AS I WAS walking with my family in the company of good friends around Dunbar harbour just after the recent Christmas period, a young man came up to us and asked: “Please, are you from here, could you tell us what there is of interest to see here?” He was with some friends.

It seemed a strange question, as we were standing above the harbour, next to an information board, with the ruins of the castle before us, perched on the cliffs. The sea was performing at its best, with huge roaring waves rolling in and crashing on the rocks.

But he’d asked the right person because I was with my storyteller friend Chris Yule, who’s a resident of Dunbar. I stepped back as this was rightly a task for him.

The visitors were on holiday and they had purposefully come to Dunbar to see the sights.

“Is there a castle here?” they asked. Chris jumped into storyteller mode, pointing out the ruins of Dunbar Castle.

“That is Dunbar Castle?” one of them asked.

“Yes, that’s what’s left of Dunbar Castle,” Chris explained, then he explained the meaning of Dun, from the Gaelic or Cumbric for fort, and that Dunbar means fort on the summit.

He pointed out the cliffs and told the tale of Black Agnes, while our kids took the opportunity to roll down the grassy slope and get their clothes muddy.

When Chris had finished his historical tale, they asked: “Is there another castle here?”

“Oh yes,” he replied, and then gave them a whistlestop description of nearby castles and a summary of their history. He also told them about Traprain Law and the legends associated with it. He was in his element, sharing his knowledge and passion for his local area. I don’t think they expected such a response, they were transfixed.

Chris could have told them more but it was getting dark and the kids were now muddy and cold, so it was time to get indoors to warm up. The visitors thanked Chris and I headed to his house with the family.

Soon afterwards, as we left Dunbar to head home, we went via High Street to see the Christmas lights. We saw the visitors once again. They seemed to be exploring, searching for something. The shops and cafes were closed so I hoped they’d find the supermarket. Sadly, the kids were tired and grumpy by this time so we had no time to stop.

I didn’t think much more about this encounter and may have forgotten about it had it not been for an old acquaintance contacting me a week or so later about a film at Christmas she’d watched, called A Castle for Christmas.

It’s set and filmed in Scotland and she wanted to know if I recognised the locations in the movie. She’d known me in my tour guide days when I’d travelled all over Scotland, so she was sure I would know where the places in the movie were filmed.

I found the movie on Netflix. It was reviewed as a schmaltzy romantic story, full of stereotypical Scottish images and characters with a really predictable plot, but it was a light-hearted Christmas movie for all the family and my daughters wanted to watch it. So we got popcorn and drinks, and huddled together for a post-Christmas Christmassy movie night.

The movie is based in a small Scottish community called Dunbar, which is portrayed as a wee Highland village, a kind of latter-day Brigadoon, partly filmed in the well-preserved 17th-century burgh of Culross in Fife. In the movie, the castle is called Dun Dunbar, except they’ve used Dalmeny House, a stately home near South Queensferry.

To get there, the main character took a taxi ride from Edinburgh Airport along Loch Fyne in the south-west Highlands, past Inveraray Castle and the town of Inveraray, then all the way back east to Culross in Fife, all condensed into a single short journey. That would be some taxi fare in real life, but great sights along the way.

As I watched it, I couldn’t help but wonder if those visitors had seen the movie and come to Dunbar because of it, searching for this mythical version of it. I know from my tour guide days that this can happen, and I think we’ve all been taken by a location in a movie and wanted to find it.

I had got the sense that the visitors were looking for something that wasn’t there and so maybe that’s why. There is one brief scene in the movie that includes Whitekirk and Tantallon Castle, with the Bass Rock in the distance. But otherwise, the sights of Dunbar in this movie are nowhere near Dunbar.

I just wish we’d realised this possibility and asked, and then if it was the case, we’d have had been able to explain that the places they wanted to see do exist, but not in Dunbar; and that, anyway, the real Dunbar is way more spectacular than the movie version.

Perhaps they happily discovered that themselves. Or perhaps I’ve got it all wrong and they were just inquisitive explorers and wanted to discover the history and sights of real Dunbar, and had an instinct that Chris was the man to ask.

And if so, they were right!