Claudia Winkleman says she has fallen in love with the Highlands after swapping the glittering Strictly Come Dancing ballroom for a brooding castle at Alness.
The popular TV presenter spent three weeks filming at Ardross Castle for new “psychological reality show” The Traitors, due to debut on BBC One on Tuesday November 29.
“I thought I’d been to beautiful places. I have never been anywhere more beautiful than the Scottish Highlands in my life. It felt sometimes like we were in a painting if that’s not too cheesy,” said Claudia, currently being watched by millions as she hosts Strictly Come Dancing.
The Traitors – filmed at Ardross Castle – is a nail-biting competition
The Traitors is billed as a “nail-biting competition” which sees 22 strangers arrive at the beautiful Ardross Castle to face a series of challenges in a game of detection, backstabbing and trust with a prize of up to £120,000 up for grabs.
Hidden in the mix, though, are The Traitors whose job is to secretly “murder” a player every night without getting caught. The Faithfuls – as the others are called – need to detect the traitors before they fall victim.
Claudia said she enjoyed the filming – even if the Highland climate posed its own, unique challenge.
“On the first day, the weather systems were bonkers. I mean, at one point I went on my weather app and it literally just said ‘no idea mate good luck, take a bikini and a cagoule’,” said the TV and radio presenter.
But being in and around the glorious Highlands scenery was not without its rewards, she said.
Claudia Winkleman FaceTimed her kids about ‘magical’ Highland vistas
“On day two, we saw a double rainbow and everyone was like ‘oh my gosh’, and the crew were crying, there were baby deer, there was beautiful heather, there were ancient trees, and an ancient loch,” said Claudia.
“We were all taking pictures. I FaceTimed my kids to say ‘you’ve never seen anything like it’s magical’.
“And then by day four, there had been another three double rainbows. I mean, by the end of the three weeks where we had seen 50 it was like don’t care. But it’s just the most beautiful landscape.”
Ardross Castle was originally a hunting lodge for the 1st Duke of Sutherland in the late 1700s and redesigned as a castle in the Scots baronial style in the 1880s. Today it is a wedding and conference venue set in rolling grounds on the banks of the River Alness.
Claudia – whose role in the new show included selecting “the traitors” from among the contestants – said it is a gripping watch, which includes “spectacular physical and mental missions” for those taking part.
“The challenges were epic, I mean there were helicopters. But there’s a touch of paganism which I like,” she said.
Unmasking The Traitors at Ardross Castle is ‘pure drama’ says Claudia
Claudia said the most compelling part of the show is when the contestants gather at the roundtable each evening to try to deduce and banish the traitors in their midst.
“Watching the players come to their conclusions about who is a Traitor is pure drama, and some people are so good at influencing the group even if their convictions are totally off!” she said.
Claudia said her role in the show let her play to a darker side.
“I felt bad because normally my role, if I’ve ever done telly or radio, is I’m like a cheerleader. You know? ‘Well done. You’re amazing. Craig gave you a two that’s better than a one.’
“And on this, I’m a bit crueller. I didn’t want to be too cruel, because I’m on their side. But the problem is I’m on all of their sides. I want the Traitors to win and I also want the Faithfuls to catch them. It’s confusing, it’s like having an affair or something.”
The Traitors starts on BBC One on Tuesday November 29 at 9.30pm.