North business leaders last night hailed the international interest generated by Jeremy Clarkson’s new online show currently filming at Loch Ness.
As well as the three presenters of The Grand Tour, Olympic hero Sir Chris Hoy was a further celebrity guest in Fort Augustus yesterday as filming on the show got underway in earnest.
But the cycling star was not treated kindly with a stunt involving an exploding rowing boat on the loch shot yesterday.
The show’s giant marquee studio has been attracting attention all week – and hundreds of studio guests got the chance to watch their heroes at work yesterday.
And business leaders are rubbing their hands at the expected economic spin-off from the exposure from the show.
The episode filmed at Fort Augustus yesterday is expected to be broadcast on Amazon Prime yesterday.
Even presenter Clarkson was blown away by the stunning setting, posting a photo from the studio tent’s main window on social media.
He said: “Programme 10 of the Grand Tour now complete. And oh my God, what a view out of the windows.”
Willie Cameron of Loch Ness Marketing – known locally as “Mr Loch Ness” said the show’s visit “can only be a good thing”.
He said: “The fact that they have chosen to come and film on at Loch Ness is a real coup for the area.
“The response to the first couple of episodes has been very good and it’s obviously going to be a success for Amazon.
“Top Gear was the BBC’s biggest programme for a long time and they obviously have that audience.
“It’s a welcome boost for the businesses in early December when things are normally a bit quieter.”
Loch Ness Marketing were not consulted by the makers of The Grand Tour – but Mr Cameron said he would like to have seen a segment about a pioneering racing driver John Cobb who died attempting a water speed record on Loch Ness on 1952.
He said The Grand Tour footage and ITV’s new murder mystery The Loch filmed earlier this year should be broadcast around the same time – leading to high profile publicity for the area.
Mr Cameron added: “It’s a marketing man’s dream to get that kind of exposure on your doorstep. It’s fantastic.”
Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol agreed, saying the success of the North Coast 500 showed the appetite for motoring tourism in the Highlands.
He said: “I think the exposure this will bring is a phenomenal opportunity for the region.
“These guys bring a cult following. They are massively popular not just in the UK but they have a big following all around the world.
“This gives a great chance to show off the best of the Highlands to that audience and show we are very much open for business.”
Anticipation has been growing about the filming all week – especially after high profile presenters Clarkson, Hammond and May arrived in Fort Augustus on Thursday.
The trio filmed their studio segments in front of a large audience in the tent – with roars of laughter heard from outside suggesting the show was going down well.
Meanwhile production crew filmed a sequence involving three classic cars in the nearby village – which had been daubed with fake graffiti criticising the sometimes controversial presenters.
The vandalism was applied by production staff and had already been removed by yesterday evening.
Meanwhile one of the talking points was the appearance of Sir Chris Hoy – who touched down in a helicopter in Fort Augustus in the morning.
The Grand Tour features a regular sequence where a celebrity due to be interviewed is killed in outlandish ways while travelling to the tent.
The film crew shot a sequence where a lookalike of the famous cyclist rowed across the loch – before a staged explosion tipped the star into the loch.
The programme reunites the trio who used to present Top Gear on the BBC.
It began streaming on Amazon Prime last month.