Interview with Anne Doig

Anne Doig in action, at a Scotland tour's get-acquainted meeting.

We discovered Anne Doig when Rick first considered developing a tour of Scotland. She came highly recommended as a true Scot, someone who lived and breathed her unique culture — and it's proven to be true. She adores her country, its unpredictable weather and quirky customs. She even loves haggis.  Anne leads most of our Scotland tours, and tour members agree...she charms their socks off.

Many first-time travelers to Scotland assume the locals will speak like Sean Connery — and they are shocked to find a language barrier. What do you think?

We're not trying to be thrawn (difficult). Well, maybe, just to have some fun with you!

What we call "Lowland Scots" or "Old Scots" is more like an old cousin to Standard English rather than just an accented version of English, like Americans speak. Prior to Scotland and England uniting in 1707, Lowland Scots was the most common language here — even the king spoke it. But then the middle classes and aristocracy switched to Standard English so they could join in the great Imperial adventure of the British Empire. (Not so strange, really. Even today, if you want to get ahead in business — or be a film star, like Mr. Connery — it certainly helps to be fluent in Standard English.)

That aside, even now you'll find that Scots who've come from less-educated or less-traveled families will still use a lot of Old Scots in their everyday language. It is considered a dialect today — one that is totally impenetrable to visitors. It's like you or I trying to understand Shakespeare's English being spoken at a rapid pace (not slowed way down as it is in the theater). But won't worry, it's nothing to fear. 

What is the correct way to pronounce Edinburgh? And what does it mean?

Edinburgh is pronounced "Edinburra" (or "Edinbra" in Glasgow, just to be thrawn). It was named Edwin's Burg (Saxon for "fort") when it was incorporated into the Anglo Kingdom of Northumbria. As the fort grew into a settlement, common usage shifted the pronunciation toward the sound "Edinburra" as borough or proper town. The English also say "burra" — famously mispronounced by Paul Simon in "Are you going to Scarborough Fair."

Anything else you want to tell us about the language?

At the start of a recent tour I was greeting the group. I welcomed them with the toast "Slainte Bha," which means cheers (literally "go with health"). I raised my glass many times and declared, "Slainte Bha! Go with health! Slainte Bha! Go with health!" Four days later, one very timid and polite lady told me she thought I was telling my group, "Go to Hell!"  She was so reserved and polite I can't imagine what she thought of me and the country before we sorted it out! We all had a good laugh.

What's your favorite stop on our tour of Scotland?

My favorite stop would have to be the Crannog Centre on Day 4, which takes visitors back to Neolithic times. But my favorite drive is along the 830 from Mallaig to Fort William on Day 10. The route incorporates silver sands and views of islands that are said to have inspired Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." I play Mark Knopfler's music here, particularly his theme from the film "Local Hero." They filmed the beach scenes here, so evocative of sand and sea and wilderness. I love it! This area was made off-limits for secret training during World War II, which helped to keep it undeveloped. It is the most natural area of Scotland, our best look at how the country was before the industrial and agricultural revolutions of the 18th century. I love that route and I'm so glad we do it with Rick's tours.


What Anne won't tell you — here's how her tour alums rave about her:

"Anne made the trip into a truly magical experience. She was kind, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. I loved her humor and her stories. Anne was really able to create a sense of family among our group. She loves Scotland, and it really shows. In no way was she even average! By the end of the trip, she felt like family. I wouldn't travel to Scotland without her!"

— Tiffany in Colorado Springs, CO — Best of Scotland in 11 Days, Sept. 2010

"Anne was the best guide ever! She shared a TON of information, and it was all fascinating. Her love of Scotland and its history was obvious and contagious; I ended up buying a book on the history of Scotland, and I can't wait to dig into it. She was also very organized and made sure everyone heard and understood any important directions. I thought she dealt with our variety of personalities and interests extremely well. My only regret is that I didn't get her laugh on video because it was completely infectious!"

— Sandy in Concord, CA — Best of Scotland in 11 Days, Aug. 2010