Raasay emerges as the true winner in ‘SAS Who Dares Wins’

Raasay distillers Ross Gillies and Iain Robertson followed in the footsteps of the SAS hopefuls by trying their luck at the cask lifting challenge from the show

After being tested physically, mentally and emotionally, last Sunday’s finale of Channel 4’s no holds barred endurance challenge – SAS: Who Dares Wins – marked the end of an unforgettable and at times torturous experience for the programme’s daring recruits.

A group of 25 hopefuls comprising men and women and an ex-SAS operator working as a mole, were put through their paces and whittled down to a select band of finalists by a crack team led by chief instructor Ant Middleton.

The recruits undertook a wide variety of arduous tasks such as throwing themselves into the waters of Loch Kishorn backwards from a platform, battling each other in one to one combat and experiencing a gruelling interrogation process as they have sought to prevail in the exhausting reality contest.

While those who followed the show across its six-week run were no doubt on the edge of their seats in anticipation of who would triumph in last weekend’s grand finale, the setting of this year’s show – the Isle of Raasay – has proved to be as much of a draw for many of a West Highland persuasion.

The old steading on the island was selected by the programme’s producers as the perfect location for the recruits’ digs, while many other parts of Raasay, such as the beautiful and iconic Dun Caan also featured prominently.

Norman Gillies, who works as the operations director at the Raasay Distillery on the island, spoke to the Free Press this week about the impact the programme has had on the island.

He said: “From the distillery’s perspective, the filming of Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins on Raasay was a welcome boost to the island economy last October and some great exposure in the lead up to the release of our first Isle of Raasay Single Malt this year.

“We had a lot of involvement during filming, some of our casks were used for challenges and we hosted the cast and crew for their wrap party.”

Raasay has served as the setting for the fifth series of SAS: Who Dares Wins.

Carol Anderson, Marketing Manager for Raasay House, which is situated close to the steading, told the Free Press: “During the whole month of October, and some weeks before that, we were really busy making sure the crew had everything that they needed. As well as providing rooms for the crew and briefly for the recruits who had left the show, we were serving up three meals a day for around 100 people.

“The Raasay House building and grounds were used for equipment storage, offices and parking etc. We also provided RIB safety boat support for the exercises at sea and you can even see our RIB ‘Arturus’ in the first episode.” 

She added: “We really enjoyed working on this project and we have absolutely loved seeing the finished series. The show has really been fantastic exposure for our little island. As well as introducing a wider audience to the rugged beauty of the Isle of Raasay, a project on that scale at a traditionally quieter time of year has been an excellent boost for our small island community.”

Norman Gillies went on to quip that the exposure from the programme could prove to be the catalyst for Raasay to capture the limelight from its higher-profile neighbouring island.

He said: “As a whole, the experience was a positive one, there was a real buzz about the place during the four weeks of filming and it brought some very interesting people to Raasay – though, some very briefly.

“With this and Raasay being named one of the best islands to visit this year by Condé Nast Traveller, it feels like Skye’s days are numbered as the most prominent island in the region!”

Article by Adam Gordon.

Photographs courtesy of Raasay Distillery.