You may have spotted him in Game of Thrones, now the Tartan Viking is bringing Edinburgh's history to life for the price of a coffee
He has also driven the length and breadth of Scotland, sharing the country’s beauty and historic past with tourists partaking of one of Rabbies scenic tours. Like many, it came as a shock when he found himself furloughed as the Covid-19 pandemic hit tourism hard.
“Before lockdown every day was an early rise,” he explains. “With a lot to do before heading out on tour, typically I’d be up around 5am as you had to get to the yard a good hour before the tour to do all your checks. At Waterloo Place you would get your passengers on board and then spend the rest of the day visiting castles, palaces, churches, lochs, glens, distilleries and anything extra you can fit in for the group.”
In between each stop, Eric would fill the driving time with stories of Scotland’s past. It is these tales that have provided the 28-year-old, who has a young son with his doctor wife Eleanor, the means to continue to support his family.
“I’ve been furloughed, but there was always the expectation that redundancy may be round the corner, but that’s okay, many are in the same position and Rabbies have been unbelievably supportive since this all kicked off,” he says philosophically. “Since becoming a tour guide, I’d always thought about recording some stories of Edinburgh and Scotland’s history and getting them online, lockdown gave me that extra push do it.”
Those stories have included topics as diverse as the real Macbeth and legends of unicorns.
“They’re all stories with my own wee twist added to them,” says Eric, who is also known as the Tartan Viking. I like to keep them as historical as possible, while keeping as far away as I can from just dry history - less walking through fields in a tweed jacket talking about some battle and more fun, humour and the occasional innuendo.”
Integral to his success has been Eric’s social media presence - he has around 7000 followers in Instagram and another 3500 on Facebook.
“If I wasn’t on that, this whole endeavour would have fallen flat on its face,” he admits. "It’s incredible the impact social media has... I’m now connected to people around the world who love Scotland as much as I do and who get a laugh and a smile out of what I do.”
The next story on Eric’s list brings him right back into the heart of the Capital in 1306.
“As impressive as the romanticised tales of Bruce and Wallace are, there are other tales which are just as worthy,” he says. "Ever heard of James ‘The Black’ Douglas or Thomas Randolph? Spurred on by friendly rivalry, both men were integral to the victory of Robert the Bruce and have adventures worth telling. Bruce’s campaign to retake Scotland took a fateful blow in June 1306, with a crushing defeat at the Battle of Methven.
“To defeat Edward’s occupying forces, the Scots needed to retake control of castles and then destroy them to ensure Edward never again gained a foothold on Scottish soil. Key fortresses had to be retaken, one of these was Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Stronghold sat upon an ancient volcanic plug.
“It would be Thomas Randolph, the King’s own nephew, who would have what seemed the almost impossible task to defeat the English garrison there - he did so, vastly outnumbered, by storming the north face of the Castle rock.”
Recalling chapters of the Capital’s often dark history has taken Eric back to his roots. It was treading the setts of the Royal Mile that he learned his trade. “That has to be the best fun I’ve ever had in a job. I started in 2012 with the Cadies and Witchery Tours while I was studying at the University of Edinburgh and needed a little extra money. My time there was great and has given me some of the best memories.”
It was while conducting ghost tours that he discovered many of Edinburgh’s more gruesome tales.
“I find the best way to choose stories is by picking the ones I’m interested in, the more blood and gore, the better and thankfully Scottish stories have plenty of that to go around. So far, I’ve recorded a few tales I’d usually tell on tour, like how the Stewarts came to sit on the throne of Scotland. In particular, the lives of James I and James II and the events from their reign that were used to influence the TV series Game of Thrones.”
Talking of Game of Thrones, if Eric appears familiar, it may be that you have seen him on screen in that very series or in films such as Outlaw King, which starred Chris Pine. As a member of Beautiful Bearded Bastards, an agency of supporting artists run by the community to support one another, he has appeared in numerous historic productions, his flaming ginger beard making him a favourite of casting directors It was during filming Outlaw King that he was given the nickname, the Tartan Viking.
“They put out a casting call, for men with long hair and beards and I’ve got long hair and can grow a beard, so I let them both grow. Once filming was finished I kept the beard and then people at work started referring to me as Viking Eric. Then passengers began sending in reviews calling me Eric the Viking. When I started to take social media seriously I wanted a name that stood out. I had the look, wore a kilt and so the Tartan Viking was born.”
He laughs, “I’ve had a few other suggestions since, like the Crimson Norseman, which I’ll probably keep for my stint as a super-hero... or porn star.”
Eric’s other screen credits include the 2019 film Robert the Bruce and, most recently, a BT Sports advert for WWE where he, and a few other kilted guys, go up against WWE Champion Drew McIntyre in a Tug o’ War.
“I’ve yet to get onto Outlander though,” he chips in, before recalling working with Hollywood star Chris Pine on Outlaw King.
"Chris Pine is a really down to Earth guy and more than happy to have a conversation with you,” he reveals. "He’d even occasionally turn up on set with pizza for the supporting artists and I had a good chat with him around a wee fire grate at Craigmillar Castle one day.”
He laughs again as one episode in particular sticks in his memory of filming Outlaw King.
“I remember we were shooting a scene in which English knights were hanging up a quarter of William Wallace on a cross and we were directed to ‘riot - but something was lost in translation. As the stunt men on horses started making their way down a ramp to the waterfront, people just charged at them, shouting, screaming, throwing prop loafs of bread. Some guys even took off their shoes and launched them straight at their heads. This all carried on until we heard the director screaming ‘Cut!’ through a loudspeaker.
“He didn’t look too pleased. Turns out when he said ‘Riot’, he actually meant run away in terror while they herd you like cattle.”
To listen to Eric’s stories, visit www.buymeacoffee.com/TartanViking. There you can buy Eric virtual coffee in return he will send the recordings direct to your inbox. Whether you buy Eric one coffee or five, you get all the stories.
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