MacBackpackers: 3 Day Isle of Skye Tour
Far-flung adventures, awe-inspiring landscapes, mystical monuments, and some epic story-telling thrown in for good measure – MacBackpackers’ Mike Ainsley gives us a wee insight into the company’s 3 day Isle of Skye tour.
Travel is the death of ignorance, it was once said, and as I set out to the Isle of Skye for the first time (Despite being born and bred in Scotland) I had no idea what to expect.
Growing up in Edinburgh, there was always a misconception about the Highlands -beautiful, undoubtedly, but too far from anything to be of any interest; without considering the possibility that it already had everything it could possibly need in itself.
Six days into my new job at MacBackpackers, I was about to have those misconceptions shattered.
It was a warm early June morning when we set out, under the able direction of MacB veteran guide Neil, as he got into the swing of his famous story telling before we had even left the hostel pick-up. In ancient times stories were passed down generation to generation, a skill that still lives strong in our blood, and in no-one moreso than Neil; 10 years at MacBackpackers and an indelible patriotic pride have endowed him with stories covering just about every patch of Scotland.
In the year since then I have had many of our guests coming to me saying that their favourite element of their time in Scotland was the duality of the Land’s history, that beauty and brutality could co-exist in such close quarters – the entertaining storytelling of the guides breathes life into the tales that shaped a national identity. Indeed Scotland’s history is marred with brutal conflict, clan wars, deceit and betrayal – So much so that many of the infamous events in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series were lifted directly from Scottish history (Black Wedding became The Red Wedding)
The first day consisted largely of getting to know the people you were travelling with, each with their own expectations and desires for the trip travelling from every corner of the planet. I speak as a Scotsman, someone who has grown up with this all around me, venturing into the Highlands time and time again, and indeed, time and time again it never fails to amaze me. Combined with Neil’s frequently hilarious and thought-provoking stories, tales of Cailleach, vengeful haggard witches who would pray on locals, I was left slack-jawed looking at the suddenly illustrated scenery around me.
No trip to the Highlands and Islands would be complete without a stop, and a dip, at Loch Ness. Taking a swim in the icy waters has become something of a rite of passage on MacBackpacker tours, with photos on Instagram on a weekly basis of our intrepid adventurers running tiptoed into those famous monster-ridden waters.
The day ends in Kyleakin, a gorgeous fishing village just on the shores of the Isle of Skye. This is the part of the trip that sticks with me the most, the warm and enthusiastic welcome from the locals put my ignorance to its permanent and overdue grave. Having travelled all over the world, it was the ideal situation for someone new – good food, conversation and insight as we sat in the Haakon for the night.
Day 2 is the meat of the tour. With an early start the group delves into the heart of the Island, intent on exploring some of the most prominent features anywhere in the world. A quick stop at Sligachan for some eternal youth (so the story goes) with some awe-inspiring views of the Cuillin mountains, before heading up to the magical waters of the Faerie Pools, the mystical green mountain water that inspired so much of the faerie lore on Skye. The rest of the day was spent exploring more unbelievable landmarks across the Isle, including the utterly unique Old Man of Storr. I won’t spoil it all here, though.
Reluctant that our 3 day adventure was coming to an end, we mounted up to dive once more into the Highlands, stopping off at the foot of Ben Nevis, winding our way down towards the Cairngorms National Park, standing at the foot of vast geological wonders, the lines and scrapes from ancient glaciers too big to even contemplate. A final stop off to see some Highland Cows and a wander around Doune Castle, the scene of many real and fictional battles (Outlander, Monty Python & The Holy Grail and Game of Thrones).
Finding ourselves back in Edinburgh, it was time for a reluctant farewell, and a sense of achievement. After all that, I can truly say; travel is the death of ignorance.