In the Drivers Seat – Tour Leader Michael


Our ‘In the Driver Seat’ series will provide some insight into our wonderful Tour Leaders. You’ll learn about their time before they took to the road and what they like about Scotland too. Today we introduce you to our Tour Leader Michael.

Tour Leader Michael in the Driver Seat

Q. What is your name and how long have you been a Tour Leader with Discover Scotland Tours?

A. I’m known as Michael (The Kilt Man) O’Brien and I’ve been a Tour Leader for a very short 5 years.

Tour Leader Michael exploring Scotland
St Conan's Kirk

Q.  Can you recall a particular tour that you really enjoyed?

A. I like to think that when on tour I try to make every trip special for every individual on my bus. Our 1 day tour to Oban and the Western Highlands is my favourite tour, and one of the reasons for this is that we get to visit a place called St Conan’s Kirk. It’s not mentioned on the tour itinerary because it’s not always possible to visit, (private function, wedding, funeral). However, when possible I always visit. I remember telling the story to a group of elderly ladies, how a son who loved his mother so much that he built her her own private Kirk (church)

I told them that the son wasn’t a qualified architect, he was self taught. He built it himself with stone that came from the mountain that overlook the kirk. I told them about the separate parts of the kirk, how he furnished the kirk with items from around the world (Dolphin Chairs from Vienna, a stained glass window he found in a graveyard in Edinburgh) to name but a few.

That when he died he was laid to rest in his very own part of the kirk.

They were so excited to get there. Let me tell you they were not disappointed I literally had to drag them out of the kirk, they all said that they would come back one day and spend a lot longer at the kirk, I can’t blame them.

Q. If you had to choose one viewpoint in Scotland to photograph, where would it be and why? 

A. Ratagan Pass. This viewpoint comes high on my list as it is a place that I have happy associations with. Sailing from the Isle of Skye you get a small ferry over Loch Duich to Glen Elg. You then climb up a single track road that weaves its way in true alpine fashion over the Ratagan Pass to Glen Elg. About three quarters of the way to the 350m summit of the pass, you arrive at. a car park with glorious views towards the Five Sister of Kintail.

The sisters are a popular mountain ridge for climbers and they get their name from a local legend. According to folklore, there were originally seven beautiful sisters, but 2 of the prettiest ones were taken as wives by 2 Irish brothers who promised that their brothers would return to wed the 5 sisters left behind. The 5 sisters waited for several months and then eventually lost hope that their suitors would arrive, but as an insurance policy they asked a witch to ensure that they would retain their beauty until the brothers arrived. The witch did protect their beauty, but did so by turning them into stone. That’s what you see before you from the view point, 5 mountains standing shoulder to shoulder looking out to sea…..Amazing

5 Sisters of Kintail
Dumbarton Castle where our Tour Leader Michael found his coin

Q. What is your favourite fact or story that you share on tour?

A. That has to be my metal detecting story. I tell my passengers about Dumbarton Castle, about William Wallace who left from the castle in 1305, and Mary Queen of Scots who also left from the castle at the age 6 heading for France. She then came back when her French husband had died.

I then explain about my love for metal detecting and how one day I was down at the castle hoping to find some hidden treasure ( I hadn’t found much to that point). One day when I was coming off the sands thinking my detector was switched off, when it was still on. I passed over a piece of grass when the detector bleeped …  strange, I passed over the grass again … bleep bleep bleep. I stopped and got my small shovel out and buried about 12in down I found a Hammered Sixpence from the Reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st dated 1562. OMG.

What I had found was a coin from the Reign of the English Queen that had ordered the execution of the Scottish Queen who had left from Dumbarton Castle, where I had found this coin. I found this coin before I became a Tour Leader, so glad I kept hold of it.

Q. What is your favourite Scottish food?

A. Scottish food, I love Scottish food. What I like most about Scottish food is it’s so simple and there’s lots to choose from. So I don’t have a favourite, but, some of the ones that I could eat every day are:

  • Scotch Pies, hot or cold, you can eat them on the go. One of the things you grab when you’re late for something… the best!
  • Porridge, when you have a wee bit of time in the morning. Especially on a winters morning, nothing beats a hot bowl of Scots Porridge Oats. Now the big question? Sugar or Salt. I’m a Salt man myself. What’s yours?
  • Cullen Skink (fish soup) Soup is normally a starter, not this soup. Believe me this soup is a main course all by itself.
  • Haggis Neeps and Tatties (Haggis Turnip and Potatoes) another one of these foods that I can eat every day, even had it for breakfast on more that one occasion.
  • Mince and Tatties (I’m hungry just naming all these dishes!) is another household favourite. Cook the mince with carrots, peas, in fact you can use any vegetables that’s lying around, mix in a gravy.
  • Deep fried Pizza, that’s right, we take a fully cooked Pizza, we cut it into 4. We then dip it into a batter and deep fry it. Sounds strange, but it’s amazing another must try when in Scotland.
  • Steak Pie, In Scotland it’s traditional that on a Sunday when other households are having Chicken for their evening meal. We have Steak Pie with lots of vegetables and  mashed potatoes and don’t forget that gravy. If you haven’t tried it you’ve never lived.
Scotch Pies, one of our Tour Leader Michael's favourite foods
Cullen Skink, our Tour Leader Cliff's favourite Scottish Food

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