Digital gadgets are great, but you just can’t beat local knowledge - Susan Morrison

When I was a child I spent a lot of time in Dunoon, a resort left behind by the Edwardians with a pretty pier, stunning views and pebbly beaches. By the late 1960s it was a fading Queen of the Clyde, but fortunately the Cold War kicked off and the Americans plonked a huge submarine base right beside it.
As a child Susan Morrison spent a lot of time in DunoonAs a child Susan Morrison spent a lot of time in Dunoon
As a child Susan Morrison spent a lot of time in Dunoon

Coach parties still visited, brought across from Gourock by what I now realise was a remarkably efficient ferry service. Probably something to do with the town being in the front line against the Soviet menace. If the four minute warning went, you can’t have your sub crews waiting for CalMac. They wouldn’t stand a chance today. They’d be waiting months.

The tourist information office was usually the first port of call. I seem to remember it was at the end of the pier in those days. For us kids, the best thing was the free tourist map which you got at the door and could be repurposed into a trail to pirate treasure or the route to a lost city. The ruins of the castle behind Heilan’ Mary’s statue did sterling duty as a sort of Scottish Machu Picchu.

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The office back then was run by a rota of almost identical short, round ladies who clearly had a strict regime of weekly shampoo and sets at the hairdressers. They knew everything. What was on, who’s boarding house and which hotel had vacancies, and what to do if it rained, which generally boiled down to “going to Woolworths”.

They were the face of not just Dunoon, but of Scotland. It’s sad to see that Visit Scotland is planning to close these centres and rely on the digital world to welcome tourists. The personal touch and the local knowledge staff offer in information centres is priceless.

Even more importantly, humans don’t need signals, wifi and battery power to welcome visitors. All that tech can fail in some of our more remote country corners. There are still some people who don’t travel with a smartphone in their pocket.

Digital gadgets are great, but you can’t beat a smiling face.