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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 03/08/2022

We launched a new feature in 2020 so that you can get to know our team a little better! We’re asking members of staff from across VisitScotland to tell us a bit about themselves and their roles, as well as some of their favourite places to visit in our beautiful country.

Next in our series, let’s hear from Chris Macdougall – a Visitor Services Advisor from our Jedburgh iCentre in the Scottish Borders.

Chris Macdougall, VSA, outside Jedburgh iCentre
Chris outside our Jedburgh iCentre in the Scottish Borders.

Tell us a bit about yourself...

Hello – I’m Chris! I live in and was brought up in Hawick in the Scottish Borders. After completing my History Degree at the University of Stirling, I moved back home for work. I specialised in Irish History (which doesn’t always come in handy working for VisitScotland – but I have answered the odd Ireland enquiry!)

When I’m not working, you can usually find me on the green at Wilton Bowling Club in Hawick. I’ve played bowls since I was 10 years – and I also run the club bar and next year I’ll be the Club President. I also enjoy hill walking and try to get out in the rolling hills of the Borders as often as I can.

Chris Macdougall, VSA at Jedburgh iCentre, at the top of Skelfhill in the Scottish Borders

What's your role at VisitScotland and your main responsibilities? Have you always held this role, or have you worked in different roles during your time at VisitScotland?

I work as a Visitor Services Advisor (VSA) in the Jedburgh iCentre, which is in the Scottish Borders – and I work in a great team here. My main role is to provide advice and inspiration to visitors who come into the iCentre as well as assist with trip planning. I joined VisitScotland in 2007 as a seasonal VSA in the Hawick Tourist Information Centre, and by the end of my first season we were open all year selling tickets for the local cinema. I spent a few years as Team Leader for a group of iCentre’s in the Borders before returning to my current role. I had no idea back in 2007 that I’d still be working here 15 years later!

Every day has a range of different enquiries, which vary greatly depending on the length of time the visitor is on holiday – whether it’s for 3 months, or just a day or two. The information and advice we give is completely tailored to suit the visitors interest. One minute I will be telling someone about Jedburgh Castle Jail, sharing the best way to travel to Orkney or telling visitors about local events such as the Common Ridings and Festivals.
As part of the VSA role we also sell tickets for national and local attractions, merchandise and sell our Shop Local retail offering, advise and book accommodation for visitors, all while assisting with the day-to-day administration of the iCentre.

This year is Scotland’s Year of Stories and it’s been a great theme which has allowed me to regale visitors with tales about Jethart Snails (a traditional style of sweet in the Borders), Thomas the Rhymer and a few other personal favourite tales from across the region.

It wasn’t business as usual during the pandemic. How did your role change during that time?

During the pandemic my role changed a great deal, as our main job is face to face interaction with visitors and we were suddenly working from home and could no longer do this. This led to the completion of lots of training including completing a Scots language course, creating Teams Talks which were delivered to the wider iCentre network, and assisting other departments with their projects.

This was an enjoyable challenge which led me to learn much more about the wider organisation. Working from home did bring some benefits, as I was able to get the walking boots on after work and get out in the roads and hills around Hawick. During the second lockdown I worked on the funding streams and although challenging at times I enjoyed working with colleagues from other departments helping businesses who were in a difficult situation. It does feel good to be back dealing with our visitors again and helping them to have a great time visiting Scotland.

We’re so glad that we can travel around Scotland again. What's on your Scotland bucket list, or is there a favourite place you have that you'd like to tell us about?

I love getting out in the Border hills and have managed to complete the Borders Abbeys Way and St Cuthbert’s Way in the last two years. I’d like to complete another long-distance walking route, such as the Great Glen Way or the West Highland Way. I’d need to up my training to do these though!

In 2022, I managed to visit mainland Orkney - a trip that was originally scheduled for 2020. It was a great trip and the historical sites we visited were incredible, from Skara Brae to Ness Battery. I’d love to go back to visit the other islands in Orkney, and also make a visit to Shetland. I discovered the Mull of Galloway and have stayed at the Lighthouse cottages at the southern tip of Scotland, it’s an amazing place where you can see Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Barrow in Furness and as far as Wales on a clear day. I have a trip to Oban later this year and I also hope to have a couple of day trips to Mull.

Other locations on my ever-growing list to visit are Harris and Lewis, but my fascination for lighthouses means a trip to Ardnamurchan is high on the list. The other slightly unusual place I would like to see is Peterhead Prison in Aberdeenshire. There’s always somewhere that one of our visitors are going to that gets added to my list!

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