homage to the birthplace of golf at St Andrews. He visits a factory where they make traditional hickory-shafted clubs and ventures out on to the green.
In Dunfermline , he discovers the poor beginnings of one of the world's wealthiest men, a remarkable philanthropist who worked on the railroads before making his fortune in steel.
Crossing the Firth of Forth via the Forth Bridge , he arrives in Edinburgh in the middle of the world's largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival , where he treads the boards in an unconventional adaptation of a play by Oscar Wilde. Portillo travels on the capital's first underground railway, the Metropolitan line , from Amersham, where first he discovers the foundations for modern day suburbia.
In Pinner , he finds out about a Victorian domestic goddess and whips up a pint of her fanciest ice cream. In Highgate , he investigates the terraced catacombs of one of London's vast 19th-century cemeteries. At Madame Tussauds he comes face to face with Isambard Kingdom Brunel before experiencing hot wax at first hand. He ends with a trip to the London Zoo at Regent's Park.
Portillo is invited aboard the construction locomotive for Crossrail to travel under the River Thames and to meet the impressive Mary, vital to the project. He then travels on the capital's first railway, and admires the remarkable brick viaduct on which it was built. He takes a tour underneath its arches with a Victorian map showing the poverty of those who once lived there. He hears how an Indian lawyer, who learnt his trade in Victorian London, went on to change the world, and then explores an area of the city which has been home to wave upon wave of immigrants, Spitalfields.
He ends this journey at Victoria tube station, where he finds out about the massive makeover currently under way. Portillo explores London's theatreland and discovers how 19th-century engineering made for spectacular theatricals. At Charing Cross , he learns about the ambitious building programme which saw Trafalgar Square replace streets of slums, and comes almost face to face with George Bradshaw.
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At one of the busiest stops on the tube, Piccadilly Circus , he indulges in some retail therapy at a perfumery patronised by kings, queens and prime ministers. Portillo explores Albertopolis and reaches dizzying heights inside a Victorian landmark. He meets some of Battersea 's most famous residents and gives one of them a bath! At Vauxhall , he learns about the darker side of London's flower market in Bradshaw's day. He ends this journey at London Bridge , where two stations are becoming one, and a new concourse is being built.
Portillo gives an old engine a fresh start in the railway hub of Derby. In Nottingham , he discovers the Victorian origins of a well-known high-street chemist He then travels to Newstead Abbey , where he learns about its former owner, the young Lord Byron. A baking lesson in Grantham yields a batch of the oldest commercially traded biscuits in the country, and no visit to Grantham would be complete for him without calling at a historic grocer's shop.
Beginning in Boston in the flatlands of Lincolnshire , Portillo explores the connection between the city and its American namesake. At Southwell , he discovers the origins of the Bramley apple and learns how to make apple pie. In Menston , he visits an imposing institution built to provide asylum for those suffering from mental illness and learns how volunteers care for its once derelict chapel and graveyard. At Wakefield , he manages to board one of Britain's least frequent services and finds out what led to the birth of the parliamentary train.
Along the way, he meets a former locomotive engineer who offers him the chance to drive a steam engine.
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Portillo begins in Hessle, on the north bank of the River Humber , in the shadow of the Humber Bridge , where he learns about the technology that made it possible. In Kingston upon Hull , he meets his friend and sparring partner, local MP Alan Johnson , who tells him about another famous son of his city, William Wilberforce. In Scarborough , Portillo's Bradshaw directs him to the castle, where the founder of the Quaker movement was once imprisoned.
His last stop of the day is York, where he learns what made the ancient capital a centre for the sweet-making industry.