Meet the Team: Mark
Meet the Team
Next in our Meet the Team series, we have Mark MacB.
So my name is Mark, and I am a tour guide for Macbackpackers, a small independent Scottish tour company based in Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh. What follows below is a little bit about myself and what I love most about being a tour guide in Scotland.
Mark. Photo by Kai Hyde
Why did you become a tour guide?
After 9 years in the Royal Air Force travelling the world, I left to pursue a better family/work/life balance. After trying a couple of other jobs, my sister-in-law saw that a company called Macbackpackers in Edinburgh were looking for a new driver/guide and she suggested that I apply for the job as she felt that I would be good at it. I was not too sure myself, but I thought, why not.
I had seen the Macbackpackers’ buses before in the Scottish Highlands, and I had thought to myself that would be an exciting job. With my bus licence already in my pocket (thank you RAF), and a love for Scotland, I was encouraged by my family that I should wear my kilt to the interview, and I did. Even though every single bone in my body said “shirt, tie and polished shoes”. I am glad that I did wear my kilt as I was later told that I had the job as soon as I stepped out of the taxi and introduced myself.
I love learning about Scotland and then passing it on to other people. I talk a lot!! I have always been talkative and always make new friends wherever I go.
With this job I have the opportunity to meet people from all around the world and tell them all about the country I love and show them the sights. Having a captive audience on the bus means there is no escape and being the driver as well as the guide means I can decide where we go depending on the group, the environment and the weather. Being my own boss when on the road in a country I love what isn’t there to love?
Scotland isn’t just my home; it is who I am. It has shaped me to who and what I have become. This job allows me to pass this love on to, many, many others.
What’s your favourite Scottish story?
This is a tough question as there is a lot of history in Scotland. I really enjoy finding out about it and love telling it to others in my own way. After thinking about my favourites for about 10 seconds, I had it down to two options, Scotland’s War of Independence or the Jacobite Era. Both violent and volatile periods, but I decided to choose the Jacobite rebellions because the events that took place during this time have affected the whole world as we see it today. Now sadly we (people in Scotland) don’t tend to learn about this history in school as it shows a darker side to our past.
Only through a lot of my own reading, talking to other guides and listening to podcasts I have discovered that this small bit of Scotland’s history (Highlands’ history) has impacted Scotland, the UK and the world as we know it today. It sounds dramatic, I know, but it really did…
The most enjoyable story that I tell on my tours around the Scottish highlands is to do with the very 1st recorded sighting of Nessie at Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. I will tell you more about this incredible story later in this blog.
What’s your favourite MacBackpackers tour?
Hhhhhhmmmm, this is also a tough choice. Sounds rubbish and indecisive (so typically me) but I have to say all of them. The 3 day tour is a flyer to the Isle of Skye and is generally a larger group; there can be a lot of excitement and banter on the bus which I love to work with. The extended tours are also fun because we are with the people for more time, so we really get a chance to get to know everyone’s background and reasons for coming to Scotland.
What’s your favourite season to explore Scotland?
I’m a cold potato. So I love Autumn and Winter. Time to wrap up warm, dust off my snowboard, watch the leaves changing and feel the wind in my beard. The weather may not always be the best, and the days are shorter, but I still love it. Had some of my best tours on the Isle of Skye in the winter. Hiking through snow up to our knees! Walking in the wind so strong that if you jumped up, you would be blown backwards. It is also when the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye are a little bit quieter (in terms of tourists), so it makes getting around and checking places out much easier.
Your top three favourite books/podcasts about Scotland?
Horrible Histories Scotland. By Terry Deary. This one is specific for Scotland; however, there is a whole range of Horrible Histories books covering various times in history, and they are great fun and full of silly facts. Designed for kids, so no boring bits.
Scotland 1000 things you need to know. By Edwin Moore. I love a good fact or two, and this book is full of them.
The Emperor’s New Kilt. By Jan-Andrew Henderson. A cracking read full of amazing and weird things to do with Scotland. Was the first book that I read when I became a tour guide for Macbackpackers. I was handed a pile of books by my colleague Neil when I first started my training, and he advised me to read this one first.
History of Scotland. By Neil Oliver. I know this is actually four book’s, but I can’t put this on the list. It is a good read and gives you an understanding of the basics of Scottish history.
I’m new to podcasts. (I’m a dinosaur) So again this is not just 3 its 4. I know I should just change the title, but the top four doesn’t really work. It’s always got to be top 3. Why? Goodness knows. Who came up with that one? Okay, so I’m off subject. (Tends to happen on my tours)
Dan Snow’s History hit. Not a massive fan of Dan himself but he does cover some interesting subjects in this.
The BBC History Extra. Very informative stuff and a real good mixture of content. Plenty of interviews and facts (love facts).
In our time: History. Another one from the BBC. BBC Radio 4 Proper serious chat with serious people talking about serious subjects. Can be a bit heavy-going from time to time but it still has some good content.
You’re Dead to me! Yet another one from the BBC. However, its history with comedy so it makes things a lot easier to take in. It is hosted by one of the historians from Horrible Histories, so it’s going to be fun.
Now all of these podcasts are covering general historical events, not just focusing on Scotland. They do however cover Scottish history. So hence why I decided to list them. I enjoy history, so it’s all good in my eyes.
What’s your favourite Scottish food or drink?
Well, it has to be, of course, haggis! I know people around the world think we (Scottish People) are super weird or utter savages for eating haggis, and a lot of people turn their noses up at it before they have even tried it. Haggis is amazeballs. You can get normal haggis, vegetarian haggis and even gluten-free haggis (which I bought by accident when in a rush at the supermarket). You can buy it from the supermarket, butchers or if you want to you can buy haggis at the chip shops. Deep-fried haggis. Why not, eh? We deep fry everything in Scotland. Burgers, chicken, pizza and Yes, even chocolate bars. Deep-fried Mars bar. Mmmmmmmmm.
Other Scottish food that I do fancy from time to time. Mince and Tatties. Beef mince in gravy with mashed potato. Great to have on a cold winter’s day.
Soup is always a winner. Love a bit of Tomato soup. I know it’s just tomato, but I love it. If I’m feeling super fancy and I happen to find a tin of it in the discount section of the supermarket. I would go for Cullen Skink. Smoked fish with Potatoes.
What sort of drink would tickle my fancy?
Even though Scotland has a huge amount of craft beers going around these days, I have moved away from that and have decided to become classy. Scotch whisky is we’re I’m at just now. You will find out when you join me on any of the Macbackpackers tours that I talk about scotch. A lot. The Scotch whisky industry is a huge part of Scotland, and its economy and I love contributing to my economy.
If you weren’t a tour guide, what would you do?
Tough question. Being a tour guide is something I never saw myself doing. So what would I do? No idea really. Maybe I would be back in the military or driving trucks. Who knows, because I don’t. Something outdoors either way.
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