Robert Halkett grew up in Scotland and London. After working as a teaching assistant, photographer, and eventually a tour coach driver, he took the big leap in 1987, earning his Blue Badge as a London guide. Robert has worked as a tour manager/guide ever since, including Rick Steves groups since 2012.
Robert also has a huge appetite for travel. He answered these interview questions while on the Trans-Siberian Express, making his way from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia.
What led you to Rick Steves' Europe?
I became a registered London Blue Badge Tourist Guide back in 1987. After many years of guiding I decided to take a five-year career break to bicycle around the world. While I was staying with a friend in LA on the ride, I saw Rick's guidebook to Paris on the coffee table. My friend insisted that I give the company a call. Eventually I made that call, and my Rick Steves job interview took place while I was sitting by my bike on the side of the road in the Arizona desert. And now I've have been part of Rick's tour-guiding family since 2012!
How do you make your tours unique for people?
History and travel have long been my two great passions. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to combine both of these interests in my working life for the past 30 years. That experience lets me offer unique insights and deeper knowledge about the areas that I work in. I try hard to give my tour members an interesting and fun touring experience. Socially, I enjoy getting different personalities to gel together on the tour. I'm flexible and unflappable, with a little sense of humor thrown in for good measure. I'm happy when people say that these qualities make my tours unique.
Where do you enjoy guiding the most?
That would have to be London. Not only is this my home, but I feel that the city has so much to offer, from its history to its art, culture, and world-class restaurants. I love showing visitors the unseen parts of London that aren't on the tourist trail. For example, on the south side of the Thames, close to the Globe Theatre, there is a stone chair carved into a building wall. This was a ferryman's seat, a sort of taxi stand of the Middle Ages, where watermen would wait for customers to cross the Thames. You look at that, and it really helps trigger your imagination of what the scene must have felt like back then. But even at the major sights, I love seeing the delight on people's faces when they first catch a glimpse of the west entrance to Wells Cathedral or York Minster. Or seeing someone shed a tear when I talk about the Tomb of Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. The inscription is so moving: "Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior, unknown by name or rank, brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land…They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house."
Here's what Robert won't tell you…but his tour members will:
"The exceptional Robert Halkett made our week in London! He clearly loves his city. Robert knew exactly when, where, and how to position us for maximum viewing at the Tower of London, changing of the guard, and Churchill War Rooms. He's such a polished speaker who really loved meeting and being with folks. Robert's demeanor and knowledge never once came across as self-important, but as a personality that was approachable and helpful. Just a peach of a guy who was highly professional in every way — super A-1!"
— Mary in Springfield, VA