Traitors star Amanda helped by north Wales walk to say ‘goodbye mum’

Amanda Lovett, star of the first series of The Traitors, used to keep her mother’s ashes beside her bed. She’d had trouble saying goodbye. But a trip of a lifetime with six strangers gave her the courage to move on.

Amanda, 56, was catapulted to public attention in the BBC’s first series of The Traitors – where she donned her hooded cloak, before being betrayed by a fellow traitor and banished by the faithfuls when her deception was uncovered.

She is stepping away from the dark side and into the light – as one of seven well known personalities, of differing faiths and beliefs, to tackle a modern-day pilgrimage for a new BBC Two series. Walking the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way, Amanda followed in the footsteps of the ancient pilgrims on a spiritual and personal journey.
As a mother of five and grandmother of six, Amanda decided to go on The Traitors and Pilgrimage because “it was my time to be me”, she says, and “not have to worry about school runs”.

As a practising Catholic, she initially wanted to go on the BBC Two show to question her faith, particularly as she disagreed with its more traditional stance on same-sex relationships. After her appearance on The Traitors, Amanda was warmly embraced by the LGBTQ+ community, who she describes as a family.

“I have gone from a traitor to a pilgrim in a year. You couldn’t ask for a better student, could you?” says Amanda.

But her journey took her on a different path, as she began to realise there was something she needed to let go of.

Amanda’s childhood was unconventional, particularly her relationship with her mother.

“She wasn’t a doting, loving mother,” says Amanda. “My mum was a functioning alcoholic, which I know now. I didn’t know growing up. She came over from Ireland. She couldn’t read and write when she met my dad.

“My mum was a bingo lady, with the American tan tights and the Benson and Hedges cigarettes.”

Growing up, Amanda wanted a more conventional “Kellogg’s cornflakes advert family”. She wanted to feel “normality and acceptance”, she says, as her family was so different from her friends and peers at school.

Amanda’s father passed away when she was just 10 years old, and she says she had to take on more adult jobs – like dealing with letters and bills.

But when her mother died six years ago, Amanda couldn’t bring herself to say goodbye.

“I’d looked after her for so many years and I just wasn’t ready to let her ashes go,” she says.

“My sister said to me, ‘She’s got to go back to Ireland, that’s where she wanted to go,’ and I was being selfish and I said, ‘No, she’s not going, I want to keep her’.”

Amanda would cuddle her mother’s ashes when they were in a box, she says, before she placed them in an urn, which sat by the side of her bed.

“I’m back with my first husband,” says Amanda, “we’d got divorced, but we’re back together.

“He used to say, really, do you have to keep her by the side of our bed?”
In a pivotal moment on the pilgrimage, Amanda realised it was finally time to say goodbye when a priest, who leads community worship high up in the Welsh hills, spoke about a place where the barrier between Earth and heaven is thinner.

“We were taught about a ‘thin place’, which is when you breathe and you look out at the world and it’s almost like the most beautiful thin line between our world and heaven,” says Amanda.

Sitting on the beach one day, with her fellow pilgrims, she looked up at the sky and saw “the most beautiful face in the clouds” she says. She wasn’t sure whose face it was, but she knew it meant it was time to let her mother go.

“I felt this warmth,” she says, “this huge, beautiful golden warmth coming through me.”
After filming the show, Amanda honoured her mother’s wishes and took her back to Ireland and feels at peace now with their relationship.

“It was such a release for me, and a happy release, that I almost could feel her flying. I could feel her wings and so the [Pilgrimage] journey that I went in for, really I came out with a totally different journey.”

Religious or not, Amanda feels everyone could benefit from the breathing space of a pilgrimage. The time to walk and appreciate the beauty of the natural world, away from the hectic, pressurised pace of life.

“We all talk a lot, but I don’t think people actually listen anymore, sit and actually listen to one another,” she says.

She enjoyed getting to know her fellow pilgrims and formed a close bond with TV personality Christine McGuinness, whose father battled addiction during her childhood.

Like many, Amanda was glued to the second series of The Traitors, but felt grumpy watching the first episode.

“I was quite protective over my cloak,” she says. “I was like, ‘Well, who’s going to wear my cloak this time, I hope they’re worthy of it.”

Amanda thinks Harry Clark, a traitor who went on to win the second series, played a “marvellous game” and “had nerves of steel”.

When Harry came face-to-face with his close friend Mollie Pearce at the roundtable, he denied he was a traitor as she questioned him in the nail-biting final moments.

Amanda says she doesn’t think she would have been able to keep up the pretence of being a traitor with Mollie.

“But Harry, gosh, he just stood there at the end and said, ‘No, I’m not’.”
It is very difficult, says Amanda, when you have invested your trust in someone.

“I think Mollie did know,” she says.

But as in life, even if your gut feeling is telling you something different, because you’ve invested your time and trust in that person, “it’s like admitting you’re wrong, so it’s a very difficult thing to do,” says Amanda.

If there was ever an all-stars version of The Traitors, she would love to return to the castle and see Claudia Winkleman again.

But would she want to be a traitor or a faithful this time?

“Oh, traitor, absolutely, so much fun,” she says.

“It’s like playing Cluedo, but being live playing it, and the wickedness,” she says. “I suppose the little wicked streak that we’ve all got in us just comes out.”

Pic: Amanda, with wildlife presenter Michaela Strachan.

Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales starts on Friday 29 March at 21:00 GMT on BBC Two. Or catch up afterwards on BBC iPlayer.