Creative Content Writer & former Tour Guide at HAGGiS Adventures. Scottish travel blogger and adventure lover. Kay travels Scotland on public transport, and has visited 41 Scottish Islands. She loves to live up to stereotypes by dying her hair ginger, and regularly consuming haggis and whisky. A Scottish history geek and all-around chatterbox, she can literally talk for Scotland.
My name's Gillian,
you can usually find me up a hill.
Random facts about you?
I grew up in Edinburgh and studied in Aberdeen. Probably my weirdest job was shoveling Elephant poop for a month while volunteering at an Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka. And my strangest boss… Prince Charles.
Do you have any secret talents or party tricks?
My secret talent is my hairy coo impression, which I’m known to bust out at the Morag’s Lodge pub quiz.
What made you want to become a tour guide?
When I was a kid I wanted to be an explorer, but I ended up working in outdoor shops while studying in Aberdeen instead. I was selling things to people who were off on their adventures and not getting many adventures of my own.
Then a song by Nina Nesbitt came on in my shop – “Way in the World” – it goes “I’m working in a retail store, it’s not what I’m cut out for, I live for my breaks, I know there’s something more, so much to explore, but I feel so far away, I’m not lost, I’m just finding my way in the world”. It was the perfect sign that I should leave my job and go travelling so off I went.
I went on a bunch of tours and thought how much fun the guides were having and how passionate they are about what they’re doing. If they can do it, why can’t I? Easy.
Why do you love Scotland so much?
The depth of history (which I hated studying at school) and the absolutely beautiful landscapes make it so easy to love. And I love being the one that gets to show it off to new people every day.
What’s your favourite stop on tour and why?
There’s an awesome road called the Golden Road right down in the south of Harris. It’s my favourite road because it feels like you’re driving on the moon (not that I’ve driven on the moon before) and there’s a wee township, just a few houses, called Finnsbay, which if I could choose anywhere, this would be where I would live one day.
Funniest moment on tour? Spill the beans!
Last year I was on a tour where we had a birthday on day four. I’d got cake and surprises ready to celebrate the following day but then when I spoke to the bus about it no-one owned up about it being their birthday. I asked the girl, Diya, and it turns out that her date of birth was wrong on my paperwork so it wasn’t her birthday for another 6 months!
We celebrated in style anyway and she had the best non-birthday celebration ever, complete with yummy cake, Harry Potter locations and, of course, topped it off nicely with a man in a kilt piping her in to a ceilidh in her honour!
Which character from Scottish history would you most like to meet and why?
James IV – he was definitely the best James King of Scotland and we had a few! He was a young monarch and had some weird and wonderful hobbies and ideas. He did a language deprivation experiment where he sent a kid to grow up on Inch Keith in the Forth with a deaf and mute nanny to prove that Ancient Hebrew, the language of Adam and Eve, was the original language of the world. When the kid was retrieved from the island he just spoke gobbledygook and no-one understood him. James IV declared his experiment was a success as no-one had actually heard Ancient Hebrew so he decided that was what the kid was speaking.
He also commissioned an experiment where one of his courtiers attempted to fly to France from Stirling Castle using a bird suit…
It didn’t work (wrong feathers apparently!) Oh, and another fun fact, one of his hobbies was dentistry. What a cool guy, no time for the haters, he’ll do as he pleases!
What do you like to do when you’re not showing people around Scotland?
Show myself around Scotland! I like to climb up mountains to get some fresh air, exercise and for a wee bit of a challenge. Or making some yummy treats to share with the family (or just eat myself).
Have you travelled outside of Scotland?
My favourite place so far would be New Zealand where I spent a year working and travelling. The mountains on the South Island are kind of like Scotland’s mountains but a few million years ago. Scotland will always be No.1 though!
In a final bid for us to understand the inner thoughts of a tour guide, write the first answer which pops into your head!
Haggis or black pudding? Haggis
Irn-Bru or whisky? Whisky
Salt and sauce or salt and vinegar? Salt and sauce
Beaches or mountains? Mountains!
Glasgow or Edinburgh? Edinburgh!
Tartan or tweed? Tartan
Proclaimers or Paolo Nutini? Proclaimers
Highlands or Islands? Both, it’s too difficult to decide