Graham Norton has kicked off his last weekend show on Virgin Radio, saying: “Here we go, one last gallop around the paddock.”

The Irish chat-show host, 60, made the surprise departure announcement on his Saturday morning show, saying he wanted to have his “weekends back” after 13 years of presenting.

Norton, who joined the station in 2021 following a decade on BBC Radio 2, confirmed he would still be “popping up on the station from time to time” after his weekend role comes to an end.

Opening his last Sunday show on the station, he told listeners: “Well, here we go, one last gallop around the paddock.

“Many thanks to Amy for breakfast. I’m Graham Norton and I will be here till 12.30pm, I promise you that.”

He said he was going to “kick off” the show with some Pet Shop Boys music before launching into their hit Always On My Mind.

Virgin Radio presenter Amy Voce, whose show airs before Norton’s, said she is “gutted” he is leaving but feels he deserves his weekends back as he has “put in a shift”.

Norton read out a number of messages from listeners who said they would miss him, with one admitting they were “distraught” but hoped he enjoys the lie-ins, to which he responded: “I will, getting out of bed this morning was so lovely, thinking ‘I won’t be doing this next week’.”

His last show will include regular segments including Bake Off star Martha Collison cooking up a storm, with the recipe this week being Norton’s favourite – braised tofu udon noodles.

His long-standing presenting partner Maria McErlane will also join him for another edition of Graham’s Guide, which sees the pair try to help listeners find a solution to their problems.

The final show will also feature chats with actor Callum Scott Howells, who stars in new BBC drama The Way, and actress Laura Donnelly, who will feature in the West End play The Hills Of California.

Norton kicked off the show with a number of upbeat tracks including Cher’s Believe and Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire.

Before launching into Dua Lipa’s new single Houdini, he said: “This lady was on my chat show on Friday night and I was so impressed with her, she’s so effortlessly charming, but clearly bright and has a vision and has a determination, and she deserves all the success she is enjoying.”

At the start off his Sunday show, he shared a selfie of him in the Virgin Radio presenting chair to Instagram, writing: “Here we go! One last spin!!

“Thanks to everyone @virginradiouk and everyone who has listened along the way!!! Three hours to go – must not swear!!!”

During his show on Saturday morning, Norton explained his decision to leave, saying: “I’ve worked weekends between here and the old place for 13 years, and my life has changed a bit, so I just want my weekends back.”

He confirmed fellow Irish presenter Angela Scanlon, who competed on Strictly Come Dancing last year, will fill in his 9.30am to 12.30pm slot for the next few weeks before “various announcements” on who will take over the slot permanently.

Scanlon was among those to respond to the news, commenting “miss you already” on Norton’s joint Instagram post with Virgin Radio.

Norton joined Radio 2 in 2010 on the 10am to 1pm Saturday show, taking over from Jonathan Ross.

He moved to Virgin Radio in 2021, with his BBC slot going to Claudia Winkleman. The Strictly Come Dancing and Traitors host is due to leave that show in March after saying she wanted to spend more time with her growing children.

Norton also hosts an eponymous Friday-night chat show on BBC One and is central to the broadcaster’s Eurovision coverage.