20 questions with award-winning wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Award-winning wildlife film-maker and presenter, Gordon Buchanan

Award-winning wildlife filmmaker and presenter, Gordon Buchanan
Award-winning wildlife film-maker and presenter, Gordon Buchanan
1. Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

I can have a pretty strict morning routine at times - two minutes of freezing cold shower, time spent rapidly getting dressed, followed by time spent trying to get warm again. In a Glasgow winter, that can take until lunchtime.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

At the moment, I make my green gruel for breakfast: half a bag of kale, one banana, eight frozen cherries, tablespoon of hemp seeds, tablespoon of chia seeds, tablespoon of peanut butter and tablespoon of flax seed. These are all whizzed up in the blender with oat milk. My wife won’t touch it for love nor money, but I love it.


I generally skip lunch, but if I do have lunch, it will be something quick and easy like a tin of kippers. I quite like some old school eating habits. I did buy a can of spam recently which made me realise that my palate has become more sophisticated over the years...

Evening meal?

A favourite and quite typical meal would be some grilled fish and a massive bowl of salad - ideally with a rich, spicy dressing.

3. Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

Nutrition is really important to me. I try to get all my nutrition from food, but when I am travelling abroad, I do take supplements to fill in the gaps.

4. Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

I put on one and-a-half stone on the second year of Covid and really didn’t like it. With healthy diet, exercise and willpower, I managed to lose it all in three months.

5. Weekend treat?

Not every weekend, but a really great treat would be a massive pizza and a four-pack of IPA. More generally, a treat is a pint or two in the pub.

6. How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

For mental and physical health, I do my best to go to the gym for at least an hour every day. Quite often it’s once every two days, but I really feel it physically and mentally if I don’t go for three in a row.

7. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Walking is simply the best thing we can do. It is great for physical and mental health. With a lot of the jobs I do, I can find myself in a car for weeks on end - I really struggle with that: not being able to physically move.

8. Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I loved school sports. I was a good at long-distance running – I was never the best, but I enjoyed it enormously. I was quite a nifty long jumper, too, in my day, occasionally winning the prize at the Highland Games in the summer.

I got into freediving and managed to hold my breath for a surprisingly long time

—  Gordon Buchanan
9. Teetotal or tipple?

I’ve gone periods without drinking and I’ve definitely had periods when I’ve drank too often. If I can stick to Monday to Friday without a drink and a couple of pints over the weekend, I think that’s a good balance and best of both worlds.

10. Stairs or lift?

Always the stairs. Although, I regretted that the other day when I visited a friend in a high-rise building. He was on the 11th floor… I had to get my breath back before I knocked on the door.

11. What book are you currently reading?

I’m reading a book called The Way of the Hermit by Ken Smith and Will Millard. There’s a lot of those leanings in me and maybe one day I’ll go the way of the hermit.

12. Best Netflix or streaming TV?

I’m really enjoying the latest series of True Detective with Jodie Foster. It’s set in the wilds of the Arctic with lots of intrigue and spookiness.

13. Any new skills or hobbies?

No new skills, really. I got very into freediving a number of years ago and managed to hold my breath for a surprisingly long time. If I had time to indulge in any hobby, it would be that.

14. How do you relax?

Relaxing isn’t really my strong point, but chilling in front of the TV on a Saturday night with my wife and kids get me in the zone.

15. What would you tell your younger self?

Don’t worry, you’ll get there in the end.

16. What are your goals going forward?

I’d love to make more documentaries that have a real impact on people, helping them realise that we all need to play our part if we want have a healthy, sustainable planet moving forward.

17. What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I used to be a terrible insomniac but have managed to crack that. I refuse to get out of bed unless I’ve been there for eight hours and, ideally, sleeping for most of that. I really struggle, even if it drops down to seven hours’ sleep. Two years ago, I could survive on three or four hours a night.

18. Biggest gripe or regret?

I try not to look at the past too much, but I kind of regret not knowing how quickly our kids would grow up. I wish I could go back and savour more of the time with them when they were wee.

19. Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I don’t think my priorities or perspective have changed. I’ve always wanted to work hard and do my very best professionally, but more importantly, look after my friends and family as best I can. I don’t always achieve that on both fronts, but that’s what I strive to do.

20. Has coronavirus – or any health epiphany or life event - changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I was 50 at the end of Covid. I suppose hitting that figure makes you realise that you’re pretty much past the halfway mark. As horrendous as the epidemic was for so many people, I took the time to hunker down at home and spend some quality time with my family without all of the gallivanting that a normal year entails.

Gordon Buchanan is one of the key speakers at the Northern Ireland Science Festival which takes starts today and continues until February 25. He takes to the stage at the Whitla Hall, Queen’s University, Belfast, on Sunday February 25.