Ayrshire Language Barrier

On The Way to Troon

Ayrshire is a picturesque region with winding roads, expansive ocean views, rolling hills, small farming communities and painted white homes – along the Firth of Clyde.

The county of Ayr had been annexed by Norway, but in the 1200’s was claimed by Scotland in the ‘battle of Largs‘.


The area features some of the most fertile land in Scotland, unfortunately coupled with some of the country’s highest unemployment rates.

We discovered over and over again that the average Scot doesn’t travel much – nor do they possess much information about travelling.


We were unsuccessful every time we asked for directions (no matter how close we were to our destination), and no one seemed to know very much about the area around them.

Indeed we had many shocked and disbelieving looks when explaining where our journey had taken us.

We tried to confirm our jump across the Irish (North) Channel with locals in the tourism business, who we thought should have known about the ferry system – but no one had a clue about schedules or even where the ferries departed, for that matter.

White Houses in Ayrshire

I think this phenomenon has to do historically with clan battle stuff (or maybe I am making far too good use of my history and psych 101 courses). Every day medieval Scots did not leave their clan lands for fear of persecution or death – and they also didn’t leave because of pride, lots of territorial pride.

So we shouldn’t have been surprised when we arrived to the Troon port (after an overnight sleep in the ferry parking lot) and the woman at the kiosk looked at us as if we were insane for being there. To make matters worse, we could not understand (literally) a single word she was saying.

She patiently repeated herself over and over to us, going slower and slower each time, but neither of us could pick out a SINGLE familiar term. Our eyes bugged wide open in confusion, grasping at each others hands, trying not to panic – or laugh (how could we not understand ENGLISH?!) – we were shocked!

After our time in the UK, we did not expect to be stupefied by a dialect of our own language!

Finally she grabbed a pamphlet and a pen and started underlining and circling and writing. The only word that sounded in anyway familiar was ‘boo-keh’, which I took (correctly) to mean ‘booking’. As in, no, (of course) we didn’t have one! Some planning ahead might have helped us a bit here!

Turned out the Troon system was down and we would have to find our way to another port and another ferry – without being able to ask for help – I don’ think there is a handbook for the parlance of Ayrshire!

P&O Ferry

After navigating through the most truly incredible language barrier I have EVER come across, we figured out we needed to be further south and continued our tour to the ferry port in Cairnryan. This time, we were successful. We made it just in time to catch the (next) ferry.

To Belfast!

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Follow this tour by heading to the ‘8 Country EU Tour‘ section. Many more photos of Scotland at the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


4 responses to “Ayrshire Language Barrier

  1. That’s odd that the dialect is so different that you couldn’t understand your own language. Interesting series going here! Great pictures too.


    • Oh thank you! Really (really!!), I had an easier time communicating with rural Thais! Not that I am trying to pick on the people from one of my favourite places on the planet… ;). I have to be nice, Scotland has always been very nice to me!


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