A little greener…

My vision for Starfish Travel was to go electric in 2023 but that was not meant to happen based on vehicle capacity, costs but mostly reach and re-charge time. Based on annual mileage this could save up to 21 t of CO2 emmission- the biggest saving.

I am usually a little suspicious of “green washing” but with failing to switch to an EV Starfish Travel still needed to contirbute something.

In January 2023 Starfish Travel invested a small amount into Highlands Rewilding.

In February 2023 Starfish Travel achieved the Green Toursim Silver Award:

This is only the beginning and achieving a Gold award somewhere in the furture would be fabulous.

On a monthly bases Starfish Travel also contributes to Ecology:

I am aware that these are only very small contributions but it is a start.

On a broader range Starfish Travel also supports the National Trust Scotland both as a member and with volunteering occassionally at Kellie Castle:

Starfish Travel is also member of Historic Environment Scotland, Innerpeffray Library, Arran Heritage Museum and the Wildlife Trust

Reasons to come to Scotland

Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet such a variety of fabulous people while showing them my favourite country, Scotland.

I frequently visit the same places, but it will never get boring for one, thanks to changing weather each place will always be different and, secondly, my guests join me from all over the world.

Some of the more common reasons to make the journey are: a true love for golf, family ancestry, loving the Royal Family, Outlander and most of all a nature connection.

Recently, I had a lovely family from the US, joining me for a day tour into the Highlands.

Initally the trip was planned as a golf trip, but then diverted to a trip to Iona as one of them is teaching at Iona University (if you click the link you can read the story berhind the name).

They spent some days on Iona, added the golf in St Andrews and joined me to visit Balmoral.

Balmoral Castle

View point near Laurekirk/Fettercairn

There is also all boy’s Catholic High School called Iona Preparatory, their athletics teams are called the Gaels as well.  Like the University, it also takes its name from the Isle of Iona.

St Columba is the patron saint of Iona University.  Both schools were founded by the Irish Christian Brothers who were founded by Blessed Edmund Rice, following in St. Columba’s footsteps after the monks fled Scotland (after the Viking invasions) and returned to Ireland.  

Postboxes now and then…. “pillar box wars of the 1950ties”

When touring Scotland I often inform my clients that story telling is a natural talent of all Scots. Therefore, there is an unlimited number of stories, whether it is the numerous ghost stories of various castles telling about missing pipers, people playing cards until doomsday, not to forget the various grey ladies and many, many more.

The Scots are also notoriously known for disobedience against the authorities: Magaret Thatcher trialed her poll tax in Scotland and failed.

One of my favourite stories is that of the post boxes. The roadside letter boxes first appeared in 1852.

You see them all over the British Isles in various shapes, forms and colours (they are green in Nothern Ireland)

These boxes stated the contemporary monarch’s monogram, such as seen on this one:

Above you see one created during the reign of George VI, who ruled from 1936 till his death in 1952 (Here G for George VI and R for the Latin Regis/king).

Before his daughter, the late Queen Elisabeth, was coronated in 1953 Royal Mail rolled out a new version:

A number of Scots objected to these because there had never been an Elisabeth I in Scotland. During Elisabeth I’s reign, Scotland was ruled by a Scottish Queen, Mary, Queen of Scots.

Edinburgh Live tells the story in this article and the design was changed to ER with a crown between the letters but no number or no mention of the late Queen Elisabeth at all:

In 2018 (not that long ago!) a ERII post box appeared in Dunoon and yet again caused another “stushie” as described in this article of The National.

If you wish to read more on the “pillar box war” and anything else relating to any post box in the Bristish Isles I highly recommened Martin Robinson’s book, “Old Letter Boxes”

For more about the uniqueness of my fellow Scots; come and visit and let me show “my” Scotland. Please fill in this form: Contact

A little addiotion to this post. Here is a rare ER VII post box:

Old clocks…

Often things happen by the weirdest coincidence… I took my motorbike for its MOT and wanted to wait for it so I stroll through Cupar and noticed this amazing “shop” full of old clocks- seriously old clocks:

Eric Young is the owner of this shop and a clock maker himself. There is even a stunning clock on display he created. The clocks currently on display come all from one house, which is undergoing renovation which allows the rest of us to go and view these amazing pieces of careful engineering. The exhibition still runs till July and and is definitely well a visit.

Thanks to Eric I had a peek into my great grandfather’s pocket clock which is nowhere near as old as some of those exhibits

Creative Concierge, V&A, Dundee

VisitScotland and the V&A set up to host the Creative Congierge yesterday in Dundee. The event was intended to inform about all the fantastic events happening in Dundee this year and also to encourage attendees to network, but above all it allowed attending businesses to visit the Tartan Exhibition.

It was a lovley evening and since I had not yet made it to the Tartan Exhibition a superb excuse to do so. If you have not been yet I highly recommend it and it is so big that I intend to return very soon to spend more time investigating all these fabulous exhibits in more details.

Next month is Dundee’s month of design !

Sustainable tourism with the Harry Potter hibe ?

It is spring break and I was lucky enough to be be booked for a Highland Tour by some lovely people who wanted to see Glenfinnan Viaduct as one of them is a true Harry Potter fan. We booked the first ferry from Armadale to Mallaig and ended up (luckily for my guests) at Glenfinnan when the steam train meandered its way across the famous bridge. My clients managed to get some photos of the event and were super happy.

However, there are three car parks which were full. I dropped my clients off and pulled into a a layby, where I bought a coffee and stayed at the car as I was blocking other cars who were mostly illegally parked there. Prior to dropping my guests we went passed the car parks (to turn around mainly) but that road (which is the main artery to Maillaig for heavy traffic) was almost blocked by cars randomly abdoned by their owners to capture a selfie with a steam train.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

It is total mayhem really.

While I was sipping my coffee and waiting for my guests to return I got engaged in a nice conversation with a local lady who I met at the church. Listening to her what this mass invasion does to the community I was ready to refuse future guests to go to Glenfinnan. However, like with the Fairy Pools on Skye or just Skye that will not work I suppose.

Church at Glenfinnan

I love my job and take great pride to realise my client’s dreams but I do have sincere reservation when it comes to over crowding.

Switching and buying an EV. But which electric car?

Back in 2021 I visited Tesla in Edinburgh and tried the Model 3 for 45 mins. I was so taken by this amazing experience that I thought why did I not switch years ago?

Tesla Model 3
A car desined to be electric: Tesla Model S

Sadly, the Tesla did not have the seating capacity I required.

It took me a while to convince Mercedes Benz to let me have an e-Vito L3 to try.

Mercedes e Vito L3
Mercedes e Vito L3 EV with an alleged range of 230 mile

A few months later I again set off to Edinburgh to collect the e-Vito and take it on a trip to the Highlands. The car itself drove fine and basically was a Vito as I had driven for years, but the range of 230 miles was not a lot to start with but I never managed to reach anywhere near. I could not charge the car at home, so I was forced to leave it in St Andrews to charge enough to take up north to Forres. I never managed to charge 80% within 45 mins and I did a lot of worrying and walking on this trip. Incidently I did the exactly same trip a few months later with my combustion engined Viano and never even had to stop to refill.

Viano 7 seater combustion engine
23 t CO2 emission per annum (50K miles)

I returned home quite desillusioned but did not entirely give up on the idea of going electric.

Since then I observed the EV market, have test driven quite a few more EV’s and attended an EV show in London as well as the Energy Saving Trust‘s Decarbonasation Taxi Forum webinars and also visited the amazing Arnold Clark Innovation Centre in Glasgow.

To state it bluntly there is still no EV on the market which has sufficient range, charging capacity or seats to do my business any justice.

However, the Energy Saving Trust kindly provided an analysis and my current C02 emission per annum is a staggering 23 t.

For this coming season roughly 30 % of my groups are larger than four but for the remaining 70% I could put a five seater EV on the road.

Running en EV will require more planning but creating my tours does involve planning in any case.

Currently I am considering the MG4 or the Tersla Y.

What would you buy? Tell me!

MG 4 Starting at £27k
MG 4, £27 k 218 mile range
Tesla Y£45 miles
Tesla Y £45 range 283 miles

Vegan in Scotland?

Over the years I have had a number of guests who either had dietary requirements or are vegetarian or vegan by choice. Generally speaking Scotland caters quite well for both and there are even vegetarian B&Bs but not always where you need them.

Fresh fruit is easily sourced in Scotland (in season)

As standard Starfish Travel provides bottled water and a fruit basket (in summer always locally sourced and containing blueberries, rasberries, brambles and strawberries). During whisky tours I have also supplied packed lunches which were mostly randomly bought to ensure some stamina when sampling a little too much whisky.

In the aim to focus on locally produced food and cater for vegans in particular we have teamed up with local businesses and have added some own efforts. Do take a look at some examples:

Apple crumbles, freshly milled wheat, locally sourced Bramley apples and butter
Gluten-free, freshly milled oat bread, vegan
Vegan spread & soft cheese for your gluten-free oat bread sandwiches
Vegan avocado basil sandwich
Vegan soft cheese, tomato, coriander, basil sandwich
Vegan butternut/carrot soup
Cappuchino with foamed oat milk

Let us know what you think as well…..

Scotland’s best travelled Queen: Mary 1548-1587

If you search this website for Queen Mary of the Scot’s sightseeing tours you find her under the header of film locations, which really does not do her any justice, especially as it only refers to the newest movie about her life.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots is a 2018 historical drama film directed by Josie Rourke (in her feature directorial debut) and with a screenplay by Beau Willimon based on John Guy‘s 2004 biography Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart.

Linlithgow Palace

Mary was born on December 7th or 8th 1542 at Linlithgow Palace. Her father died within a week of her birth at Falkland Palace and I am pretty convinced that the cause of his death was not the fact that Mary was a woman.

Falkland Palace

She was crowned queen and her mother, Mary of Guise, ruled on her behalf. Mary of Guise was afraid that Henry VIII may attempt to seize Mary forcibly marry her to his son Edward VI. For her safety Mary, who was brought up at Stirling Castle until then, was moved to France where she grew up as catholic and was promised to the future king of France, Francis, whom she married in 1558 and became Queen Consort of France. She also had a legitimate claim to the English throne through her grandmother, Magret Tudor (sister of Henry VIII).

Stirling Castle

In 1560 Mary lost her mum, her father in law, King Henry II and her husband, which forced her to return to Scotland in 1561. A country she hardly knew, which had become protestant in her absence.

She ruled successfully for five years until she married Henry Stuart/Lord Darnley, who himself had a claim to the English throne, but was otherwise anything but a suitable husband to her, though she had James VI/I with him who was born in 1566.

In February Lord Darnley was murdered and Mary may have been involved.

James Hepburn, 4th Lord of Bothwell was accused of Darnley’s murder but was acquitted in April 1567. He kidnapped and raped Mary, which forced her to marry him. On July 24th 1567.

This caused her to fall out of favour, especially with her half brother, James, Earl of Moray (an ilegitimate child of Mary’s father James V).

Mary was forced to abdicate while held prisoner at Loch Leven Castle.

Loch Leven Castle

She fled and turned to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, for help, which led to her almost 20 years of house arrest. In 1586 Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. On 8th February 1587 Mary was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle.

This is extremely brief outline of Queen Mary’s life already provides sufficient evidence why people 500 years later are still fascinated by her.

The years follwoing Mary’s death polarised people into supporters or enemies- or catholics and protestants? George Buchanan (1506-1582) and John Leslie (1527-1596) both were influentual in promoting Mary’s life, look them up.

Two hundred years later Mary’s story was re-employed in the aftermath of 1745 Culloden to romanticise the story of the Stuarts. There is a famous painting kept at the Huntarian in Glasgow: Gavin Hamilton, The Abdication of Mary Queen of Scots, 1765 – 1773, oil painting, well worth visiting.

Between numerous images being created which did not even look like the real Queen as well as coinage in the 20th century filmaking took over:

Next to films numerous modern books are available too, such as: Lady Antonia Fraser’s 1969 book “Mary Queen of Scots”, Jenny Wormald, ” Mary Queen of Scots: A study in Failure”, John Guy’s, “My heart is my own: The life of Mary Queen of Scots” and many, many more.

If you wish to gain more insight into Mary’s life and legacy I suggest you take up Glasgow University Course on Furture Learn: The Life and Afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots, which is part of the Mary Queen of Scots Project of the University of Glasgow.

Mary was also closely linked to Holyrood Palace (where her secretary was mudered in front of her eyes). There is a Mary Queen of Scots Trail you can visit, the story of her Holyrood bed, the National Museums of Scotland also cover her story. Futhermore there are still many objects relating to her or which were in her possession, here is a Scotsman article.on the subject If her execution fascinates you check out the National Library.

Last but not least if you like a little Braveheart freedom the sisters Fee and Ellen Compton (their brother co-founded the SNP) played in a silent Mary Queen of Scots movie which has just been rescued, though I am not sure when it will be screned again.

If it takes you fancy you can even buy a Mary Queen of Scots dug.

Dreaming of visiting Scotland 2023?

If your world has just turned into winter wonderland (like mine has, see below) you may want to start dreaming about Scotland and if you do I have a few suggestions.

My drive this morning in Fife, Scotland

I love whisky and walking if that is you too try this book for entertainment and ideas. There are some very common routes, such as Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroiag (if you sample enough whisky on route you may never leave it either), but there is much more.

Personally, I have fallen in love with Morven penisula and NcNean which can easily include Mull and Tobemory. Since we should not drink and drive walking seem a real option.

There is also the option to visit the Hebridean distilleries by boat. Get in touch for more ideas:


Whisky Walks by Maria Manzanti

Starfish Travel is based in Fife so I know most of the attractions mentioned in the next book but thoroughly enjoyed reading it as there were of course things I did not know:

111 Place in Fife you should not miss by Gillian Tait

I have always been intrigued by the Picts and their rather unknown history this next book sheds light on a number of mis-interpretations but also truly new insights to what we know about the Picts.

Picts by Gordon Noble and Nicholas Evans
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