Kilts & Kelpies: A Week in the Scottish Highlands

Thanks to the books and TV series “Outlander”, my college roommate and I were inspired to plan our first trip together to Scotland! The idea was also more comforting to my family than us traveling to bigger cities like Paris or London. So we decided on an extended week trip to Scotland with two weekends in Edinburgh and the weekdays exploring the Scottish Highlands.

After reading several raving reviews about the Haggis Adventures tour company, my travel companion Emily and I decided that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. We opted for the 5-Day Highland Fling tour, hitting most of the major areas of the Highlands, while keeping it affordable through organized hostel stays. 

Day 1: Edinburgh to the Scottish Highlands (Oban)

From the moment we met up with the group outside of Haggis Adventures office in Edinburgh, I could tell it was going to be a good travel group! The first day was the only day we dealt with the infamous rainy weather of Scotland, which made for a fantastic trip! Our first stop was to see the giant steel sculpture of The Kelpies. Kelpies are a mythical water creature that is said to be able to shape shift to human form. 

The Kelpies

From here, we got our first taste of the Scottish Highlands. We arrive at Glencoe and hiked down to the valley (in the pouring rain) to learn about the history of the clans in that area. This valley was the location of a massacre of the MacDonald clan, where much of the clan was murdered, and an additional amount of them was chased into the hills in the middle of the winter, and left to die. The rolling hills of the area were hidden a bit by the incoming rain clouds but still provided a picturesque landscape.  

[Pro Tip: Make sure you buy a water-PROOF jacket, not just a water-resistant jacket. That rain was relentless!]
Valley of Glencoe

We then hit a couple more stops, including the Wallace Monument and a rest stop/gift shop area for lunch before heading to Oban for the night. We checked into Oban Backpacker’s Plus hostel and got settled before meeting up with a couple of people from our group and heading out to explore.

Hiked up to the viewpoint at the top of the town to look out over the views of Oban and the water. After exploring a bit more and some dinner, we met back at the hostel only to be greeted by a Bagpipe procession to take us to the Ceilidh! A Ceilidh is a tradition Scottish event consisting of live music, singing and dancing. They had us all up learning the traditional dances of Scotland!

[The only thing that would have made that night better, is if we all had kilts!]

Needless to say, we all slept great that night!

Day 2: Oban to Isle of Skye

On the second day, our bus made the trek from Oban to the Isle of Skye. A portion of us opted to take the Jacobite Steam train for a small portion of the journey while the rest took the bus. The train went over the Glenfinnan Viaduct which you might recognize from the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies! In hindsight, I would opt out of the train option because the people who stayed on the bus ended up getting the great pictures of the train and the viaduct, while we couldn’t see most of it from inside the train.

[And I was disappointed that they didn’t take the opportunity to sell Harry Potter related candy items on their carts!]
Glenfinnan Viaduct

Once we met up with the rest of the group, we took a ferry across to the Isle of Skye. Our tour guide told story after story of faeries and magic water that will keep you young and beautiful and had us all dunking our faces in ice-cold water. However we simultaneously got eaten alive by midges, which are basically gnats that bite.

[Pro Tip: Buy midge spray and cover your skin as much as possible. They’re brutal.]

We checked into our hostel and ventured out with a few people from our group and hiked up to a ruined castle for some views, photos and beers. This sadly was also short-lived thanks to a midge invasion, which prompted us to spend the rest of the evening drinking and listening to more stories of the Scottish history and traditions.

Day 3: Isle of Skye to Loch Ness

I think a majority of our group would agree that we were not disappointed to move on from that hostel. Day 3 was filled with driving, sightseeing, photo ops and more driving. We stopped on a cliff and ate some lunch as a group. Some of my favorite pictures came from this picturesque stop!

[Props to Haggis Adventures for having the Scottish flag available for photo ops!]
Honorary Scot for the day!

That evening we stayed at a hostel called Morags Lodge on the coast of Loch Ness, and I’ll say right now, that this place was one of the highlights of the trip! Inside the hostel, they had a little pub with a live traditional Scottish band playing and they actually WANTED people to get up and dance on the tables! Drinks were flowing, music was playing, and people were dancing all night!

[Incase you’re wondering, some men in fact DO NOT wear anything under their kilts.]

Day 4: Tour around the Scottish Highlands

The fourth day of the tour included Hairy Coos (A.k.a. Really furry cows), a tour and tasting at a Scottish whisky distillery, lunch in Inverness, and a lot of the Scottish Highland’s history. If anyone’s a fan of the books or TV show “Outlander”, Day 4 of this trip was for you! We were brought to the battlefield of the Battle of Culloden, an infamous battle during the Jacobite rebellion. Our guide told us stories of the battle and how clans’ men, women and children were murdered in mass quantities, and buried in mass graves along this battlefield. Many people still travel there to pay respects to family members of many generations ago.

Battlefield of Culloden

We then traveled to Clava Carines, where we got to see large circular graves and upright free-standing stones, similar to ones seen in “Outlander.”

[For any Outlander nerds reading this, no we did not travel through the stones. Yes we tried really hard. No Jamie Fraser for us.]

We finished the day with another evening in the pub at Morag’s Lodge. Fun Fact: They brew their own beer and keep it on tap there! Fun Fact #2: Being an American and trying to play British Cards Against Humanity is not nearly as fun.

Day 5: Loch Ness to Edinburgh

On our final day of the trip, we planted a tree, stopped at a couple castles for some photo ops and walked around a small town with a massive medieval cathedral called Dunkeld Cathedral. This building was built over the course of 200 years and though it is now partially ruined, it still holds church services today.

We made it back to Edinburgh in the early afternoon and rolled into town with one more rendition of “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers.

[This song is basically an anthem for the Scottish people. I dig it.]

Arriving back into Edinburgh was bittersweet. We were all excited to be back in the city and off of the bright yellow bus that had become our home for 5 days, but with that came the understanding that we would soon be saying goodbye to all our new friends from all over the world!

World-wide Connections

As beautiful as the Scottish Highlands are, the greatest part of the trip was the awesome group of people we got to meet, ranging from Australia, China, UK, Canada, Ireland, and more. Since the trip, I have even had one of the girls from Australia come stay with me during her trip across America!

[What up Greta!]
The whole crew!

The tour guides on the trips do a great job creating a fun social vibe so that whether you are a solo-traveler or traveling with a group, you’ll make new friends no matter what. Though these trips may be designed for a younger traveler, people of all ages will enjoy it. An older Irish woman on my trip was the life of the party! If you ever find yourself in Scotland, make sure to take a trip up to see the Scottish Highlands! Haggis Adventures offers many tours ranging from day trips to 10-day tours, and special trips during holidays and Scottish traditions. I would travel with them again in a heartbeat. Such a great trip all the way across the board.

Make sure to check out my GoPro edit below from our trip to Scotland!

If you’ve done any trips with Haggis Adventures or any of their sister companies, comment below! I would love to hear some reviews of other trips they offer!

Stay Wild and Adventure on!

When planning a trip to Scotland, one of the best ways to tour the Scottish Highlands is a 5-day bus tour with Haggis Adventures. Check out my post about our 5 days around the Scottish Highlands.

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