A MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM EDINBURGH CAB TOURS

A Merry Christmas?

At this time of year, we would normally be emailing travellers past, present and future who have taken tours with us or who have booked tours for the following year. Our greeting would traditionally consist of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas from Edinburgh Cab Tours and a Happy New Year as the icing on the cake. I might have even put together a short compilation video of the numerous visitors we had taken on tour this year.

BUT!!!!!

A little something has got in the way of being able to do that. If you haven’t already guessed – COVID-19 has had a major impact on every facet of our lives. It has made 2020 a year to remember for all of the wrong reasons.

Abstract covid-19 coronavirus background vector

For many it will be the year that they lost a loved one or indeed loved ones. For others perhaps their own health has been seriously compromised over the long term. Others will have lost their jobs and will be relying on the charity of others and the assistance of their respective government. 

As 2020 draws to a close, do we see a glimmer of hope from various big pharma companies? Let’s hope so and that the various vaccines that are rolled out will combat this tsunami of a virus.  

What have Edinburgh Cab Tours been doing in the meantime?

By now, we the collective Edinburgh Cab Tours, and me personally would be hanging up our kilts and putting our proverbial touring boots up after a hectic and busy tour season. However, there has been no tour season to speak of. My last booked and actual completed tour was on 15th March. So, this is truly the year that I, like many, will be eager to put behind us. 

For us in the tourism and hospitality industry, it has been a devastating year. With no earned income during the last 9 months, it has meant any “rainy day” money has been well and truly exhausted. If it were not for the British government assisting operators and other tour-related businesses with financial grants to see us through this year, many would have had to declare bankruptcy. Some, unfortunately, have fallen through the cracks and have lost everything. 

Whilst seeking other avenues of employment, I was initially able to keep myself busy updating my website and freshening up its content. I was also able to spend more time adding posts to my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. 

But the real leap forward was in creating more tour-related videos of Edinburgh and Scotland. At the invitation of Stephen Maloney at the Scottish Travel Society on Facebook, I took their subscribers on a three-part live virtual tour of Edinburgh’s New Town. Each live tour lasted approximately 45 minutes. It was actually quite exciting with viewers able to ask questions in real time. Once I had completed the tour, I was able to upload it to Facebook. Then other viewers could watch the tour afterwards and ask questions. 

However, it led on to me taking the plunge into creating my own tour videos which can now be found on my YouTube channel. In total, I have created over 45 videos. The most popular are the 1-Minute Snapshots of various locations. For those viewers who wish to luxuriate in the beauty of Edinburgh and Scotland, there are also longer videos. I have also provided suggested walking route videos, highlighting the key landmarks along the way with a little bit of background information. If you want to watch any of our videos please click here and subscribe (and like, if you like) our videos. This will ensure that you are notified of any new videos that I upload. Here’s one as a taster.

My temporary employment as a delivery driver for a well-known UK supermarket chain has slowed down my input in these areas. But I will be adding new videos from time to time. Apart from helping to pay a few bills, I guess one of the benefits of this type of work is that I have lost almost a stone in weight since starting…..some may say that I had at least a stone to lose!

Credit to Vauxford for image

New additions to our Tours

Although Edinburgh Cab Tours prides itself on having built its reputation providing high quality private vehicle tours, we decided to add two walking tours to our offering. Each are of three hours duration, with one tour covering the Old Town of Edinburgh and the other the New Town. These can only be booked through our website and we look forward to taking visitors on these tours.

You can’t beat taking visitors in person on our tours. We have truly missed it. For those visitors who had tours booked with us this year, we decided right at the very start of the lockdown to play fair with them. We contacted every one of our clients and offered either a full refund (less PayPal’s commission charge which they did not waive at the time), or to use their payment on account for a future tour. It was heart-warming to find that we had a fairly equal split of takers. To those who have chosen to defer their tour until next year or the year after, thank you. For those who chose to take a refund, we still hope to see you all in the future. 

What does the future hold?

If we put aside the fact that terms such as “COVID-19”, “Coronavirus”, “quarantine”, “self-isolation”, “lockdown”, distancing”, “furlough” are now part of daily conversation, I think as a global community there are uncertain times ahead. However, what has taken place in this last year has meant major change and I personally hope some of it will mean POSITIVE change. 

I don’t think that we are out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. To complete this journey I think that we collectively now need to stand together, socially-distanced of course, and support one another. We need to look after our nearest and dearest. If nothing else, I think this last year has taught us that we need to appreciate and cherish more those around us. Our time on this earth is far too short not to make the most of it.

Without getting into the politics of how we get out of this, these are unprecedented times, and our “global leadership” have taken decisions that they thought best at the time. Mistakes have been made but this really is uncharted territory. Scientists and forecasters can predict through modelling what they expect to happen but this virus hasn’t been given the modelling script and it plays by its own rules. 

Some extreme groups have seized this opportunity to push forward with their political agenda. That is unforgiveable. The country where this all began has reaped the benefit of increasing its production of goods and continues to export all around the world with impunity. All the time it has hidden the real facts about how, why, when and where this virus really began. That also is unforgiveable. Taking advantage of more democratic nations around the world, it continues its march for global domination by buying up companies whilst they are on their knees. That is also unforgiveable. 

I can understand the frustration felt by many whether it be racial or sexual inequality or hardship for the poorer members of our society. But I like to see the good in everyone and this has brought to the fore the fact that there are more good people than bad. Even if it is simply helping your elderly neighbour to get jobs done that they can’t do. Or helping out with community-based projects on a voluntary basis. Or where affordable, donating more to charities to help the disadvantaged in our society. We all must do our bit. 

What is the future of travel?

As I type this blog, the UK has been plunged into another lockdown effectively putting to an end the chances of families from separate households being able to enjoy Christmas together. The original plan had been to allow a 5-day relaxation of restrictions, allowing travel and mixing of households. But there has been an outbreak of a coronavirus variant which spreads more quickly. The government, in my opinion, has made the right call to impose restrictions akin to a full lockdown. 

For travellers arriving from the rest of the world, presently you need to complete a passenger locator form before your arrival. You may also need to self-isolate for up to 10 days when you arrive, depending on where you’ve travelled from. Without the benefit of a crystal ball, who knows how long this will continue for. I had originally predicted that we may start to see travel from overseas to the UK recommence by about the middle of 2021. However, it may take until 2022. Here in the UK, it has been calculated that it will take the whole of 2021 to vaccinate the entire population. Until that is completed, and we “have a lid” on the virus, we cannot take the risk of further outbreaks. 

Essentially, we want everyone to be 100% safe. That includes locals who live here and for our visitors that come to experience our beautiful country. And that is what it will come down to – CONFIDENCE! 

EFFECTIVE VACCINE – NO QUARANTINE – PUBLIC CONFIDENCE = RESUMPTION OF TRAVEL 

Tourism

When we do eventually get those three factors all lined up, the people of Scotland will look forward to welcoming you with open arms. We here at Edinburgh Cab Tours will most definitely look forward to seeing you all, including our returning visitors. 

Not only will our arms be open, but our hearts too. Humans are by nature a social group as well as inquisitive about their environment. The great thing is that our mountains, lochs, hills and beaches will still be here when you can eventually travel. Our history won’t have changed. Our most iconic locations of castles, palaces, abbeys and conservation areas will still be here. The long suppressed anticipation will make it all the sweeter when you can actually visit them in person. 

So, whether you choose to self-guide yourself around them or to use our private tour services, just know that we are as eager to show you around as you are to visit. 

When things do start to move in the right direction, and if we are already booked we can put you in touch with some of our fellow tour operators who provide a great service like ourselves. I would like to just say thanks to them because collectively we have kept each other’s spirits positive during these dismal months. They are:

Gareth at Edinburgh Expert and Visit Edinburgh

Stephen at Edinburgh and Scotland Tour Company

Alan at Ecosse Executive

In the meantime, let’s look forward to a brighter future, keep your loved ones close, and above all have a happy, warm and very safe Christmas.

We will see you in 2021, either in person or virtually. 

To everyone around the world, a Merry Christmas from Edinburgh Cab Tours.

Sláinte.  

Comedy in the Movies

COMEDY IN THE MOVIES

If you ever speak to someone from outside of Scotland, they will generally comment on how as a nation we are always so friendly. They will then say that they love our sense of humour. But that will generally be followed by “But I couldn’t understand half of what you say!” So, this the last of our series looks at Comedy in the Movies.

All five of the movies that I have chosen were filmed entirely in Scotland. Four of them display how humour and poking fun at ourselves is inherently written into our DNA. If you’re not from Scotland but love our quirks, customs and traditions, then chances are you are descended from a Scot somewhere along the way.

I think that this is why Comedy in the Movies of a typically Scottish flavour goes down so well, just like a smooth single malt whisky. You don’t have to be Scottish to enjoy it.

In each of the movies below you will recognise some of the actors and others you won’t. The Angel’s Share for example, and my personal favourite, uses all relatively unknown actors. The dark humour shines through and has you rooting for the underdog.

Whereas ‘What We Did on Our Holiday’ has a fantastic ensemble cast who provide the humour, while Billy Connolly who is regarded as one of the best comedians to come out of Britain takes a more understated ‘back seat’ role.

The only one that is not based on Scottish humour is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I have included this because it was filmed entirely on location in Scotland. It has remarkably stood the test of time. It never ceases to amaze me when I take one of my American groups to Doune Castle where much of it was filmed and someone in the group is able quote word for word, lines from the movie!

So I hope that you enjoy my selection for Comedy in the Movies.

THE ANGEL’S SHARE

This has to be my favourite Scottish comedy-drama. My wife and I went to watch this at the cinema when it was first released back in 2012 and the cinema was packed. You know that you are watching a great film when the whole audience spontaneously laugh at some truly comedic scenes. 

The lead character is Robbie who is serving 300 hours community payback service to avoid going to prison. The supervisor takes Robbie under his wing because he sees potential in him. During this time Robbie becomes a father so Harry invites Robbie back to his place to toast the birth with a vintage Scotch. It transpires that Robbie has a “good nose.” This means he can differentiate a great Highland whisky from an even better Speyside and learns about the “Angel’s Share.”

The movie follows Robbie and his little group of followers’ attempts to acquire three bottles of a single malt that are going to be auctioned. This is a belter of a movie ably directed by Ken Loach and takes in some great locations in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Naturally, a movie about whisky takes in the Highlands and a couple of great distilleries. Watch it – you won’t be disappointed. If you struggle with the accent, it might be an idea to switch on the subtitles!

WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY

Here is another movie that I didn’t hold high expectations for. However, the story combined with the cast and the beautiful scenery of the Highlands made for a fun movie. It is a story of family dynamics and relationships amongst the three generations.

Bill Connolly, diagnosed with terminal cancer, plays the cantankerous 75 year-old patriarchal grandfather. David Tennant and his estranged wife Rosamind Pike come together with their three kids for the long journey from London to the Highlands for his father’s last birthday. Then we have the added complexity of Tennant’s wealthy millionaire brother whom he resents organising the birthday celebrations. 

If you have never seen a “Viking” funeral, this is your opportunity to see one. But this might be a Viking funeral that even a Viking might chuckle at. This is an otherwise feel-good movie that will leave you with a smile on your face.

THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON

For me this is a film which on the face of it I didn’t expect much but it exceeded my expectations. It has a great cast including Robert Carlyle (Full Monty) who also directs, Emma Thompson and Ray Winstone. 

It is set in Bridgeton, a district just to the east of Glasgow city centre. The film follows a period in the life of 50 year-old Barney Thomson who leads a mundane existence as a barber. This all changes when his manager gives him the bad news that he has to let him go because he basically “disnae have any patter wi the customers.” Barney begs for his job but accidentally stabs his boss in the chest with a pair of scissors. And so begins a sequence of events that embroil his mother Cemolina played by Emma Thompson.

She helps to cover up his mishap by chopping up the manager’s body and putting inside her freezer. Coincidentally, there is a manhunt in progress because a serial killer is on the loose. Barney finds out by accident that his mother is the serial killer. 

If you like your comedy dark, you’ll enjoy this. The pace of the movie flags in a couple of places but they are outweighed by the great comedy dialogue between Barney and his mother and Barney and the police.  

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL

It has never ceased to amaze me just how many of my American tour groups are big fans of Monty Python. This movie released in 1975 was a comedy loosely based on the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. 

So, if you like your comedy movies that take the word “bonkers” to a new level then this is the one for you. Be ready for God to be portrayed as W.G.Grace, Knights who say “Ni,” a Trojan Rabbit, Knights with no horses but a set of coconuts. If none of that makes sense, then watch the film and hopefully it will. 

Almost the whole of the movie was filmed in Scotland. Having been promised that they could use a cross section of castle throughout Scotland, they were let down at the eleventh hour and were only permitted the use of Doune Castle and Castle Stalker. Through some very ingenious filming most of the castles that appeared in the movie were filmed at Doune. 

Both before and after the filming of this movie, Doune Castle has been extensively used for film and TV productions. The most notable production to date has been Outlander which has seen the footfall to Doune increase by over 100%. If this is somewhere you MUST visit why not take our Outlander Tour to experience ‘Castle Leoch.’

The premise for the movie was given a second life when it was adapted for the Broadway stage in 2005 to become the critically acclaimed Spamalot.  

RESTLESS NATIVES

This low budget adventure comedy released in 1985 performed well at the box office in Scotland but didn’t achieve the same level of success overseas. A lack of a big budget shows through but I think ultimately gives the movie it’s charm.

The story follows two youths from the working class area of Wester Hailes on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Disaffected by their grey and mundane lives, they follow the British Government advice to the millions of unemployed to “get on their bikes.” They acquire a Suzuki GP 125 motorbike, don masks and head out onto the tourist trails of the Highlands holding up tour buses. Instead of keeping the money, they become modern day Robin Hoods releasing it to the public as they race around the streets on their bike. 

There are plenty to feast the eyes on with locations in and around Edinburgh all the way up into the Highlands. For those that like 80s music, the movie soundtrack is provided by Scotland’s own home-grown Big Country.