Talk To The Tour Guide

  • The Midgie
  • 1 December 2008
James Donaldson

James Donaldson


Muirdrum, Angus

I have a great interest in the history and folklore of Scotland, socializing and, erm, sleeping, eating and working. What do I do with my life again?

What sort of people come on your tours?
Generally, we get young backpackers and independent travellers from all over the world. They tend to be living and working in the UK, but we do get people just passing through. Most people that come on our tours are up for it and want to see the best of Scotland at a pretty laidback place.

Where do you take them?
Through all the best bits of the Highlands and through places like Stirling and Glen Coe. All the visits go to Skye and in the summer we got out to Lewis and Harris, in the Outer Hebrides. We also go to Orkney a lot.

What makes a good tour?
You need to show people what they want to see. If it works well, then essentially it’s a bunch of mates, out on a bus. The only difference it at one of you happens to know where you’re going. If it works well, it should be like a road trip. We run laidback tours to a relaxed itinerary, so there aren’t any thirty-second stops or anything like that. We fit it around the weather sometimes or around local events, like a shinty championship or a ceilidh.

What’s your favourite place to spend the night?
You can’t go far wrong with a black house, which are right up on the West coast of Lewis. They are in an old village of dry stonewall houses, with walls one metre thick. They had fallen into disrepair but have been done up again to a really good standed. They’re in their own bay, so you can watch sunsets over the Atlantic. Once, we were even lucky enough to see a whale swim in. It’s also the only in Scotland I’ve seen the Northern Lights. It’s magical there.

What’s your favourite drink after a long day?
I do love a bottle of Fraoch heather ale.

What would you rather stay: a tent in the Highlands or a five star hotel?
I’d take the tent anytime. Because you might as well as be at home in a hotel, but you’re never really going to feel as truly comfortable there. I think you should go somewhere, and really experience it. So it’s the tent for me.

If I could send you anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would say South Harris. It’s where I go on my holidays. I love it up there. In the past few years, I’ve gone there rather than overseas.

If I wanted to find out your secrets, who would I ask?
Ooh, too many people. You’d be better off asking them than me, because I only find out about the fun stuff after it happens.

What time is too early?
I’d would say anytime before noon. I’m not a fan of mornings.

Has it ever gone pear-shaped for you?
Oh yes, constantly. Once I blew a clutch in the middle of a moor on the Hebrides on the Sabbath. Everywhere was closed. It was quite exciting, I can tell you.

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