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'Burgh Daunders - Fundraising walks with a difference

Alistair Hector

10 Oct 2021

£2022+ for 2022?

Remember the time early on in the pandemic when we were limited to an hour’s exercise per day?

One day in April last year I used that hour by cycling into the centre of locked-down Edinburgh. It was a dispiriting and upsetting experience to find those lovely, familiar streets so empty and lifeless. The sight of the Balmoral Hotel boarded up, and its famous clock stopped, was too much and I turned tail.

However, it dawned on me that here was a chance to look at Edinburgh’s famous landmarks in a new light, undistracted by the usual crowds. The buildings of the Old and New Towns with no vehicles to obscure them – a photographer’s dream.

On my next trip I took my camera and snapped a lone man strolling up an eerily empty Castlehill. It was a rather haunting but strangely cheering moment.

It set me thinking: what if I could offer guided walks through these same empty streets to help locals see their city in a new way, as I had? Would there be sufficient interest? Perhaps not if that was the sole purpose, but how about adding the motivation of a fundraising activity?

And so ‘Burgh Daunders were born.

‘Fundraising walks with a difference’ I called them, the idea being that I would take participants on a private two-hour guided walk, in small groups, through an area of Edinburgh of their choice - with the pledge on my part that all the proceeds would be donated in equal shares to three local charities of my choice. I would also add a small percentage of each booking as a donation of my own.

Guests would receive a bespoke tour with a qualified, experienced Blue Badge Guide; I would keep my hand in as a guide, and do something to avoid becoming unbearably grumpy at home; all of us would notch up two hours of exercise; and together we would raise money for local good causes.

The idea caught on, at first amongst family and friends, and then, mostly by word of mouth, with friends of theirs. Once Scotland’s Covid restrictions eased sufficiently to allow such an activity, we were off.

To date nearly 30 ‘Burgh Daunders have taken place, raising just over £1800. We have done the classic Royal Mile walk from the Castle to John Knox House (several times); explored the Canongate, Holyrood and Calton Hill; gone off the beaten track through the West End, parts of the New Town, the Dean Village and Stockbridge. Not forgetting Edinburgh’s maritime heritage, we have also daundered a few times in Newhaven and Leith.

The charities which have benefited are Ferrywell Youth Project, Soul Food Edinburgh and Leith School of Art Community Classes. I have connections with all and have worked as a volunteer with two of them. They have different purposes and work with different age groups, both young people and adults, but what they have in common is a deep care for people. Each makes a vital contribution to combat loneliness, promote mental wellbeing and foster community and creativity - needed more than ever during the pandemic and now, as a post-pandemic ‘new normal’ emerges.

The walks have been carried out in compliance with Scottish Government and Scottish Tourist Guides Association Covid-19 guidance. That has meant social distancing, stopping for another lockdown, limiting numbers, counting households, and wearing masks. It was a particular relief when masks could be discarded!

What next for ‘Burgh Daunders? I am hugely grateful to everyone who has supported the walks and so generously contributed to the sum raised thus far. The £2k mark is tantalisingly close and I am keen to ‘get it over the line’. The plan is to continue ‘Burgh Daunders until Easter 2022, and it would be wonderful if I could finish with at least £2022 to share amongst my chosen charities. £2022+ for 2022!

For more information about ‘Burgh Daunders and the charities Ferrywell Youth Project, Soul Food Edinburgh and Leith School of Art, check out the ‘Burgh Daunders page on my website

Expert guided tours with Alistair Hector Scottish Tourist Guide

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