My Date With a Scotsman

Scotland

Duncan arrived promptly at 9am at our hotel in Aberdeen to whisk me away. He was not wearing a kilt. I was not sure if I should be disappointed or relieved.

With Hubby scheduled to be in meetings the whole day and evening, I had done some research back in Calgary about the best way to see the city and the surrounding countryside known as Aberdeenshire.

Aberdeenshire map - new website

The hotel advised there was no such thing as an Aberdeen city tour and suggested I rent a car and drive myself about. Let’s see….. I will arrive in your country the evening before, be seven time zones ahead and then I will rent a car with a steering wheel on the opposite side of the vehicle and proceed to drive on the opposite side of the road.

For the safety of the people of Scotland thank you so much but that sounds like a very bad idea.

IMG_3966

So what about a guide or some kind of group tour in Scotland? To those I asked the general response was “Well there’s not much to see in Aberdeen. Just a lot of old granite buildings.”

Marischal College aberdeen

“Rubbish” I thought. There are always surprises to be found anywhere you travel.

Not to be deterred I discovered a registered guides society in the area. For the mere price of 400 pounds per day they could be hired to take me about the countryside.

I don’t know if you have recently checked the Canadian exchange rate but that price tag would likely pay for a new set of tires and a year of oil changes for the guide for what must be the most spectacular day on the planet. I just couldn’t do it.

Scotland Sheep

My pal Google and I set about to find other option and behold I came across Duncan who had a taxi service and also did tours. Less than half the price! Brilliant.

Now I love a bargain but I did have Hubby meet my date before we left, just in case the castle visits were to include confinement and medieval torture it might be good for someone to have set eyes on my abductor and his getaway vehicle.

Duncan turned out to be several inches shorter than I, had a bad back and although I am no spring chicken, let’s say his vintage was a bit more than mine. Hubby gave me a wink and off I went on my date.

Never, ever be fooled by appearances. Duncan although not interested in putting me in a dungeon, was intent on running me ragged and ensuring that I would be the most satisfied tourist in all the shire, and definitely the most exhausted.

For ten hours Duncan drove and told me tales of the area. His strategy would be to stop at any sightings of sheep, standing stones, castles, fishing villages, seals, cliffs, distilleries and then send me off on foot for a great photo. After my running around a castle, through a field, on the beach, to the edge of a cliff (Are you getting the theme of the day?) Duncan would turn the van around and I would hop back in huffing and puffing.

Each time the fatherly instructions with his Scottish accent. ” Now Suuuueeee. Be careful of the cars and remember to look both ways.” I might have been offended but after almost being run over the previous evening in Aberdeen I humbly took the advice.

Have you ever got more than you bargained for with a guide? Or do you prefer to do your own exploring?

Map courtesy Aberdeenshire Council

142 thoughts on “My Date With a Scotsman

  1. Wonderful stuff, Sue! :) I almost fell out of my chair at that £400! I would have come up and done it for that! Come to think, I’d do it for half, but I don’t know the area and I don’t drive. Thank goodness for Duncan :)
    I saw my first lambs out walking this morning. Aaah! Mum wasn’t pleased with me though, so not sure what my shots will be like. Looking forward to more random Scottish villages and castles.
    I will be in Glasgow for the day on Saturday. Just March madness! Oops- it will be April.

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    • Jo doesn’t that sound incredibly steep? We had a private tour in Bilbao and paid 200 Euros for two of us and it was 12 hours. Anyway thank heavens for Duncan. I didn’t know you were marketing yourself as a guide. :)
      Oh the sheep seem very protective of the wee lambs. There appeared two strategies either head to the fence to scare me off or just run and hide. Of course the last shot was the more assertive approach.
      Have fun in Glasgow! Shopping I presume?

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  2. Sue, this is both hilarious and helpful. I hate to drive (I found being a passenger in a car all over Scotland terrifying enough) so I wondered about doing local tours. I’m surprised at the crazy prices!! It’s so true that locals can be like “oh nothing to see here” lol. Reminds me of a friend who went to Romania and all the locals were like “why are you here? Wouldn’t you rather go to Paris” (she had been many times).

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    • Kristin I suppose it is that we don’t truly appreciate what is in our own back yard. I love your story about Romania.
      Coming from a city settled in 1875 the history of Europe in itself is astounding. Yup nothing to see here just thousand year old buildings and such.
      Anyway thank heavens that I found Duncan and his bargain price of 180 pounds. Gulp.

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  3. Your pictures are great as usual. I particularly loved the blue tingued sheep :)
    I love having guides when visiting unfamiliar places – especially when I have limited time, which pretty well is all the time. They add so much more texture and interest to whatever you are visiting. It sounds like you had a good one :)

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    • He was quite the character and had lived in the area most of his life. So not only did he have the history of the spots we visited but which family members lived where and how they had made their livings. A real story teller.
      I imagine the blue tinge is how the farmers keep track of who is who in the sheep world?

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      • The storytellers are the best! You get a feeling that you are being let in on all the local secrets :)
        You simply could not get that same experience on your own!
        You are probably right about the ‘labelling’ the sheep but it’s more fun to think of him/her as being fashion-forward :)

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        • That’s so funny Joanne. I can just see the teenage sheep asking his Mom the ewe… “Please Mom can I dye my wool blue? It’s all the rage in the pasture.”

          I did enjoy the stories very much although Duncan had quite a few about the demise of the fishing industry and the impact on local folk. Apparently over fishing in years past was the cause,

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    • Oh yes Lynn it was quite the day. I took notes like mad. Not sure I will ever get it all sorted out but it was great fun. I hope you can enjoy it too some time.
      Is your trip coming up soon. Morocco right?

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        • Wonderful Lynn. We loved Lisbon and hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you get a chance to go to Sintra nearby I would recommend it. I very much look forward to learning more about Morocco!

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          • We do plan on going to Sintra. We flew home from Lisbon on our last trip so we had a very brief opportunity to explore the city. We all remarked that we would have loved to have spent more time there which was part of the reason we chose to use it as a jump off point this trip. Hoping for a bit of warm sunshine:)

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    • Dianne it was a fun day. Both my mind and body were spent at the end of it but what a lot of territory we covered. We even squeezed in a pick up of some of his regular customers at the airport. How hilarious. To make up for it he added another 90 minutes on to the tour.

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  4. Some of you had asked what the colors on the sheep meant. I emailed Duncan and this was his reply-
    Sheep and lambs all have different coloured numbers on their backs to
    identify their ownership or who they belong to and their coats are clipped
    once a year and only when they are past one year old.

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  5. Looks like you had one hell of a date ;) The pictures look fabulous and I’m so happy you found Duncan, even though half of 400 pounds is still a bit steep!! But as long as you had a great time, it’s all worth it, right? =)

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    • Shmruthi for Duncan I only had to pay 180 pounds. Still hefty but well worth it. It was for a registered guide that the charge would have been 400 which just seemed over the top. Yes quite the ‘date’ for sure. Duncan turned out to be very much a Scottish gentleman. So glad you enjoyed the photos.

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  6. It sounds as though you got your money’s worth with Duncan! I would have enjoyed this kind of tour, but only if I knew to wear my tennis shoes and work out clothes. ;)
    Beautiful photographs!

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    • Elisa that is hilarious. Thankfully I did have comfortable boots at least.
      Thank you for your kind words about the photos. Heaven knows Duncan worked hard to get me set up for those. the first one of me standing close to the cliff edge was taken on my camera by the gentleman himself.

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    • I’d say Duncan! Even at what I paid tour guide Duncan
      (180 pounds) that has got to be a pretty decent wage. My guess is you could tell stories just as well. Now the question…would you wear a kilt? :)

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  7. Great photos and story (as usual.) I had a local guide/bodyguard in Rio de Janeiro for a week. And we didn’t speak the same language… What an adventure! I remember hanging on for dear life as he raced and beeped his way through red lights; across busy intersections; and once, on the sidewalk. I’m sure I saw parts of the city and islands that very few tourists had the opportunity to experience. The only way to go in my opinion.

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    • Wendy I recall that! Didn’t he actually either throw you on a boat to save you or your camera? Imagine how different your time in Rio would have been without him! You have so many amazing photos from that adventure. Like I was able to live it through you.
      Thanks so much for your kind comment and sharing your story.

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  8. Sue, it was much worse. We were booked to take a ferry to a small island and we arrived at the dock too late. They were removing the ropes and setting sail. My crazy guide would not give up. He grabbed my arm and we raced to the edge of the pier– the boat was a few feet from the dock, and when I refused to jump, he picked me (and my equipment) up and leapt. We landed with a thud, tumbled around a bit, but eventually found our feet and made our way to a seat. Did I mention that he was an off duty member of the SWAT team? The hundred or so locals on board, stared but gave us wide “berth” for the entire two hour voyage ;)

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    • Oh my goodness Wendy now I remember. That scene is something right out of James Bond meets Pirates of the Caribbean. Clearly you were in good hands with Mr SWAT. I wonder if that is a routine experience of guiding in Rio? Yes I imagine the other passengers likely thought you were carrying more than just photography equipment. :)

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  9. Funny, and clever post. Great photos as well. Yeah, driving on the other sides of the road would cause me hesitation. Glad you had a good day and were spared any ill will.

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    • Mike I very much appreciate your kind words. I love this kind of story telling and life often just gives the opportunity. Lucky me.
      The photography is a beginner’s work in progress and I appreciate your encouragement.
      As far as that other side of the road, I couldn’t help myself from letting out wee squeals even as the passenger as I was certain on several occasions we were about to collide with a vehicle.

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  10. Great story….sounds like you saw and learned an incredible amount….smart not to drive yourself around…I’m with you on the wheel thing on the opposite side of car…have done it…but round a bouts kill you:) We actually did the same thing on one of our trips to Mazatlan, Mexico and we saw more things and got more info…was great!! Can’t leave without commenting on your pictures…great job!!

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    • Kirt thank you so much. As you know I am madly learning a wee bit about photography and of course fun to practice in different environments.
      The round abouts would do me in completely as to where I should be driving. I can barely figure it out in North America!
      Glad to hear you had a good experience with hiring a guide as well. So much to absorb and learn.

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    • Unbelievable isn’t it Amy. You can see why I researched out Duncan who was a steal at 180! I am delighted you enjoyed the post Amy and thank you for your visit and kind words.

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  11. Oh, how incredibly fun. Although I enjoy driving there’s no way I could get used to driving on the opposite side of the road. Just being a passenger has freaked me out plenty. Fabulous photos. You had me smiling the whole post :-)

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    • So glad you enjoyed the post Ingrid. I am with you that even as a passenger the experience is quite freaky. I appreciate your visit and generous words about the photos. Have you made it to Utah?

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      • High winds all around and snow in Flagstaff have delayed our departure until Thursday. Although I’m ready to get those wells rolling again, the weather in Phoenix is perfect, so no complaints.

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    • Oh there is a hidden story in that clever comment Allan. You strike me as the do it yourself kind of explorer. All that hard core mountaineering and such. thanks for the compliment and your visit. Much appreciated.

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  12. Hell’s teeth that’s expensive! Maybe I should look into becoming a tour guide for Shropshire! Though I haven’t many tales to tell since I have only been here three years. I do know most of the roads though! Duncan took you to some nice places though – a lovely Scottish castle! If you are ever in this part of the country I’ll take you around for the cost of the petrol – er diesel in my case. I’ll even take you to Wales if you’d like :)
    Jude xx

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    • Jude you are on! To think Duncan was a steal at 180 pounds. For 400 pounds I can not imagine what a guide would have shown me or told me that would have made the day twice as good. It surely seems like a great way to make a living as far as I can tell.

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    • Lindsay thanks so much for your visit and comment. We have done a fair amount of self guided travels where we could walk or had rented a car. Seems to just depend on the situation as you say. In this case my driving in Scotland would have definitely created interesting blog material…if I had lived to tell about it. :)

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    • Those local stories definitely give you a better sense of real life of a place don’t they? One can always read a guide book for the history but listening to the people that gives the soul of a place. I hope you get the opportunity to see Scotland for yourself. So lovely. thank you for your visit and the kind words about the photos.

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    • I’m with you! When the email came back with the price quote I kept thinking I was reading it wrong. But no matter how many times I read it the cost was outrageous! Perhaps it shows that some research is well worth the effort. Thanks so much for the visit and kind comment on the photos. Always appreciated.

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  13. What a great post- gave me my first laugh of the day (a supreme honor, in case you were wondering). I love “traveling” with you. You always show the real side of places you visit. And you are right- there are cool things to see everywhere. Part of why I love riding- you see so much more.

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    • Sue I am very honored to bring you the first chuckle. Thank you! I agree that on a bike and in spending time with locals one really gets to see, hear and understand more. Always delighted to have you traveling with me. :)

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    • I’m glad you are enjoying the stories. Sometimes when I write I think ” I hope someone else out there thinks this is entertaining.” Never good when I am the only one laughing. I appreciate your visit and kind comment about the post.

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  14. Thank you Sue for taking us on another wonderful travel adventure! I love your humour and writing technique and appreciate your new passion in photography. The comments from your friends, followers and family are totally enjoyable. Good job!

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    • Thank you Mom for this lovely note which I take as a huge compliment. I agree that often the comments from so many wonderful folks are as entertaining if not more than the actual post Of course this is what I love most about blogging is the story telling and discussion following. I appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment!

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  15. Beautiful pictures. I especially like the one of the sheep under the tree. This makes me want to visit Aberdeen. If these pictures are any indication, there’s definitely a lot worth seeing there. :)

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    • Thank you Sheryl. It was very beautiful and field after field filled with sheep. I think it would be wonderful to visit a bit later in spring when all the trees would be green. Lovely even now for sure.

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  16. Sue, another wonderful story with great photos…….the discussion re sheep reminds me of a time on the south island of New Zealand when four of us travelled without a guide….If we’d had one, I would have been forewarned about the hazards of leaping out of our rental car to follow a sheepherder and his flock walking down the middle of the highway…a new experience for me. Needless to say, after a few steps, my shoes were covered in ‘you know what’ and my companions were most reluctant to allow me back in the car!……
    .

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    • Oh my goodness that one has me laughing out loud. The things we are willing to do for a great photo. :) I can well imagine your traveling companions giving you a hard time upon re-entry to the vehicle.
      In Scotland all the sheep were in fenced fields. I wonder if at certain times of the year they would be seen moving on the roads from field to field.
      Thank you for your kind words and especially for your story. I am still chuckling. :)

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  17. GORGEOUS photos ! – you clever thing !
    I would so love to visit Scotland … I just did a bit of that vicariously, via this post. And I am duly grateful, believe me !

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  18. What a wonderful blog. Stunning photos. Would you like to participate in the Race Around the World? You could share your experiences with us. It’s been a rich, even transformative, enterprise for the contributors. I’d be happy to promote your lovely blog. HW

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    • Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and your kind invitation. Perhaps you could tell me more about the expectation of participation.Is a single blog post on the questions you have posed or is it a series? As you can see my blog tends to be seeing the humor and lighter side of life and not so much philosophical. Also it obviously has a large visual content. So perhaps not a fit? I look forward to hearing from you.

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      • Hi Sue,

        “Is a single blog post on the questions you have posed ”

        If you participated, yes, that would be your part. The series comprises of all the contributions. You will see for yourself from Parts 1-8 that are up. My own story I took the liberty of breaking up (Pt 1-3). No obligation. I saw the fun of your blog. The last contributor brought to bear her humor on her story in a way we all enjoyed and appreciated. If the post you would end up writing is not something you would want to reblog, please feel free to decline. =) It’s just been an extraordinarily enlightening project for contributors and readers. I thought you would have a lot to add from your experiences, and would get a lot out of it personally.

        Let me know.
        Diana

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  19. Very nice photos. Duncan sounds like a nice guide, but I think I would rent a car and drive, even if it means staying on the “other” side of the road. We have so many potholes on our roads after this winter that many people are driving that way anyway. :-)

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    • That is very funny about the potholes and accurate here as well. Good for you on the driving on the opposite side of the road. I’m afraid I would have made front page news in Scotland if I had attempted it. Thank you for you kind comment which I appreciate very much.

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  20. Always love my own touring! I feel going with tour groups limits you tremendously. It’s like sheep following the leader and looking only at the typical things. You get the real feel of the place by interacting with the locals, the feel of the cuisine by tasting what they eat and the sights when they show it to you! :)

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    • I appreciate you taking the time to comment and to leave your thoughts. I agree that when one can interact with the locals you get a much better sense of the place especially as you say when they can show it to you! Have a great day.

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  21. Pingback: Where is the Sun, Dooby Dooby! Where Is the Sun, and I Say, We Miss You! Da Da Da Da Da Da | Brick House

  22. What a wonderful story Sue! I am with you on saying no to driving yourself around and being your own tour guide. I am quite sure I would have gotten myself lost! Finding Duncan was genious! Such beautiful country side and that castle took my breath away! I have always loved castles, so much history. I would love to tour one like that. Loved all the pictures. Really enjoyed the post, thanks for sharing with us.

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    • It was quite the day Arl! When i say Duncan ran me ragged that is no exaggeration…even though I am prone to such things :) The castles were stunning as was the coast, the villages and of course the sheep. I love the sheep. :) I appreciate your lovely comment and visit very much.

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      • That first picture of the coast …that is the kind of place i always read about in Victoria Holt novels. It really is stunning. I don’t know if I could have kept up with Duncan, haha. : )

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        • Yes do you see how precariously I am posed against the edge. ” Just a wee bit further back Sue” my guide Duncan kept saying. I glanced backwards more than once. :)

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