glen shiel scotland


A Gaelic Backpacking Adventure in the Scottish Highlands & Islands


journey profile

Where: Edinburgh, Pitlochry, Inverness, Isle of Skye, Fort William, Oban, Portree, Totternish Peninsula, Glen Garry, Glen Shiel and Glen Coe. Scotland, United Kingdom. Europe.
When: August 2004
What: Loch Ness, Isle of Skye sunset, Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct, Steam train featured in the Harry Potter films, Wallace Monument, Bagpipe players, Hairy Coos, Isle of Sky sunset.
How: Train, Tour van, Ferry.
Country counter: Country No.5
Illnesses of mishaps: Loading a used film into my 35mm camera resulting in the loss of what I suspect were great photographs of the Highlands and of the adventures we had. 


Having just arrived back from Greek island hopping in the North Cyclades I was left with three weeks of my summer holiday to do with whatever I pleased; I had been bitten by the travel bug and so I booked myself a place on the three-day, two-night Isle of Skye Tour with Macbackpackers, a tour agency based in Edinburgh which runs a range of trips out of the Scottish capital. I headed to Edinburgh on my own, staying in a hostel in Edinburgh for the first night to be able to be in Edinburgh early the following morning for the start of the tour which departed from outside the hostel. I'd signed up to a little, but popular, jaunt around the Scottish Highlands and Islands, heading north-westward to the Isle of Skye and back again in a giant loop. I experienced the Scottish Highlands and Islands with seventeen others, many hailing from all over the world: Ecuador, China, Netherlands and America... The trip is as popular as ever and, over a decade later, Macbackpackers is still running the trip. 

We set off in a little white tour van driven by Tim, our friendly and patriotic Scottish guide. His passion for Scotland came through in everything he said and did. Our first day was spent hurtling from the Scottish capital Edinburgh, through the Grampian Mountains, Inverness, down along the shores of Loch Ness, over the famous bridge and onto the Isle of Skye where we spent the first night in a local hostel. The second included touring Portree (the capital of the island) and the Totternish Peninsula. We spent a final night on the island before heading out the next day through scenes used for the filming of Highlander; a chance sighting of the steam train used in the Harry Potter films; and through the landscapes of Glen Garry, Glen Shiel and Glen Coe.

My Macbackpackers jaunt was before the days of digital cameras and thus inevitably an old film-based camera was the order of the day. Unfortunately I'd loaded a duff film in my old-style 35mm camera and so I'm missing some of what I would assume were the best photographs taken on the second and third days. I was pretty devastated: landscapes, group photos and life in the hostels where we stayed were all gone. Thus, the photographs below represent the very best of what I have from this mini adventure across Scotland's more remote locations.


All of us on the ferry across from the Isle of Skye to the Scottish mainland.


Tim, our tour guide on the trip, takes the opportunity to leave me a little gift on my film camera.


Overlooking Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument.


scottish cow on beach

Cows on the beach at Kintail.

On board the ferry from the Scottish mainland to the Isle of Skye. 


Glenfinnan Viaduct

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Glen Shiel in the Western Highlands.




travel tips, links & resources

  • Travelling with Mackbackpackers is a great way of seeing an authentic Scotland - from the ground up. The country's iconic reputation abroad means that such tours attract an international clientele. I booked myself on the three day, two-night Highlands and Islands Tour and two nights in hostels were included in the cost of the booking.
  • I found travelling solo in a tour group an interesting experience which ultimately compelled me to make new friends far more so than if I'd undertaken the experience with a friend.
  • You can access the Mackbackpackers website here.


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