Go Away! On a Highlands Day Tour
With such passion and purpose it was impossible not to be taken in by the enthusiasm Chris has for the Highlands and Scottish history.
The enthusiasm of the group was initially low on this typically wet and cold Scottish Autumn day. But the enthusiasm of our guide Chris quickly dispelled any worries about the weather. "Liquid sunshine – how lucky are we?" He went on to explain that the Loch Ness Day Tour was all about the three 'C's: "Coffee to keep me going, the Colours of autumn throughout the Highlands, and those dirty Campbell's." He spat. "Sorry, have to do that each time I mention those bastards."
On the way to Loch Ness we stopped off at regular intervals to appreciate the colours and breathtakingly scenery. Following the rain of the previous few weeks the hills were a vibrant green, against yellow trees and rusty reds of fallen leaves and brush, all framed by the newly snow-capped mountains in the background. Chris also set the group thinking, as we stood covered in several layers appreciating a view, how difficult life must have been for the Highlanders dressed only in kilts, leading their cattle over the unforgiving landscape and dealing with the elements all year round.
While he drove, the stories didn't stop, and presented with such passion and purpose it was impossible not to be taken in by the enthusiasm Chris has for the Highlands and Scottish history. We were told all about William Wallace and how Mel Gibson got it all wrong in Braveheart, among many other tales.
Soon afterwards we stopped off at Glencoe, one of the most astounding mountain ranges in Scotland, to hear all about the third 'C' – those dirty Campbells and the brutal demise of the MacDonald clan who once lived here. While Scottish history, and particularly the Glencoe Massacre, is often romanticised for the tourists, Chris dished up a more authentic account. The story goes that one afternoon the Campbell Clan arrived, close to death due to the extreme weather. These two clans hated each other, but Highland Law dictated that you must take in anyone in need of rest and sustenance. After a few days the Campbell Clan moved on, only to immediately return and massacre the MacDonalds – the original purpose of their journey.
At Loch Ness the tour stopped for nearly an hour to hear how the legend of Nessie had evolved over the years, and the different supposed sightings. On the way back to Edinburgh there was more amazing scenery, including Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Britain. Glen Laggan is Monarch of the Glen country, and you'll be happy to know it looks just like it does on TV.
Overall a Loch Ness tour is an exhausting day but extraordinarily fulfilling. If you're in Edinburgh as a tourist, student, or even if you live here, make sure you make it to the Highlands at least once – it's possible all year round. For the more adventurous why not take a multiple day tour with MacBackpackers: I've previously done one of these, and for an adventurous Highland tour they're unbeatable.
Most tour companies run day tours to Loch Ness all year round. For backpackers and younger, more adventurous travellers MacBackpackers run the most suitable tours, along with options of longer tours which are also highly recommended.
For everyone else Highland Experience provide excellent Loch Ness Tours. The Highland Experience Tour takes in: Monadhliath Mountains (Monarch of the Glen country), lunch at Spean Bridge, Loch Ness for a cruise (summer season only), past Ben Nevis (Britain's highest mountain), Glen Coe and finally Stirling Castle.
Departure Time: 8am
Cost: £32 Adult, £30 Concession
Highland Experience, 0131 226 1414
If you're on a day tour there's no need to stay away. However, if you're visiting Edinburgh MacBackpackers have excellent hostels dotted around the city centre.
Castle Rock Hostel
15 Johnston Terrace
Tel: 0131 225 9666
High Street Hostel
8 Blackfriars Street
Tel: 0131 557 3984
Royal Mile Backpackers
105 High Street
Tel: 0131 557 6120
If you're planning a longer trip, accommodation is built in with MackBackpacker Tours. If you want to sort out your own trip MackBackpackers have hostels in the following locations around Scotland:
Pitlochry, Inverness, Skye, Fort William, Oban.