Will grew up on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and, from an early age, was always looking for an excuse to be exploring outside. This incredible part of the world certainly allowed him this freedom. Following a month long trip to Java at the age of 16, Will was hooked on travel and adventure, whether in Scotland or further afield. Before, during and after his time studying physical geography at the University of Edinburgh, he made the most of student airfares and was heading off on adventures around the world as often as possible.
After graduating, a series of weird and wonderful jobs followed (as well as more traveling of course) until he finally stumbled into tour guiding for a backpacker tour company in Edinburgh. This was the perfect job as he got to meet people from all over the world, whilst sharing his passion for his own country. After learning his trade there, an opportunity at another tour company presented itself where Will combined guiding with an office based role as well. Then, in 2009, a plan came together and he became involved in Scottish Routes.
From starting out only offering tailor-made tours, Scottish Routes has grown slowly and now provide both tailor-made and distinctive scheduled tours of Scotland for small groups, families, whisky clubs and individuals. They specialize in whisky tours and have regular departures to Islay and Speyside throughout the summer months. They also offer tailor-made and private tours all through the year.
How do the experiences you offer at Scottish Routes give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?
Our guides love to share the history and culture of the areas that they are visiting. There is no script but rather they are free to tailor the information they give based on the guests requirements and depending on what their favorite stories are. We also aim to engage with local people and small, locally-owned businesses wherever possible. This allows our guests to feel more like a local than a tourist.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
We used to wait until our guests arrived to find out more about them. Now we try to find out as much information as we can before their arrival. This allows us to tailor their experience and itinerary a lot more and ensure they get as much as possible from their time with us.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
The warm welcomes and service they receive from other people and businesses we meet along the way. We try to build good relationships and friendships in the areas that we visit so our guests receive the best possible welcome and service when they visit with us. This is so important for the guests’ overall experience in Scotland and means they receive genuine Scottish hospitality at every moment of their journey with us.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
How passionate, well-informed and flexible our guides are. It is the guide that makes the difference between a good tour and a fantastic tour. The amount of repeat business we get is a testament to this.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
The fact that people want to explore more off the beaten track and are open to new experiences and adventures. The days of following a planned itinerary, with no deviation, are disappearing fast. More flexible, spontaneous travel experiences are becoming much more popular. This fits in so well with our ethos as a company and I am very excited for the future of tourism in Scotland. Ditch the guidebook and follow recommendations from other travelers and locals.
What sets Scottish Routes apart from other, similar, tour companies?
Our whisky tours. Some companies offer what they call ‘whisky tours’ but are often sightseeing tours, that include a bit of whisky. They seem to be aimed at guests that would like to include a visit to a distillery or two to tick a box whilst they are in Scotland. We offer whisky tours for people that are already passionate about whisky. These happen to include some sightseeing, history and culture as well but the focus is on the whisky first and foremost.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Don’t be shy and talk to the locals! Most people in Scotland love any excuse for a blether (a chat) and enjoy meeting people from other parts of the world. The best way to get a true impression of a place is to talk to the people that live and work there.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
We don’t worry about what other companies are up to. We focus on offering our guests the best possible experience, service and value for money.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Less of a habit but more of a personal philosophy… It’s nice to be nice and everyone should be treated as you would want to be treated yourself.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
It is so hard to pick one. We have seen guests moved to tears by the beauty of the landscape we have shown them. We have shared emotional experiences when taking guests to visit ancestral homelands or traced relatives with them. I think for me, the best experience so far has to be helping a guest from the USA scatter his father’s ashes near to his favorite distillery on Islay before raising a dram in his honor. We are so privileged to be able to be able to help our guests achieve things they have been dreaming about or planning for years.
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Scottish Routes Tel: +44(0)131 347 8886