MacBackpackers 5 day Skye & Highland Fling aka Getting amongst "Fucking Sexy Mountains"
If I am being 100% honest a backpacking tour is not something I would normally consider. It is not that I am prissy, I mean I grew up in a cottage in the country but I have grown to know what I like and generally that doesn’t involve shared dorms, bathrooms and sleeping on hard mattresses. Okay, yeah I know, now I do sound prissy.
Anyhow, despite all this I really wanted to see the Scottish Highlands and I didn’t really want to do it alone. As I was over in Ireland anyway I decided to just take the leap, face my fears and do a backpacking tour of the highlands with the reasoning that even if I hated it, 5 days wouldn’t kill me. I purposely chose MacBackpackers as the age range was 18-40 which made me hopeful I wouldn’t be the oldest one there.
As I got to the backpackers on Monday morning I sat down in the common room and started to second guess my decision. I texted my partner “What am I doing?? Everyone here is so young” and he simply responded “Haha, you’ll love it”. He often tends to be the rational to my irrational. Before I could do any more second guessing a dashing Scottish man in a kilt walked out to round us up for the bus. As soon as we all piled on he ran through the safety briefing in quite a hilarious way with a story (I’d quickly learn there would be many more of these) and just enough swearing to make an Australian such as myself, feel adequately at ease.
From there the tour flew by, and the amount of the Scottish Highlands we saw was incredible! From my understanding, the itinerary has an outline but isn’t set in stone. That way the guide can tailor it to each group. I am not sure if I love or hate this approach. The organised side of me screams “JUST TELL ME THE PLAN, I NEED IT ALL MAPPED OUT!!” whereas the calmer side of me says “Yeah, I like this, the weather isn’t so great so maybe we can do this, or maybe we can do a longer hike today”.
As an example itinerary and what to expect, our tour group visited the places below.
Day 1: Leaving Edinburgh to Dunkeld, Drumochter, Ruthven Barracks, Culloden, Clava Cairns, Loch Ness and staying in Inverness for the night.
Day 2: Strathpeffer, Rogie Falls, Achnasheen- Laide, Corrieshalloch, Dundonnell, First Coast, Viewpoint Alpha, Garloch, Gals Lettir/ Behn Eigh, Kyle of Localsh,
Day 3: Sconser, Sligachan, Portree, Store, Kilt Rock, Dutulm Castle, Coire Na Creiche, Kyleakin
Day 4: Ellean Dinan Castle, Glen Shel, Loch Low, Command Monument, Speau Bridge (Harry Potter Bridge), Ben Nevis Distillery, Glenfinnan, Nepstones Staircase, Glen Nevis
Day 5: Glencoe, Buachaille Etive Mor, Tynedrum, Callander/ Brackwen Falls, Donne Castle, Wallace Monument
This tour was not typical of the usual tours I have been on or heard of which means seeing the sights at full speed. It is not to say we didn’t see a lot, because we did, that is obvious from the locations above. We did however spend most of our time off the bus despite it being full-blown winter weather. We saw so much more than we could have purely from visiting the usual tourist attractions. Having such a knowledgable local as our tour guide meant we saw some of the most beautiful and hidden locations. Admittedly we were so often off the bus towards the end bracing for the cold each time got tiring and I was wrecked by the end. I made sure despite the cold I would make the most of it and after seeing each new place I was so grateful I made the choice to get off the bus and brave the weather. During the trip we had days where we got caught in the wind, rain, hail, and snow but we truly got to experience the best of the highlands.
As for the backpacking part, it really wasn’t all that bad. For someone who hasn’t backpacked before I was expecting the worst: cold rooms, hard mattresses and noise from the hallways outside. I was however, quite happy with my experience. It was clean and comfortable and everyone was really friendly.
Overall this was a great tour and we saw so much in our 5 days. I really loved the focus on getting outdoors to experience Scotlands natural wonders and just wish my photographs did justice for the extreme beauty I saw. Our tour guide Neil loved to tell a Scottish tale and was also really personable making sure that everyone felt comfortable. It was great to have a guide so passionate about his job. It was clear he wanted everyone to see Scotland for what it is: Fucking Sexy.