STAY LONGER SEE LESS EXPERIENCE MORE
David MacDonald grew up in Glasgow but spent most summers in Portree with his paternal Grand-Parents. The experience of playing and exploring in Portree as a child stayed with him as he entered adulthood and began a career in finance following an accountancy degree. It didn’t take him long to realise that the world of finance was not the career for him. His true vocation was sharing his knowledge of, and love for, Portree and the Isle of Skye.
The summer of 2018 was the first season for his new venture offering tourists a personal guided tour around Portree. One year on and his business has been re-branded “Experience Portree” with two daily walking tours – one in the morning and one in the evening just as the summer sun begins to set on the town.
“Coastlines, clans, fairies and folklore” is described as an introduction to Skye. David takes visitors to various viewpoints around the island’s capital talking about the geological creation of Skye, what gives the mountains their distinctive shape, the dynamics of the Clan system, local fairy folklore and much more.
Along the way – and to keep energy levels up – he introduces clients to some Scottish delicacies from Irn Bru to Caramel Wafers. Americans in particular find it fascinating that Scotland is the only country in the world where Coca Cola is not the most popular soft drink. They like our Irn Bru describing the taste as “Bubble gum”.
The evening walk is much more of hike to reach the top of the hill overlooking the town as the sun begins to set. Almost every night last year visitors were treated to the majestic sight of a White-tailed Sea-Eagle in flight. One night they witnessed a flying lesson for a young fledgling eagle.
When the sun has set they retire to a local pub for a whisky tasting which includes pairing specific Malts with different flavours of chocolate. It’s at this point that David is able to give insider information on where to visit to avoid the crowds and experience the real Skye. David is a real supporter of slow tourism and SkyeConnect’s online marketing campaign #Skyetime, which encourages visitors to ‘Stay Longer, See Less, Experience More’.
The inspiration for David’s business and the concept of having a trusted ‘friend’ on the island came from an experience as a tourist in Nashville.
“In America my experience came to life when I was able to interact with local people. I was in the Musicians hall of fame in Nashville and there was this Irish guy who heard me talking. He came over and spent the next 20 minutes writing a list of things that I should do in Nashville. Places to go and places to play music. It just changed my whole perspective – he basically gave me Nashville on a plate. It occurred to me sitting in my bedroom that no-one is really offering that insight in Skye in an interactive way. There are loads of activities you can do but no-one really shares the story of Skye. So that’s my product. It’s about building a connection to Skye that visitors remember. So they have friends on Skye and the next time they come back they have a base.”
Creating an authentic experience for visitors is not only essential for David’s business, it will be vital for the future of tourism as a whole on Skye.
“Unlike Glasgow where you have a really competitive environment….Skye is a place where competition is so low and demand is so high you can get away with substandard service. Some restaurants you go into they don’t smile, they don’t engage with you. I actually think that is something that we all need to take personally on Skye. We need to take it personally that people visiting us are being put off by these businesses that don’t have exceptional service……. I don’t think people realise how sensitive our industry is. It only takes a few influencers to come here and say that its not that great or they had bad service…or its beautiful but the people aren’t friendly, to really have an impact. I want to be the antitheses to that.”
As the season develops David is planning to add an afternoon Food Tour of Portree and, being a musician, he has plans for some intimate gigs with local musicians to allow small numbers of visitors to hear authentic folk music and to hear the stories behind the songs.
David starts his Summer season on the 15th of April. The morning tour, starting at 1030 costs £15 with the evening tour beginning at 2000 and costing £35 which includes the Whisky and chocolate tasting. Bookings can be made at experienceportree.com
Apart from counting the bookings, the world of accountancy is now a distant memory as David MacDonald aims to become the friendly face of tourism on Skye offering visitors a memorable experience that encourages them to come back for more.
Experience Portree – guided tours with a friendly touch
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