Scottish Tourist Guides Association

10 Things to Know About the Scottish Tourist Guides Association

1. What year was the STGA established, and where is the headquarters?

The Scottish Tourist Guides Association (STGA) was formed in 1959. In 1996 the Association was registered as a Limited Company in Scotland, with its headquarters in Stirling.


Guiding inside Edinburgh Castle © STGA
Edinburgh Castle Explanade © STGA

2. What is the primary mission/goal of the STGA? Along with outlining the mission/goals, if the association works with other local tourism organizations, be sure to include in the response.

The primary objectives of the STGA are:

  • to establish, co-ordinate, service and help to sustain a national association of qualified tourist guides in Scotland;
  • to provide assistance to members of the Association. This is achieved by staff and a Board of Directors who manage a guide booking system and provide technical, managerial and marketing support. Board committees focus on Training, Marketing, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Finance and work with Industry sector Partners in tourism e.g. the Scottish Government, City Councils, the Tourism Alliance (STA), Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), VisitScotland, local media and social media;
  • to collate and disseminate information relating to tourism and associated activities;
  • to promote the widespread recognition of the STGA and of the services provided by the Association and by its members within the tourism industry in the United Kingdom and elsewhere and amongst the general public;
  • to advance the reputation of qualified tourist guides in Scotland who are members of the STGA; with a view to raising the standards of tourist guiding in Scotland; and
  • to promote the employment of members of the STGA as qualified tourist guides in Scotland.

A kilted guide guides his group across the Royal Mile, Edinburgh © STGA
Outside Holyrood Palace gates, Edinburgh © STGA

3. How does someone become a qualified tourist guide in Scotland?

An individual can become a qualified tourist guide in Scotland by successfully completing the STGA tourist guide course and accreditation exam. STGA tourist guides are trained to EN/BS 15565, the European and British Standard for the Training and Qualification of Tourist guides. The Association offers three types of qualification:

  • Blue Badge (national qualification);
  • Green Badge (regional qualification); and
  • Yellow Badge (site/route qualification).

4. After becoming qualified, what are some of the professional development classes that guides typically take in Scotland to enhance their knowledge and skills?

STGA members are free to pursue their own development after qualification. However, the STGA does administer an optional Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme to encourage members to continuously develop and enhance their knowledge and skills. STGA guides who meet the requirements of the CPD scheme are identified by the following CPD accreditation flag on their web page:


5. Is there an official badge that qualified tourist guides in Scotland wear? If yes, describe the badge and include an image.

Qualified tourist guides in Scotland wear an official STGA badge according to their area of qualification. Images of the Blue, Green, and Yellow badges worn by members are shown below:


6. How many qualified tourist guides are members of the STGA and what are their diverse backgrounds? Also, how many languages do they guide in, and do they specialize in themed tours?

There are over 500 qualified tourist guides in Scotland who are members of the STGA:

  • Over 300 Blue Badge guides, qualified to guide anywhere across Scotland;
  • Over 180 Green Badge guides, qualified to guide in specific regions on the mainland and are mostly on the island groups; and
  • Over 40 Yellow Badge guides: qualified to guide in specific sites or routes.
  • 20 languages are offered across all guide types.

Guides work to client specific requirements, but some also specialise in certain subjects such as whisky, food & drink, music, art, architecture, literature, film, business, medicine etc.

The web page for each STGA guide provides details of their background, interests, guiding languages and expertise.

7. What are some of the top reasons for using a qualified tourist guide in Scotland?

Employing an STGA guide ensures that your guide is qualified, professional, knowledgeable, factually accurate, insured, trained in group management and safety, and skilled in the art of guiding. STGA tourist guides are therefore able to provide visitors with a unique insight into Scotland.

8. What are some of the popular places to visit in Scotland?

Scotland is a top tourism destination. It is known worldwide for its historic castles, dramatic scenery, beautiful gardens, excellent museums, fabulous art galleries, magnificent golf courses and iconic whisky distilleries. The list below suggests only a few examples of the unique experiences offered in Scotland’s cities and regions.

The STGA website provides several examples of day tours https://www.stga.co.uk/scotland-day-tour-ideas any multi-day tours https://www.stga.co.uk/scotland-itineraries which our guides can conduct for you. Tours often have themes such as golf, whisky, genealogy, textiles, film set locations for series such as Outlander and Game of Thrones. Depending on visitor’s interests bespoke tours can also be developed.

  • Edinburgh & Lothians – Edinburgh & Dirleton Castles, Palace of Holyrood House, Linlithgow Palace, the Royal Yacht Britannia and the National Gallery & Museum;
  • Glasgow & Ayrshire – Glasgow Cathedra & Necropolis, Pollock House, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Brodick & Culzean Castles, Charles Rennie Mackintosh House;
  • Stirling, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park – Stirling & Doune Castles, National Wallace Monument, Dunblane Cathedral, Inchmahone Priory;
  • Dundee & Angus – V & A Museum, Verdant Works, Discovery, J M Barrie’s Birthplace, Barry Mill, Glamis Castle, Arbroath Abbey, Dunkeld Cathedral;
  • Perthshire & Kingdom of Fife – Dunfermline Abbey & Palace, St Andrews Castle & Cathedral, Scone Palace, Scottish Crannog Centre, Culross, Falkland Palace;
  • Inverness & Highlands – Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, Brodie & Eilean Donan Castles, Culloden Moor, Glenfinnan Monument, Dunrobin Castle, Inverewe Gardens;
  • Aberdeenshire – Craigievar, Crathes & Dunnottar Castles, Johnstone & Pitmedden Gardens, Art Gallery Aberdeen, King’s College, St Machar’s Cathedral;
  • Scottish Borders – Dryburgh, Melrose & Jedburgh Abbeys, Smailholm Tower, Abbotsford House, Thirlestane Castle, Dawyck Botanic Garden, Floors Castle;
  • Dumfries and Galloway – Threave Garden and Estate, Cearlaverock Castle, Dundrennan Abbey, Ruthwell Cross, Whithorn Priory & Museum;
  • Argyll & Western Isles – Inveraray Castle & Gardens, Kilmartin Glen Monuments, numerous picturesque islands including Skye, Mull, Iona, Harris & Lewis;
  • Orkney Isles – Skara Brae, Maeshowe Chambered Cairn, St Magnus Cathedral, Italian Chapel, Stones of Stenness, Old Man of Hoy, Ring of Brodgar, Scapa Flow;
  • Shetland Isles – Hermaness Nature Reserve, Shetland Museum, Broch of Mousa, Jarslhof, St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland Craft Trail, Up Helly Aa Festival, Sumburgh Head.

9. What are some general tips you would give to potential visitors planning a vacation to Scotland?

  • Allow plenty of time to travel. Scotland is a small country but many journeys which look short on a map can be very slow due to the layout of the roads. In the highlands and islands, for instance, many roads are single track. Drivers often do not realise the amount of concentration required and have to make more stops than they anticipated.
  • Be aware that three banks in Scotland print notes (Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank). Although these look different, they are all legal currency.
  • Note that in a medical emergency, visitors can attend the accident and emergency department of a local hospital. The visitor will be treated but if they remain in hospital overnight the individual will require to provide health insurance details.
  • Save time by booking on-line. Many of the main visitor attractions in Scotland operate an on-line booking service and some tickets will indicate a time slot when the visitor can enter e.g. Edinburgh Castle.
  • Save money. Before visiting Scotland's paid-for attractions, it is well worth checking to see if there are any passes, offers and deals available via VisitScotland (https://www.visitscotland.com/holidays-breaks/cheap-budget/passes-offers/#visitscotland-offers).
  • Free attractions. There is no charge to visit the permanent collections in many museums and art galleries in Scotland.
  • Prepare for all kinds of weather. Scotland experiences changeable conditions throughout the year. Wearing layers of clothing can be the most effective.

10. Where can potential visitors to Scotland find out more information about STGA and also find a qualified tourist guide?

STGA website: www.stga.co.uk

Visitors can search the website for a specific named guide or by language, tour starting point, subject of interest and type of tour.

Visitors can book a guide directly using the contact details provided on each guide’s profile page or by contacting the STGA guide booking service on bookings@stga.co.uk. STGA office staff, who operate the booking service, will then assist in the selection and booking of the appropriate guide for you.