Tour Guiding

Tour Guiding for Cruise in Orkney content

Tour Guiding for Cruise in Orkney

Orkney is the number one destination port in the UK for cruise ships, with 205 ships in 2023 and more expected in 2024 there is a constant and ongoing demand for suitably trained and experienced tour guides to showcase Orkney’s treasures to cruise passengers. This CPD short course addresses this.

This course will only run if minimum numbers are reached.

This course is to train only those wishing to work with cruise ships as step-on guides.

Those wishing to quality for the alternative STGA green badge qualification should consider Island Tourism and Tourist Guiding at SCQF Level 6 instead.

Tour guiding is hugely rewarding but it has its own challenges. You will need to be highly organised, willing to work hard, and as a self-employed guide, will need to keep strict financial records and submit a tax return each year.

Cruise ship at Hatston Pier

Tour guiding can be an incredibly rewarding profession that combines elements of fun and challenge, working within Orkney's vibrant cruise industry.

  • Interacting with people: tour guides get to meet and interact with people from widely differing backgrounds and cultures, allowing them to share knowledge, stories, and experiences. Interacting with diverse groups requires good communication and interpersonal skills. Guides must adapt to different personalities and needs, which can be challenging but also enriching.
  • Sharing Knowledge: sharing interesting facts, historical anecdotes, and local insights can be enjoyable. Many people are eager to learn about the places they visit, making the guide's role incredibly fulfilling. Ensuring that information is accurate, engaging, and tailored to the audience's interests can be a challenge. Guides need to be well-prepared and adaptable.
  • Problem Solving: Overcoming unexpected challenges, such as changes in weather, transportation issues, or unforeseen events, can be satisfying. Dealing with unexpected situations requires quick thinking and problem-solving skills. Guides must be able to handle disruptions while ensuring the safety and satisfaction of their clients.
  • Building Connections: Creating positive connections with travellers can lead to lasting friendships and memorable experiences. Building connections also involves managing different personalities and addressing diverse needs. Guides must strike a balance to ensure everyone in the group feels valued.

Tour guiding is a multifaceted profession that combines the joy of exploration, the satisfaction of sharing knowledge, and the challenge of managing diverse groups. A successful tour guide can find fulfilment in creating memorable experiences for travellers while navigating the complexities of the job.

Expectation from you as a student

Students must be sufficiently computer literate to cope with the online resources, and must be able to allocate sufficient time for their studies.

  1. Computer Literacy:
    • Almost all the resources for this course are online and are available using the university’s virtual learning environment, called Brightspace. Students must be able to successfully access and navigate this learning environment, and full training and advice will be given. Tour guides are self-employed, therefore a level of computer literacy is essential in communication with tour companies, managing a calendar, invoicing, book keeping and tax returns in future work.
  2. Sufficient Time for Studies:
    • You will be expected to spend a lot of time in self-directed studies, as well as attending classes and practical on-site or on-bus training and completing assignments. Balancing your time effectively is a key skill for tour guiding.
    • This course will demand a lot of your time and resources, and you must be prepared for the large amount of work you will have to do every week. However, we recognise that you may have varying schedules and commitments, so we provide support to help you manage your time effectively.
  3. Considerations:
    • Clear communication is crucial. If computer literacy or time management skills may be a problem for you, you must communicate that to the team who will give you help and advice.

Overall, being able to use online resources and having enough time for your studies are crucial for this course. Learning to be a tour guide is hard work, and it demands a lot of time, energy and effort from you. This may not be the course for you if you do not think you can provide the sufficient time and energy it will demand of you.


The course will cover a maximum of 16 weeks over the winter period, ending on 30th March 2024. It will consist of online learning, some Wednesday evening classes and site/bus training on Saturdays.


There is no exam, you will be continually evaluated throughout your training.

Expressions of Interest:

Please email us on  More information on the course will be provided once available. Anyone can sign up to this course and access the training, but only those who have achieved a suitable level will be considered for cruise work.


There is no formal qualification for this course. It is a short course CPD opportunity.

Student Resources

The course will be run by the Institute for Northern Studies, UHI Orkney, meaning students will have full access to the university's information and student resources, and they will be given as much help and assistance as they require in order to fulfil their best potential. You will have access to a large amount of online materials which you can download or print as you wish. The online resources will be supplemented by a number of Wednesday night evening classes.


Practical training will include a mix of on-site and on-bus training. Students are expected to provide their own transport to sites.


1. Examination

There are no exams, instead there will be ongoing evaluation throughout the course.

2. Self-reflective tasks and activities

Students are expected to undertake a number of self-directed tasks covering the practical skills involved in tour guiding. These are accessed via the online resources, and will be discussed as a class on a weekly basis.

3. Reflective Journal

This is a thinking exercise, asking students to use a trained eye to mitigate issues when visiting a site with a group of guests. The needs of an individual visiting a site are very different to those of a tour leader, they must be aware of the many elements which make the site a suitable place to visit. The most important is health and safety, but things such as parking facilities, toilets, and access to refreshments are of paramount importance.

4. The Book

Students will create their own ‘book’, researching and sourcing the contents themselves. They will be given a basic skeleton and layout, and access to all the information from previous iterations of the handout. It will be fully customised and customisable and – importantly – it will be easily updated when things change. There is currently no formal requirement within Orkney’s guiding community to undertake continuous professional development (CPD). This book will rectify that, as there will be an expectation that students will keep their knowledge and skills up to date by updating their book as new statistics are published, etc.


The content covers:

  • All practical sessions with professional and experienced guides on site and in a bus.
  • Mentoring time to support you during the course.
  • Access to online course materials via the virtual learning environment.
  • This course will only run if a minimum number is reached.