From pilot to tour guide

Banchory man Aidan Bell with course director Mary Kemp Clarke and the Duke of Argyll
Banchory man Aidan Bell with course director Mary Kemp Clarke and the Duke of Argyll

A retired pilot from Banchory has qualified as a tourist guide.

Aidan Bell successfully completed an 18-month training course organised by the Scottish Tourist Guides Association.

As a blue badge guide, he can take visitors on tours anywhere in Scotland.

The course is accredited by the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations and is the only one of its kind in Scotland.

Students study a wide range of subjects including art, archaeology, geology, film and TV, and sports.

They also do regional studies and travel around Scotland and learn how to guide on a coach and at historical sites as well as doing walking tours.

Aidan, 65, received his official badge from the Duke of Argyll, whose family home Inveraray Castle is regularly visited by tourist guides and their clients.

He said: “I’d had a successful career as an airline pilot and was looking for something else to do when a friend told me about the Scottish Tourist Guide Association’s Blue Badge course.

“It seemed a great idea. I would learn a lot about my own country in the process, and then at the end be paid to share my knowledge with visitors.

“What I didn’t realise is how much hard work there would be acquiring that knowledge - eighteen months of intense study, with academic essays to write and skills to absorb, followed by some pretty gruelling written and practical exams both in English and, because I wanted to use my language skills, German.

It was a huge relief to find I’d passed the course.”