There Be Dragons!

Once Upon A Dragon!

There Be Dragons!

Student Tours Scotland likes to show off the weirder and crazier parts of the country. It doesn't get much weirder than a dragon statue on a beach in Irvine.

With the Student Tours Scotland Ayrshire tour looming next Sunday (tickets here by the way: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/coach-trip-ayrshire-coast-beach-castle-villages-and-a-dragon-statue-2200-per-head-tickets-20129196970) I thought it would be best to discuss Irving (as we call him anyway), the Dragon who lives in Irvine.

Sitting happily atop Irvine Beach Park, Irving (more officially called the Sleeping Dragon) waits. The Vikings will return one day and they will devastate Scotland (apparently, although I’m almost 100% sure that the Vikings are gone these days). When they do, Irving is ready. He’s waiting, he’s watching and he’s biding his time. When the fleet arrives, he will come to life, destory the approaching masses and save Scotland once again. I assume he’s never heard about Ryanair though as that’s a more likely source for invasion than a fleet of longboats - invaders have no style these days.

I first stumbled upon Irving in 2011 on a tour with a group from Glasgow Caledonian University. We took the train, we were tired, Irvine as a town had let us down, but we pushed forward, crossed the sand dunes and finally found his hazy gaze staring at us from the distance. Sure he’s a little smaller than you would expect but he’s a mythical creature! How big are they supposed to be anyway if they don’t actually exist in the first place?

If you wanna check out Irving then come along on the Ayrshire tour - it’s only polite to take a selfie on his nose these days anyway. Maybe watch yourself if you’re from Scandinavia though - you never know!

A View From The Top (Of Glasgow)

A View From The Top

...Of Glasgow

Student Tours Scotland is not just about touring around this awesome country - it’s also about the little things. Driving home tonight in the dark I saw the beauty of Glasgow unfold from the high towns around the south east of the city.

Driving down East Kilbride Road into Cathkin on the edge of Glasgow I saw the welcoming site of the street lights scattered around the twists and turns of the so-called ‘Second City’. There is something comforting about seeing your city from it’s highest point. The picture above for example is from the summit of Glasgow at Cathkin Braes Country Park which also happens to be the southern boundary of the city.

It’s comforting, it’s warming...it’s home.

The ‘Perth-Fect’ Day In Perth With Student Tours Scotland

The Perth-Fect Day Out

In Perth, Nonetheless

As one of my favourite tours (I honestly don’t just say that - I love this trip) to Perth approaches, it makes me very aware of the fact I will be over-using a bad joke once again. I think it was Pedro who first suggested that going to the seventh city of Scotland would be, “Perth-fect” and as much as I made fun of him all day, I love this horrible play on the word ‘perfect’.

I’m pretty sure I used it constantly on the Student Tours Scotland tour last year when we went there in February and December - so you have been warned. It’s also very contagious. There were more than a few students using it by 5pm and I’m sure I heard someone use it in Dundee the following week - they understand so little.

In many ways, Perth really is, ‘Perth-fect’. The view from the top of the hill alone is amazing. Kinnoull Hill is potentially my favourite view in all of Scotland, as the River Tay unfolds underneath you, winding it’s way through the outskirts of the city. The silhouette of Kinnoull Tower leads to more than a few great selfies that you will never glance at again afterwards (but at least you get the likes on Instagram!).

If you enjoy faeries stories, and love the outdoors then a great portion of this tour is spent walking through Kinnoull Hill Forest Park. The looming trees all around lend to a great feeling of awe and mystery as each detail of the wee mischievous creatures is revealed. You’ll be looking over your should all day.

If you haven’t already booked up then the Perth tour officially went on sale today. So book up and join us now at studenttoursscotland.com or facebook.com/studenttourssco

With A Little Help From My Friends

With A Little Help From My Friends

Student Tours Scotland's Unsung Heroes

Student Tours Scotland is basically running around Glasgow and Scotland with a ginger guy - that’s really the easiest way to describe. But this ginger guy could not do everything by himself. Craig keeps him sane; Roo helps him get energised; Luca made the tea; Alex brought the focus; Anderson was the planner; Thomas was creative; Amanda is determined; Kinai oozes enthusiasm; Yuri buys the drinks; Renan brings the music; Havs tells the jokes (bad ones); Freddy is my psychologist; Eveline helps when I complain; Rodrigo knows how to keep me grounded; Vini is the tech guy; Webber brought a much needed moment of silence; Tutti brought the madness; Leo brought the hugs when things got too tough; Caio brought me back down to earth when I needed it and I just don’t know where I would be without Tino.

These guys are the unsung heroes (and there are plenty more that have helped a lot elsewhere over the years). Without the help they provide (emotionally as well) I would never have gone four years in business. However, each of them has that one epic or embarrassing; hilarious; stand-out moment that (good or bad) I remember all too well. This is for you guys! This is for keeping me alive these fours years!

THOMAS - Poor Thomas, he was so young and naive when he first arrived in Scotland. Fresh from his home country - which is warm by the way - and straight into the cold, dismal madness of Scotland. On his first ever tour he decided to not listen to the weather warning. Rain be damned. So when we arrived in New Lanark and the Heavens opened, poor wee Thomas looked like a drowned rat. I didn’t really fancy having my first student death so I bought him one of those human condom things (most normal humans call them rain ponchos) and he looked even more miserable than before. Luckily he did not die and went on to be a source of creativity. Student Tours Scotland is more than thankful man!

FREDDY - There are few people who have put more hours into Student Tours Scotland than Freddy. I remember the good times: weddings in Germany, whisky in Glasgow, tour after tour after tour. But most of all Freddy I will never forget December in Oban, when everyone was happy playing cards and drinking whisky and you sat there in the corner like the Original Grinch, talking about how much you hate the holidays. I dunno if it was the whisky or if you were just having a bad day - but God help anyone who gets involved when you’re on your very own kind of ginger rage.

ANDERSON - Really there was nothing too stand off about Anderson. Sure he accidentally set fire to the student halls once (not really by the way, just burned a cake or something less epic than what I said) but he did cause me MORE than a headache on a selfie scavenger hunt. This fun event was turned into anything but, when he and his twin brother demanded more than one recount on their results. I’m sure they still didn’t win that day. I’m actually surprised he came on any more tours but as Student Tours Scotland was enhanced by his presence - I’m more than happy he did.

KINAI - Kinai is amazing. She is full of this energy that you just can’t find easily. But she is another one who was none too pleased with the results of the scavenger hunt and demanded a recount. I was pretty sure that my head would be ripped off and thrown to the lions after she didn’t win anyway. But thankfully she’s been on several Student Tours Scotland events throwing in her support. So either she is biding her time and waiting to get me back - or she’s secretly happy to share the prizes.

ALEX - Alex worked so hard for Student Tours Scotland while working a job and studying and so he more than deserved a holiday. Sadly for Alex, after travelling all the way to London he realised he had forgotten his passport for the only holiday he would actually ever take that semester. Luckily for me he never had to plan any trips abroad for Student Tours Scotland. At least it gave us something to complain about over coffee.

WEBBER - Webber is hard to get good stories from. He keeps himself free from trouble. But I will always remember sitting complaining about New Years while playing Playstation 1 and drinking Irn Bru, watching South Park. On the tours he was alert and helped manage the crowd but even the combined efforts of our focus counting help us notice that while we enjoyed a game of Crash Bandicoot, all the neighbouring flats were being broken into! Oh Webber, at least we paid attention on Student Tours Scotland tours.

PEDRO - Or, NuPedro as we called him since there were so many - he was great fun. Hilarious, mad and just a bit insane at times he was always useful on the tours. Great for taking photos, awesome for just being amazing BUT DO NOT SURPRISE HIM. As if he was fully embracing the city of Glasgow when I made him jump while we were drinking he accidentally smashed his glass into the table and looked terrifying. Needless to say I never scared him again.

YURI - Nothing was a problem for Yuri at Student Tours Scotland. He worked hard, he had a laugh and he got drunk to celebrate. Although there was that one time he partied a little too hard and despite the tour already starting he still was not here. But like the professional he is, when we departed and drove past his halls of residence, he came running out with his bag in hand and jumped on board as if nothing had happened. What a legend.

EVELINE - Another epic source of humour and fun is Eveline. She is loud, she is energetic and she takes good photos. But if you ever need her to really focus, just make sure there are no cats around. I’m still pretty sure that the only thing I will ever remember about Dunkeld is not the cathedral or the amazing river but the fact that essentially a cat led the tour group as we followed it around just so she could get her fill of cat-time.

RODRIGO - So many tours and so much awesome energy. But the most important thing about Rodrigo is the fact that he surprises you. I honestly think he must be one of the X-Men. Whenever you are feeling down or whenever things go wrong, Rodrigo is always there. If you’ve always thought things go smoothly at Student Tours Scotland it’s basically because of him - even if you cannot see him.

TUTTI - This guy is nuts, usually in a good way. Speak with Tutti and you’ll get a good chat and maybe something rather deep. But you better hope and pray that there is not a Highland Cow around. When Tutti’s friends went home and left him in Glasgow for another few months he decended into a deep madness that only a Highland Cow teddy bear called Gisele could liberate him from. You can actually follow Gisele on Instagram and if you are very lucky she will ‘moo’ in response to your questions. I think I may have broken Tutti at some point. His mind will heal over time...unless he sees another Highland Cow.

HAVS - Havs didn’t help out that much with the tours - but at least the guy knows how to leave memories. I still get students who ask where the guy who tells the awful jokes is. I had a simple task for Havs. DO NOT talk on the bus. So he did not .... for a time at least. And then he said, “What if Steve Jobs worked for Apple and Microsoft? Would he be Steve TWO Jobs”. It pains me to say that students really loved his humour.

AMANDA - Amanda works and never complains. She listens to me moan, she listens to me being a total complainer at times but she always does everything she needs to and then does something extra. But I don’t think I will ever forget her face when I told her she would have to lead a walk to Sighthill Stone Circle to see a bunch of pagans dance while I was at a conference. She got me back though for it. Students still consider it one of the best organised walks Student Tours Scotland ever did - and I was not even present!

LEO - Loud, energised to inhuman levels, Leo always brings the fun. He’s like a little brother to me - he might not be blood but I both love and hate him all the time. He’s also insane. He was partially responsible for the continued madness that poor Tutti had with the Highland Cows but he was also responsible for knowing exactly what buttons to push that would make me evolve into Ginger Rage Ball. To this day I’m sure he only did it for fun - although after the San Marino Incident (see a previous post) I think he learned that the Ginger Beast is best left undisturbed.

LUCA - Luca was always there for me in the tough times. He always made the tea and let me vent and bitch and moan. He was great on the tours - especially for photos. However one night before a tour he got a little too drunk, showed up late and slept the whole journey. Almost. He woke up second before a toilet break and vomited all over a student who was on his first tour. Luckily the student was very understanding - although thanks to Luca doing this, I’m pretty sure he won’t be visiting Brazil any time soon. The memories will still be raw.

RENAN - Me and Renan organised a whisky night for a Danish group. They loved it. So many whiskies, so much Scottishness, and some amazing food. Bar after bar was memorable. When I asked them what they remembered most, they said it was drunk Renan singing a perfect rendition of The Offspring (almost the entire Americana album). The word whisky or Scotland never appeared once in their feedback of the fun that they had.

VINI - Vini still does some tech work for Student Tours Scotland. The guy is a legend. A diva at times, but a legend. We both know way too much about each others lives and could probably ruin each other professionally if we really wanted to. I think that means I can’t tell you all the awful things that happened around Vini. Luckily each one is well balanced with great tales as well. Although we both know it’s the awful ones that are the reason why we are best friends.

CAIO - I really needed a lot of help from Caio over the time he was with Student Tours Scotland. He was essential in helping me plan the semester ahead. Sadly he was also essential in giving me a heart attack and forcing me to double check everything I had planned after I discovered that my ‘planning-inspiration’ expert had accidentally booked flight tickets for his holiday a month earlier than he meant to and had missed his holiday. Suddenly I didn’t feel so inspired.

TINO - Without Tino there would not be a Student Tours Scotland. Gingers apparently can be total divas themselves and make mountains out of molehills. Tino is the thing that grounds me and helps make things work and stay focused in 2016. I mean, SURE he almost got us kicked out the Christmas Market for breaking the rules about public alcohol and yes I almost flooded my car trying to pick him up but the good things out weigh the bad.

CRAIG and ROO - There are not many Scots who help me with Student Tours Scotland but to this day Craig and Roo are the guys that have helped me more than anyone else has. It’s hard to talk about one over the other. They are so similar and yet so different. Craig got me a little too jolly one St. Andrews Day and thanks to him egging me on to have my face painted like the Scottish Flag I think I am not welcome back in a particular hotel in Glasgow anymore (drunk Gary decided that instead of washing the blue and white paint off his face he would just spread the paint all over the room instead - yikes!). Roo on the other hand is just bonkers. Everything about the guy is crazy. I think it’s the fact he’s from three different parts of Scotland. Everything he does is pretty much something that I cannot put on paper in case everyone involved is called in for a ‘chat’. Despite the stories and the mad moments, I would be no where without either of these guys. I really cannot thank you enough.

There are so many others that have helped over the years: Sasha made me feel better; Pedro and Lu gave me a shoulder to cry on; Janou and Hannes kept my spirits up and so many more than I just can’t find the time to say thank you. You are all wonderful people and I owe you so much more than I can ever give.

Thank you for being a part of Student Tours Scotland. Let’s hope this is just the beginning. Cheers!

Those Crazy Scots

Those Crazy Scots

When Being Ginger Goes Too Far

Student Tours Scotland loves this country and the fact that the guide is ginger is great. However sometimes the rage inside a ginger can boil over. Perhaps it's a Scottsh thing in general and not just about the colour of hair.

We are crazy, us Scots. Seriously. And angry too. I’m ginger, I’m more qualified than most. You just need to be around me to see my rage. Once at a cliff top in San Marino I almost killed a bunch of Brazilians for no good reason other than they accidentally hurt my glasses. My poor glasses, there’s even a tiny wee scratch to prove it - I’ve never forgotten that day. The Brazilians haven’t either. It was a day rage, a day of anger and a day of a whole new level of fear.

You can imagine the scene as Leo accidentally makes contact, my glasses shoot off at speed in one direction and my rage and angry boils over, erupting forth from my face with a tirade of noise and profanity like never before. Webber stands on in disbelief as Pedro tries hard to work out what is going on. Even tank-like Caio looks like he might die of shock as the we ginger guy evolves like a pokemon into Gary-zard. Poor Leo, his face of fear and terror must have felt like everyone in a clown horror film does when finally faced with the madness in front of them. Thankfully I don’t always go insane and managed to calm down, it was, after all, just my glasses (although I really have never forgotten it).

We are crazy, us Scots, I’ll say it again. In some ways the madness is part of our identity. Just look at William Gibson, I mean Mel Wallace in Braveheart. If we can brandish our arse at a bunch of spear-throwing soldiers then we can do anything. Crazy doesn’t always translate to rage - it can be just plain weird.

Check out the pic of this note. It’s from a cool wee vista called Rough Castle, or Roughcastle. It all depends on your love of spaces and capital letters. I quite like R. Ough Castl. E - but I suspect that might confuse most people. Roughcastle was a part of the Antonine Wall.

You’ve probably heard of Hadrian’s Wall? No? Then I guess you’ve never watched Game of Thrones then. Well, at least I think so, I’ve never watched it either but there IS a wall. So there. Hadrian’s Wall was built to keep the Scot’s out of the Roman Empire. We were so unloved, so undesired that even the greatest empire of it’s time didn’t want us. That’s not to say we didn’t try, they just misunderstood our madness and crazy, death-bringing ways. Perhaps that was the Scots way of saying hello?

The Romans did come pretty far in Scotland but they fortified a line north of Glasgow and Edinburgh called the Antonine Wall. Sadly it was most earthworks and wood so little remains. However the locations around the wall are worth a look-see. On an upcoming Student Tours Scotland tour (see here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/coach-trip-kelpies-falkirk-wheel-and-wallace-monument-2200-per-head-tickets-20127416645) we will actually go to the Antonine Wall (as well as the Kelpies, the Wallace Monument and the Falkirk Wheel). Roughcastle is the location of choice and the views and atmosphere of the place should leave you feeling like something must have happened here. It was afterall the location of a fort.

The best bit about it and my favourite way to summarise how crazy the Scots were, is the defence mechanism that they had at Roughcastle. Student Tours Scotland will show it to you, of course, but try not to fall into the trap. It was, after all, a genius and terrifying trap. Behind the “wall” there were a series of potholes filled with spikes. SPIKES. We were so barbaric and mental in Scotland that they armed themselves with pitfall spikes like something from Indiana Jones. Come and see for yourself on the tour.

You should try hard to appreciate the Scots and the folk of Glasgow while you are here, but don’t imitate us too much. We don’t want you stepping off the plane in Madrid and embarking on a coup plot to overthrow the government. Just have a whisky instead. Student Tours Scotland tries to do that to calm down too.

Kelpies Statues: Myths, Legends and Scottish Tourism

Kelpies: Monsters and Legends

The Kelpies Statues at Grangemouth

Student Tours Scotland is preparing for it's first tour of the Kelpies Statue next weekend. On this tour you get to see the huge beasts up close and personal alongside a few other awesome monuments.

Each year, Student Tours Scotland tries to update the tours to keep them fresh, exciting and new. Not that we really need since Scotland itself is always fresh, exciting and new. In fact, you guys are the freshest, most exciting things about the tours. You’re always doing something to keep me on my toes. However, thankfully, so is Scotland itself. Recently, as if by magic, two massive metal creatures burst out of the ground next to the canal.

The Kelpies Statues at Grangemouth are pretty awesome. Like two megaliths bursting forth from the heart of Scotland they impress over the Motorway. These statues are about as cool as it gets. We’ve only been here once on tour so far but it was awesome. One of the guys was taking a selfie with the Kelpie that looks down and fell flat on his arse in front of a group of children who have clearly got zero shame and insulted the guy in a strong Glaswegian accent. They didn’t look like they were enjoying the Kelpies until that moment and so Student Tours Scotland was more than happy to help make their day better.

For those of you that are not in the know, Kelpies are beasts of legend in Scotland. Depending on the tour, Student Tours Scotland might litter the trip with tales of them as we go. This is something we do for sure on the Kelpies tour (tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/coach-trip-kelpies-falkirk-wheel-and-wallace-monument-2200-per-head-tickets-20127416645). They are creatures, usually terrifying in stature that ravish the coasts and lochsides of Scotland looking for their prey. They can appear quite innocent at first and usually take the form of something you desire, need or something that is pleasant to the eye. Horses have long been the form of choice for the kelpie, hence the shape of the statues in Grangemouth.

Generally in Scotland, most myths of the kelpie involve the form of a horse. There are many reasons for this but the most common usually to do with the widespread use of the horse in farming communities and the fact that the people would be familiar with it. Everyone could always use a new horse on the farm, especially a powerful one. And powerful the kelpie would usually be.

The tales of how they capture you or you defeat them are numerous and often end tragically. On our kelpies tour at Student Tours Scotland we will do our best to share a few great tales throughout the day and at the statues themselves. They aren’t the only myths and legends that Scotland has, there are plenty more and the tours offered usually feature quite a few of them. So come along and take some stories away with you to share with your friends and family.

Highland Cow Teddy Bears: When People Go Too Far

Highland Cow Teddy Bears

When People Go Too Far With Them

As Student Tours Scotland begins another semester, we head to the University of Strathclyde to host a competition to win another Highland Cow teddy bear. For some people they are a great reminder of life in Scotland. For others, they have a whole life of their own.

It is January 2016, I can not believe it’s now been over four years since Student Tours Scotland was born. We’ve had a lot of weird and wonderful experiences in that time but there has always been one constant - the Highland Cow teddy bear.

Students and tourists alike love these things. Highland Cows are amazing creatures and Student Tours Scotland loves taking you to see them, why some of the best memories on tour come from Highland Cattle. These cute, loveable and curious animals that sulk around a field all day giving you a deep desire to run over and hug them.

A student once said they really wanted to touch a sheep to see if it felt like a cloud. It doesn’t. Sheep are scary, especially if they have those big, curly horns you sometimes get on rams and the like. Touching a sheep is not like touching cotton candy or a cloud (although in all fairness I’ve never touched a cloud). No, no, no, touching a sheep is a massive level-10 let down.

Highland Cows however are awesome, they feel like a rug or that cosy blanket you use on a cold winters night. They have horns too, like the evil sheep, but they tend to use them accidentally or to scratch their arses when they can’t quite find a fence or wire to lean against.

So you can understand the need and want on a Student Tours Scotland tour when we are travelling around sunny Scotland and suddenly it’s bus bingo time. We give away one of these Highland Cow teddy bears every week and the students explode with excitement. The tension on the bus rises to unseen levels as family ignore each other, relationships end and friends forever break ties with each other, all to win the fabled Highland Cow.

Things can go overboard though. Let’s not forget the madness of Gisele the Cow. Gisele is a lovely cow but the students that owned her ended up with a whole interconnected family of cows and Youtube videos of Gisele imittating SpiderMan (see it HERE). This was not even the weirdest part. It’s far from the first time that animals have taken over on the tour but it’s usually living animals that go insane, not the people that own the stuffed variety. Incidentally, even I eventually believed Gisele was real, like a Student Tours Scotland version of Pinnochio.

But I suppose it’s all really just some harmless fun, unless the cow starts talking to you of course. Then it might mean something worst. Today we are giving away another one of these cows to the new population of International Students in Glasgow. What this means for their mental state after the cow has a name and a life we cannot say. But, all Student Tours Scotland knows is that is far from the last one we will unleash upon you.

Kilts Look Good: Or, Millions of Reasons Why I Should Never Wear Them

Kilts Look Good

But Beware The Cross Winds

Student Tours Scotland rarely gets its ginger guide to tour in his kilt. There are many reasons for that and just some of them are outlined below. Enjoy.

Welcome to Glasgow, from Student Tours Scotland after a great morning at Glasgow Caledonian University. It’s always a pleasure to say hello to new students and I especially have a wee space in my heart for GCU. I used to work there - four years in fact. So it means a lot to me.

I always go a little overboard in January and September when all the new students start and very often that involves me showing up in my kilt and talking nonsense for about twenty minutes. To those who have to sit through it, I apologise. My God, Glaswegians like to talk!

So, I’m half Scottish, half Irish and ginger with a Glasgow accent. I was told a few years ago that I, “HAVE to wear a kilt”. Apparently if gingers don’t do it then the world will explode. As if being ginger and Scottish was not enough, I have to go full stereotype just to get the heads turning. I act like I don’t like it, but, if you know me, you’ll know that I feed off the attention. I am, after all, KING of the Drama Queens at times.

However, I need to focus on kilts here. I love and HATE wearing my kilt. It’s just not that practical guys. Sure it looks great and has that wee pouch that we call a sporran, but it just does not do the job that I need every day of my life. I need pockets - and deep ones. A wee furry man purse is not going to do the trick for me. It is not, as one American girl asked, a T.A.R.D.I.S. It is in fact NOTHING. It’s tiny inside, my smart phone barely sits. And let’s not even discuss what happens when I have to move quickly or run and the (very full) pouch bounces up and down on an area of a guy that really doesn’t need that kind of attention.

But yes, I agree, they look good. Even this skinny ginger can pull off a casual look in a kilt every now and again. But they have very often caused me a lot of problems. It was nice walking around Bremen in Germany in my kilt but you get so many weird looks. People think you are clearly insane. I am also not a fan of being asked why I am wearing a skirt. It is most surely not, a skirt.

It’s the Marilyn Monroe stuff that hate though. Her Majesty The Queen gets to have her dresses weighted at the bottom so that when the wind blows we don’t get to see all her crown jewels. I however cannot afford to buy an expensive weighted kilt and so when I’m in Edinburgh in the summer doing walking tours and the winds from Leith Port decide to blow up the Royal Mile...let’s just say most people are not too happy about having their retinas scared forever. #CantBeUnseen

My all time highlight moments in my kilt though come from Edinburgh - that wonderful place with so many stories already. On tour in the Royal Mile, whilst in the middle of an epic story of love, mystery and sadness, a wee old lady hobbled up to the group, pushed past everyone while I was mid pose and said, “wheek yur duke and gies ah show”. I don’t wanna translate all of that for you - ask a Glaswegian. Let’s just say it’s like your grandmother saying it to you in front of your friends. It’s mortifying.

The best one though has to be what I call, “The Honest Junkie”. While telling a story on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh (maybe I should avoid it in my kilt) a wee homeless junkie was sitting next to us on the street drinking heavily. Mid-story a gust of wind lifted the back of my kilt giving the poor guy quite the view from the rear. Before I could apologise he had the students laughing when he said, “don’t worry son, it wisnae that bad a view tae be honest”.  I’m still worried he will be there waiting when I go back.

So try the kilt, enjoy the kilt, but beware the kilt!

Glasgow Buses: Or, Chantelle’s Quest for Love

Glasgow Bus Adventures

Chantelle Stikes Again

Student Tours Scotland loves Glasgow. It is, after all, the place we are based, have always lived and love. There are problems in any city and commuting is usualy the worst one. In Glasgow though, Student Tours Scotland loves the commute. Here is a particular example of why.

Every time I think I hate commuting in Glasgow I remember the story of Chantelle. It makes me realise that without this in my life I would not be as culturally rich. The Glasgow buses are what makes commuting in the city an awful nightmare BUT also amazing. I could probably write a best selling book on the experiences I’ve had over the years. Rocks thrown at moving buses, drivers fighting with angry, drunk old ladies, creepy couples and the kid with the alphabet! But nothing compares to Chantelle.

Now, I should tell you, I’ve actually never met Chantelle. I don’t think anyone has. She is a mystery to me, an enigma, and yet I feel connected to her. She is as much a part of my life as the sun is - it comes and goes and most of the time it isn’t there. And just like that vibrant ball of warmth, when Chantelle does make an appearance in my life, it is most welcome.

Imagine the scene: you’re on a cold, freezing First Glasgow bus with other shivering, tired passengers. The bus is moving at a snails pace and the guy next to you has clearly not had a shower (or a Glasgow shower - where you spray yourself with Lynx/Axe deodorant) in days. Suddenly, from nowhere, a phone rings. The suspense rises. Who will answer? Will it be the sweat monster? Could it be the business guy? Is it the woman endlessly applying makeup on the bus and fixing it every time we go over a bump or pot hot? Or, hopefully will it be Chantelle’s friend?

Sadly, I don’t know the name of Chantelle’s friend? With the grace of a kid throwing a tantrum, the friend yells hello into the phone and is immediately surprised as, “Chantelle!” is exclaimed down the phone. Either the friend is deaf or Chantelle is very loud as the friend yells constantly. The atmosphere in the bus has changed but you can easily separate everyone out into two teams. There are those who are first timers, experiencing the epic display as beginners. They will be persuaded but at the moment they are disgusted by the break in the awful silence that most bus journeys is Glasgow face. Then there is the rest of us. We love this. What is unfolding before us is a scene never before seen in nature - Chantelle and her friend picking up the pieces of Chantelle’s love life.

I love these girls. I want to know more. Where does Chantelle find these awful men? Why does she keep dating the same awful guy for ages? Why does the friend never offer actual support and only say, “oh I know” and “he’s not right for”? But mostly I want to know why the friend thinks that the only way to stop her friend from ranting and to get a word into the conversation is to repeatedly say, “CHANTELLE! CHANTELLE! Listen CHANTELLE! CHANTELLE!” in repeat. It’s like Chantelle has forgotten who she is, poor girl. Lost in a world of awful men and bad dates she has forgotten her own name. Only this nameless amigo can help.

The bus is a great place to people watch. Those that have met the friend and Chantelle scenario before are listening with intent. What new details will we get today? In the last episode of Chantelle viewers were left with the shocking cliffhanger that her ex-boyfriend had reappeared mid-date. She was with another bad man, this time in Pizza Hut. How we wish we had been there. The drama that must have unfolded sounds like it could have put Big Brother to shame.

I feel for Chantelle. Poor Chantelle. If only Chantelle could date someone nice. Maybe she got addicted to Pokemon as a kid and the only way she can deal with life is to catch them all. Bad boyfriend after bad boyfriend. She needs a Misty or a Brock for a friend. Currently she is friends with a Gary, and he was never Ash’s best friend. But I digress. Chantelle’s friend needs to be more supportive. Get out there, stop her making these bad decisions.

And so it was that the friend left the bus, still screaming Chantelle’s name and trying to get a word in edge wise. “He’s no good for you Chantelle” was all we heard as our only source of intrigue, excitement and amusement had left the bus. Once she had gone the atmosphere on the bus soured as we realised that the vibratory hum of the First Glasgow coach was all that remained. Chantelle was gone, her friend had left a void on the bus. One thing is for sure, everyone on board was excited for the new season. It should be coming to our screens soon enough. We just have to wait.

Moments That Matter #002: Edinburgh After Dark

The Moments That Matter #002

Edinburgh After Dark

As Student Tours Scotland prepares for yet another Edinburgh Coach Trip, we look back at the weirdest and most memorable moments from previous visits to there. Today we look at Edinburgh: After Dark.

As our Edinburgh tour approaches, and new students flood into Scotland to embark on four amazing months of study, I thought it would be nice to share some memories with you of the funnier things that happen on tour. Today is all about, ‘Edinburgh After Dark’.

Now, I don’t tour at night time in Edinburgh, although I wish I did. It would make for far more interesting, albeit cold, tours. The place is gorgeous at nighttime, just look at the picture of the castle above. It’s pretty. Even if you don’t think it is, it is.

Edinburgh has a dark history which includes more murders, grave robbing, resurrections and  witchcraft than I would care to include in my tours. Honestly, you guys are great at hurting yourselves without the added extra of a ghost or witch messing things up. However that doesn’t mean the city can’t get a little ‘dark’ for us.

A few years I was in Edinburgh trying to get the location of a good beer bar. Now, I should point out that despite trying really hard not to, I seem to have evolved into a hipster. I didn’t want it to happen. I wanted to stay Gary-dos for a few more years but apparently I am now Hipster-lee. At least this way I get more XP. Beer has evolved in Scotland. It’s not all about the lager these days, there is a whole alphabet of beer out there and I needed some IPA.

I’d heard rumours of this epic place called, ‘The Hanging Bat’, but I wasn't sure where to go to get there. Myself and one of the students really wanted to grab a beer over lunch and so asked how to get there. Eventually we found a local who knew what we were talking about. They were very happy at our good taste and told us not to fear, “you are close. You just have to cross the pubic triangle”. Yes, you read that correctly guys, the PUBIC triangle, not the PUBLIC triangle. I immediately hit the rewind button (cause apparently I’m stuck in the 90’s with my real-life VCR and I’m a hipster) but yes, he HAD said PUBIC and not PUBLIC. There was nothing public about this triangle. It was very much a private affair.

The epic journey went like this, cross the Grassmarket, follow the West Port, say hello to Lady Lawson (she’s a lovely lass) and fight your way through the Pubic Triangle. From there you can reach your final battle on Lothian Road. I had to ask, “what, pray tell is the Pubic Triangle”.

Well, apparently I’m the only person under the sun who hasn’t heard about this shaped-area of Edinburgh. Come on ginger man! Everyone knows this! The Pubic Triangle is a cross roads, shaped like a triangle which hosts three of the most notorious, as he put it, “Gentleman’s Bars” in Edinburgh. So there you have it. Scotland once again strikes gold with a great name and great directions.

We set off on our journey, got lost with Lady Lawson on her street and found our way past the triangle. It’s not that strange for Student Tours Scotland. We’ve had weirder stuff happen on tour for sure but this, this was different. For the student who was with me on this journey to the bar, his poor eyes were scarred for life. As the triangle was coming to life there were allsorts of mad things happening. People were being kicked out by angry bouncers, I’ve never seen so much cigarette smoke come from one man and woman and I’m pretty sure the names of the bars will leave you in stitches. It’s Edinburgh at it’s best and it’s worst in one go.

Thankfully the journey was more than worth it and. “The Hanging Bar” is probably one of the best craft beer bars on the planet. It’s a story we can tell to other people and it’s a story we happily shared with others we passed that day. It’s this that makes your time in Scotland memorable. These are the moments that matter.

Moments That Matter #001: Jacob’s Ladder in Edinburgh City

Moments That Matter #001

Jacob and His Ladder in Edinburgh

Recently, Student Tours Scotland has been trying to get it’s tours ready for the new year, a 2016 that has come up so fast, it’s scary. With a new semester of students, comes new tours. However, Edinburgh is one of those places that is not easy to change. But, we will be changing it a wee bit. As well as the tour itself, we’re going to take you as far up Arthur’s Seat hill walk as the weather allows and also give you loads of stories and legends along the way.

However, I digress, the point of this post is different. Student Tours Scotland already offers great tours with awesome information but that’s not the only reason you should come along on a day trip. Oh no! There are the actual experiences and things that happen in these places that are the most important. And so today, I give you the legend, the tale, the awesome-ness of...The Time We Met Jacob On His Ladder.

When we originally did the Edinburgh City tour we never really understood quite what Edinburgh, as a city, was like. It’s hills. There, I spoilered everything. It’s all about the hills. Up and down and up and up and more up. Thankfully, Edinburgh has some lanes (usually called ‘closes’) and staircases everywhere to help you (or not, in the case of having to go up a stair).

We left our bus and to save time getting from the dizzy heights of Calton Hill down to Canon Gait we descended down into the depths of the Old Town via the one, the only, Jacob’s Ladder.

If you are familiar with the story from biblical times, Jacob’s Ladder was a supposed connection between Heaven and Hell, in many ways Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns would have embraced this comparison over the years. For us, this fateful day, it really felt like hell, despite only going down. At the very bottom, Hell’s gates open out towards Canongate and the Old Town. Today however, there was only one problem, Jacob himself was waiting for us.

Jacob’s Ladder, Edinburgh (not the one from the Book of Genesis) is a large stone staircase that takes you underneath the railway line at Waverley Train Station. It passes down past a lot of empty, unused grassland tucked between Calton Hill and the station. In here, homeless people are often found. Jacob appeared from no where, like the 300 taking on the endless armies from the East and stopped us in his tracks. This was no ordinary homeless man, this was Jacob and we were on his ladder without giving him due warning,

Now, as a Glaswegian, the Edinburgh accent can be a little tough for me (despite less than a hour between the two). So as Jacob started unleashing a tirade of Edinburgh-ish at us the students were naturally a little startled. You have to understand, it’s hardly his fault that he’s homeless, the world has let poor Jacob down. Perhaps he was only asking for some food or some change. Either way I let him have his five minutes of ranting. When he was finished, the students asked me if he wanted money and should they get some for him since he looked like he needed it. It was only afterwards that both myself and Jacob burst into laughter. I did give Jacob money that day but that was not what he was shouting about.

Jacob was a tour guide himself, albeit now one without a home. He knew Edinburgh better than most and we were his first visitors in a whole day. His ladder was a lonely place at times and Jacob simply wanted some company and his ‘shouting’ was him addressing the group. He was telling them to feel welcomed in Edinburgh, to enjoy the city that had given him so much despite his hardships. He then introduced himself (I don’t remember his real name sadly) and when a student asked if he was the Jacob that the ladder referred to (a street sign at the top of the steps clearly names the stairway), he said he was and his name was forgotten. He greeted every one of the fifty students that day. They were all so keen and happy to meet him.

Edinburgh is not Glasgow, but it’s not an awful place. It’s an amazing wonderland of architecture, beautiful castles and palaces and amazing people. Hopefully you can have that kind of experience when you come with us. Consider it, it’s these moments that you will remember in twenty years. These are the moments that matter.