The Duke of Argyll has presented newly qualified professional Scottish tourist guide Martin Nichol with his official badge.
Martin, who lives in Lenzie, successfully completed an 18 month training course organised by the Scottish Tourist Guides Association to qualify as professional Scottish Blue Badge tourist guides.
Blue Badge Guides are qualified to take visitors on tours anywhere in Scotland, while Green Badge Guides are qualified to guide in regions and Yellow Badge Guides at specific locations.
There are now 318 Blue Badge guides in Scotland, 124 Green Badge guides qualified to guide in regions including 61 on Orkney where there are growing numbers of cruise ship visits and 30 Yellow Badge guides.
The course is accredited by the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations and is the only one of its kind in Scotland.
Students study a wide range of subjects including art, archaeology, geology, film and TV, and sports. They also do regional studies and travel around Scotland and learn how to guide on a coach and at historical sites as well as doing walking tours.
Once they complete the course the STGA provides a booking service for the guides who can also seek work from many other travel and tourist organisations.
The Duke, whose family home at Inveraray castle is regularly visited by tourist guides and their clients, told the newest recruits: “You are all amazing ambassadors and I am sure you will do a fantastic job.
“You have an opportunity and an ability to influence people. You have the ability to spread the word of what we have got here because you speak to people and they go home and speak to their friends. Go out, spread the word, encourage people to come to Scotland.”
The Duke also revealed the castle had enjoyed a record year with more than 102,000 visitors compared to 65,000 in 2001 when he started running it following the death of his father.
STGA chairman John Duncan said: “There is a lot of demand for qualified tourist guides in Scotland and we are delighted to have trained up these people to the highest standards for this growing market.
“There are many unqualified tourist guides but having the Blue Badge qualification is a kite mark of quality for the industry.
“People on our course are taught about professional ethics, group management and business knowledge and skills to make them properly equipped to look after visitors.”
“We believe it is essential for Scotland’s international reputation as a tourist destination that we have the highest standards of professionalism and this course provides that assurance to visitors.”