Neil Oliver

Neil Oliver (born 21 February 1967) is a British[2] television presenter, freelance archaeologist, conservationist, and author. He is best known as a presenter of several BBC historical and archaeological documentary series, including A History of Scotland, Vikings, and Coast. In 2017, he was appointed president of the National Trust for Scotland.[3]

Neil Oliver
Neil Oliver at Windsor Quay (cropped).jpg
Oliver in 2006
Born (1967-02-21) 21 February 1967 (age 54)
Renfrewshire, Scotland[1]
OccupationTelevision presenter, author, archaeologist
Years active2002–present

Early life and educationEdit

Oliver was born in Renfrewshire and grew up in Ayr and Dumfries where he attended Dumfries Academy. He then attended the University of Glasgow. He obtained an MA (Hons) in archaeology and then worked as a freelance archaeologist, before training as a journalist.[4]


Oliver's television debut came in 2002 with BBC Two's Two Men in a Trench, which featured Oliver and close friend, Tony Pollard, visiting historic British battlefields and recreating the battle situations using state of the art archaeological techniques. In addition to the TV series, Oliver co-wrote the two accompanying books.

In 2005, he wrote a tie-in book for the Channel 4 documentary, Not Forgotten, which was presented by Ian Hislop. Oliver then became the archaeological and social history expert on Coast and in the next series he replaced Nicholas Crane as the show's main presenter and remained as such for the third and fourth series.

In 2006, Oliver appeared in two more documentary series, Channel 4's The Face of Britain and BBC Two's Scotland's History: The Top Ten. In August 2006, he also appeared on the special "Big Royal Dig" edition of Channel 4's Time Team, in which he presented a dig at Holyrood Palace.

Oliver was a contributor to BBC One's The One Show in the summer of 2007. He also appeared that year as one of the presenters of BBC Two series The History Detectives.

Oliver's series A History of Scotland began airing on 9 November 2008 on BBC One Scotland and was broadcast throughout the UK in 2009. The series also has links to radio, online and Open University materials. Like Coast, the programme is a co-production of the BBC and the Open University.[5]

On 23 March 2009, Neil Oliver presented a programme on Cleopatra on BBC One.

In February 2011, he presented A History of Ancient Britain on BBC Two.[6] This was followed later in the year by A History of Celtic Britain. He also provided the voice-over for VisitScotland's 2011 television advertisement.[7] Oliver also hosted The Last Explorers, a four-episode series retracing the expeditions of four Scottish explorers (David Livingstone, William Speirs Bruce, John Muir, and Thomas Blake Glover) who planted ideas rather than flags, that screened on BBC for four weeks from 24 November 2011.

Oliver presented the three-part series Vikings 11 September 2012 – 25 September 2012.

Oliver presented the three-part series Sacred Wonders of Britain for BBC Two and Coast Australia, aired in 2013–14.

In 2015, he presented Britain's Deadliest Rail Disaster: Quintinshill about the Quintinshill rail disaster, which took place in 1915.

In 2015, he co-presented a 3-part BBC TV documentary with Alice Roberts, entitled The Celts: Blood, Iron and Sacrifice,[8] and the following year continued his Coast series with Coast New Zealand.

Neil Oliver also presented a BBC documentary called Scotland and the Klan, highlighting the Scottish foundations of the Ku Klux Klan, originally aired in October 2016.

In December 2016, Oliver was involved in episode 2 of the Celebrity Series of Robot Wars, helping create a robot called "Soldier ANT",(the initials of Neil and his two team members, sons Archie and Teddy). It won one game (on a judges' decision), but lost the other two on knockout and was eliminated.[9]

In 2017, Neil Oliver co-presented BBC 4's 3-part history series Britain's Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney. The other presenters were Chris Packham, Andy Torbet, and Shini Somara.

In December 2018, he presented BBC4's 3 part docu-drama series Rise of the Clans.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

He lives in Stirling[11] with his wife and three children.[12] He is a patron of the Association of Lighthouse Keepers.[13]

In November 2011, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Abertay Dundee.[14]


In May 2014, Oliver stated in an interview with The Herald, that he was "proud of Britain" and noted his dislike of the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum saying that he found "this kind of internecine squabbling puts my teeth on edge. I would rather that it would just go away – or that it had never happened". He went on to say that he "liked the status quo".[15] When he was appointed President of the National Trust for Scotland, thousands signed petitions calling on him to resign.[16]

In June 2020, in the midst of a row about his admiration for the historian David Starkey, Neil Oliver announced he was resigning from the National Trust for Scotland board.[17] However, Oliver pointed out that he was 'stepping down “as intended” when his three year term in the role comes to an end in September [2020].' The National Trust for Scotland also dismissed claims that Oliver endorsed Starkey's controversial comments as "untrue".[17]

In December 2020, Oliver reasserted his personal opposition to Scottish independence, describing the uncertainty caused by the prospect of a second referendum as a “cancerous presence" and that "I'm a British citizen, that's how I see myself. Not in an argumentative way, I don't see that I should have to cede my right to understand myself as I am to some politician."[18]



Honorary degrees
Location Date School Degree Gave Commencement Address
  Scotland November 2011 University of Abertay Dundee Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) [19] [20]
  Scotland 7 July 2015 University of Glasgow Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) [21]


  • Wisdom of the Ancients (2020)
  • The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places (2018)
  • Master of Shadows (2015)
  • Vikings (2012)
  • A History of Ancient Britain (2011)
  • A History of Scotland (2009)
  • Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys (2008)
  • Coast from the Air (2007)
  • Not Forgotten (2006)
  • Castles and Forts (with Simon Adams and Tony Pollard) (2006)
  • Two Men in a Trench II: Uncovering the Secrets of British Battlefields (with Tony Pollard) (2003)
  • Two Men in a Trench: Battlefield Archaeology – The Key to Unlocking the Past (with Tony Pollard) (2002)


  1. ^ "Neil Oliver on history, housewives and hair". The Herald. 19 September 2011. Archived from the original on 19 October 2011.
  2. ^ Oliver, Neil (29 November 2020). "A British state of mind". The Spectator.
  3. ^ "TV historian takes on conservation role". 30 September 2017. Archived from the original on 28 December 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2020 – via
  4. ^ "Passed/failed: An education in the life of Neil Oliver, archaeologist". The Independent. 13 November 2008. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  5. ^ "BBC - Press Office - Celebrating Scotland's History". Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2008.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "eUpdate: New VisitScotland TV advert". VisitScotland. March 2011. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Robbie Savage, Suzi Perry and the Brownlee brothers join Robot Wars: Battle of the Stars line-up". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 27 February 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  10. ^ "A new telling of an old favourite". HeraldScotland. Archived from the original on 23 February 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  11. ^ The Sarah Millican Television Programme, 12 February 2013[better source needed]
  12. ^ A Life in the Day: Neil Oliver – Times Online[dead link]
  13. ^ "Association of Lighthouse Keepers - Keeping Lighthouse Heritage Alive". Association of Lighthouse Keepers. Archived from the original on 24 October 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  14. ^ Tel: +44 (0)1382 308000 Ask a question (25 September 2009). "2012 | University of Abertay Dundee". Archived from the original on 22 November 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  15. ^ "Neil Oliver on the search for the site of the Battle of Bannockburn". HeraldScotland.
  16. ^ "Video: Hundreds back call to remove "divisive" Unionist TV star as National Trust for Scotland president". HeraldScotland. Archived from the original on 5 April 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  17. ^ a b "Neil Oliver to step down from National Trust for Scotland role days after Twitter row". Archived from the original on 6 July 2020. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  18. ^ "Neil Oliver calls Scottish independence 'a backwards step' that would 'infringe his human rights'". HeraldScotland.
  19. ^ "Neil Oliver". Abertay. 2 June 2019.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "University of Glasgow :: Story :: Biography of Neil Oliver".

External linksEdit