What’s it Like to Travel with Haggis Adventures?

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Over the past 6 months or so, I have fallen in love. Not with a person, though, but with a place. And that place is Scotland.

After spending a couple of weeks last summer exploring Scotland's major cities and experiencing the beauty of the Highlands, I knew I was in danger of developing strong feelings. And then I got invited back for a week around New Year's to take part in Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations. After that, it was all over.

Scotland

I've got it bad for Scotland; the country is now in my list of “Top 5 Countries I Love the Most,” and a place I'm already dreaming of returning to soon.

I blame most of this on a tour I took in early August with a company called Haggis Adventures.

5 days. 22 international travelers. 1 sexy yellow bus. And the whole of the Scottish Highlands at our fingertips.

Haggis Adventures

My “Highland Fling” tour was, hands-down, one of the best guided tours I've ever been on — and one of my most memorable travel experiences from last summer.

Because I loved it so much, I've decided it's time to tempt you into your own Scottish fling with Haggis this summer.

Why Haggis Adventures?

Haggis' tagline is “Local guides, legendary trips” — and this is very true. Based in Edinburgh, Haggis employs local guides who are enthusiastic, knowledgable,  and incredibly in love with Scotland. Haggis is also all about FUN. Their yellow mini buses have things like “AWESOME” and “Wild & Sexy” scrawled across them, and their guides can often be found sporting kilts. When I was first poking around at ideas for what to do with my time in Scotland, it was Haggis' fun and funky attitude that caught my eye and got me interested.

Haggis Adventures

Who will you travel with?

Haggis Adventures offers up both day trips (to places like Loch Ness) and multi-day tours. While you can find travelers of all types and ages on the day trips, the multi-day adventures definitely cater more towards younger budget travelers and backpackers. On my Highland Fling tour, ages ranged from early 20s to mid-30s, and the majority of the travelers were from Australia (I was the only one from Team USA in the group!).

Haggis Adventures

My group gelled really well, with all of us up for just about anything, whether it was a whiskey distillery tour or an evening of ceilidh dancing. It's rare to happen upon such an amazing tour group when it's this size (there were 22 on my trip, though there can be up to 29), but it's safe to say we were all feeling the DSL (Deep Scottish Love) with Haggis.

Haggis Adventures

Who is the guide?

Haggis employs some seriously, seriously awesome guides. I've had the pleasure of meeting quite a few of them by now, and they've all been fun, crazy, adventurous Scots with huge love for their country. My guide for this particular tour was Andy C, a hilarious fellow with a mischievous streak a mile wide. He had us ceilidh dancing, hiking to waterfalls, drinking whiskey, and playing fun bus games like “Hunt the Munter” and “Who's Next?”

Haggis Adventures

When it comes to guided tours, the guide definitely makes or breaks the entire experience. In this case, Andy C definitely made the experience for us with his jokes, outgoing personality, and extensive knowledge of Scottish history. It also helped that he changed up our itinerary here and there to take us to some of HIS favorite spots in the Highlands, and never pressured us to go anywhere or do anything that came at an extra cost if we didn't want to. He even took our interests into account, pointing out things like Harry Potter locations even though he himself hates the movies.

How will you travel?

For all of Haggis' trips, guests travel in eco-friendly Mercedes Benz buses, which are painted bright yellow and emblazoned with Haggis' catchphrases. Most of the buses seat up to 29, meaning you won't be traveling on a massive coach with dozens of other people.

Haggis Adventures

And, since you'll be traveling around Scotland, you won't have to worry about ever being on the bus for more than a couple of hours at a time. The country is too small for long-haul bus rides!

Where will you stay?

The price of a Haggis trip only includes the transportation and the guiding — it does not include the price of accommodation. Your accommodation can be booked through Haggis, however, and mostly includes small hostels (usually 4-bed rooms). Of course, you don't HAVE to book hostels with the rest of the group. If you'd rather look into hotels or B&Bs on your own, you are totally free to do so. Or you can do what I did, and request a private room and pay a bit more.

Oban

I would recommend just sticking with the group, however. It's easier to just stay where everyone else is staying, and the hostels Haggis chooses to work with are usually the best ones in each of the cities/towns you stop in. In fact, in a couple places we stayed on this particular tour (like Oban, Kyleakin, and Fort Augustus), the hostels we stayed in were some of the ONLY ones available.

Whatever you do, though, don't skip staying at Morag's Lodge in Fort Augustus. Operated by Haggis itself, this cozy hostel near Loch Ness is one of the most fun places I've ever stayed. They have an open kitchen, breakfast and dinner for purchase each night, comfortable rooms, and a little bar where there's always something going on at night. During my two nights there, we had a team pub quiz night, and a tartan toga party. Both were SO MUCH FUN.

Morag's Lodge
Pub Quiz night
Morag's Lodge
Tartan toga night – and yes, all the boys were wearing their kilts in “true” Scottish fashion…

What will you eat?

Just like with the accommodation, you're on your own when it comes to food on these tours, too. But, in many cases, you'll just be grabbing snacks and lunches at cafes you stop at along the way (bacon rolls, yum!) and then having dinner at the hostel's you're staying at. The meals I had at Saucy Mary's (Kyleakin hostel) and Morag's were all delicious, and not super expensive, either. Plus, it was nice not to have to go out and find food in these tiny towns.

Otherwise, ask your guide for suggestions. In Oban, for example, our guide recommended a delicious fish and chips place for us to try. You're in Scotland, though, so be sure to try three things: haggis, whiskey, and shortbread. And maybe a deep fried Mars bar, if you're brave.

Whiskey

What will you do?

Haggis' “Highland Fling” is just that — a brief relationship with Scotland's Highlands region. But damn, do you pack a lot into that fling!

Highlights of this tour included a stop at the William Wallace monument near Stirling, riding up a ski lift near Glencoe for some stunning views, touring Eilean Donan Castle, visiting a whiskey distillery, hunting for Nessie on a Loch Ness cruise, a night of ceilidh dancing in Oban, learning about Scottish history at Culloden Battlefield, and hiking to waterfalls and around pretty lakes. Most of these activities did cost extra, but the fee was usually a reasonable £5-£10.

Glencoe
Ski lift near Glencoe
Oban Ceilidh
Ceilidh dancing in Oban
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

This 5-day tour also included one day of driving around the stunning scenery of the Isle of Skye — probably my favorite place in Scotland!

Isle of Skye

And we planted trees, too! Haggis, like many good tour companies, keeps the environment and sustainable tourism in mind when guiding people around Scotland. The company was the first tour operator in Scotland to achieve a national Green Tourism Award, and actively supports eco-friendly charities such as The John Muir Trust and Trees For Life. Their partnership with Trees for Life includes helping to restore Scotland's native Caledonian Forest, and they do this by letting tour groups plant trees in the Haggis Grove. Definitely unique!

Haggis Adventures

Any downsides?

The only real downsides are the same ones that accompany any sort of organized group travel — you do sacrifice a bit of independence. If you fall in love with a place, you really can't choose to stay any longer without leaving the tour. If you hate your tourmates or guide, you are stuck with them for the whole trip. However, none of these downsides showed themselves on my Highland Fling trip. I loved my group, loved my guide, and loved the experience overall.

Haggis Adventures
I mean, they were willing to do this!

And, more importantly, I loved Scotland.

Would I recommend it?

If you've read this far, then I'm sure you've already figured out my answer: yes, yes, and YES. I would absolutely recommend this tour to anyone interested in exploring Scotland and having a great time while doing it.

Hairy Highland Coo

Feel the DSL.

What do you think? Would you ever travel with Haggis?

 

 

 

*Note: I was a guest of Haggis Adventures on this tour, and also received discounts and/or free stays at some of the hostels up in the Highlands. As always, though, all opinions are my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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36 Comments on “What’s it Like to Travel with Haggis Adventures?

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  1. I spent a few days in Edinburgh, but that’s all I’ve seen of Scotland, and I’d definitely like to explore more. This review makes me want to drop all of my plans and sign up for the Highland Fling!

      It was so much fun. And, regardless of whether you go on a tour or just do it on your own, you definitely MUST get up to the Highlands at some point!

    That’s certainly a lot packed into 5 days! This post makes me want to go back to Scotland so much! I used to live there and I do miss the odd ceilidh dance 😛

    Hi Flora, great post and I’m sure you’ll be encouraging lots of people to visit Scotland and explore with Haggis Tours. Just one (very) wee point to make – Scotch Whisky comes without any ‘e’. That’s reserved for Irish Whiskey. 🙂

      Thanks for the correction! (And, if I may make one of my own… I’m Amanda, not Flora! [Though I do know a Flora, and she is lovely.])

    Local tour companies are great, I’ve had Haggis bookmarked for awhile now but haven’t made it to Scotland yet. Glad to hear it was a great tour.

      Definitely a good tour and worth considering when you do manage to make it to Scotland!

    The activities sound great, but I’m not sure I would like traveling with such a large group. Our style is definitely independent travel. We’ve not been to Scotland yet but definitely hope to go soon!

      I can totally respect that, Jennifer. I like traveling independently, too, but I have also enjoyed most of the group tours I’ve taken. I travel solo 90% of the time, though, so I suppose that definitely makes things different.

      Get yourself to Scotland soon! Even if you don’t explore with Haggis, it’s still VERY MUCH worth exploring. So much history, and so many stories. Love it there.

    Hey Amanda,

    Thanks for giving us such an awesome review! You really captured the essence of the ‘Haggis Adventures’ experience.

    You have upset me though you know…
    I’m sat in my terribly boring and monotonous Sunday job and reading this has made me miss guiding SO MUCH!

    Glad you have a great time. Come back to Scotland soon!

    🙂

      Well you guys definitely deserve such an awesome review!! 🙂

      Sorry to have upset you, though… next time I’m in Scotland, you can totally be my guide!!

    Thanks for bringing back some happy memories, Amanda. Enjoyed a mad family holiday a few years back that started in Aberdeen and ended in Glasgow, taking in Perth, Edinburgh, Oban, and Mull plus many more places in between. Hmmm, wonder if it’s too late to write up a post myself.

      You are very welcome! And, when it comes to good travel stories, it is NEVER too late to write them up!

    I traveled with their sister company Shamrocker in Ireland and I LOVED it – very fun, friendly guide, a young Aussie (of course!) group and fantastic sights and accommodation. I’m a big big fan of this company!

      Awesome to hear! I haven’t tried out Shamrocker yet, but may later on this year!

    Cheers for reminding me how much fun exploring Scotland with Haggis was! I really miss Scotland now..

    I’m actually doing this exact tour at the end of August with my boyfriend! We are planning on getting tickets to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo thanks to your post about festivals (we never thought to check and see if we would be around for one!)

    On your “Highland Fling” tour, did you get the opportunity to ride the Jacobite Train (Hogwarts Express Train)? Do you know how that works if you book to ride it? Is it something you do with the whole group or do you meet up with your group later? I’ve looked on their website but I am confused with how this actually works. Being a HUGE Harry Potter fan, I’m dragging my poor boyfriend to see it…it’s a must 🙂

      That’s awesome! This is still one of my favorite tours EVER, so I know you guys will love it! We did not have the chance to ride the Jacobite, though. (I’m doing it this summer on another tour, but as far as I remember it wasn’t an option on the Highland Fling.)

    Hey!

    Thanks for writing this! I’ve been wanting to read some reviews 🙂 I was actually looking to do the 10day tour, in june/july. Do you think the 10 day tour would be too long? if you already say the 5day tour was packed with loads of activities. I’ll be going by myself, and I guess im just a bit afraid of there being a lot of couples and not really fitting in.

    Hope to hear from you,

    Femmy

      Hey Femmy! Judging from the itinerary, I think the 10-day trip would be great – but I’ve never done it myself, so I’m afraid I can’t give any details. Going to some of the other Scottish isles is something I’d love to do, though, so that appeals to me! I wouldn’t worry about traveling solo, either – there were some couples on my tour, yes, but there were also other solo travelers and small groups of friends. You’ll have a great time!

    heading to Scotland for wedding June 18th, kind of tight on time, so thought we would take a 3 day tour to highlands. Haggis sounds fun but we might be too old for the crowd (we are early 60’s) but don’t want to get stuck on a stodgy tour bus with a bunch of old farts if you know what I mean. I assume the private rooms on Haggis tour not with private bath? I have never stayed in a hostel not sure what to expect but as it is only 2 nights, not a big deal. any advice appreciated.

      Hey Kathy! Actually, I think most of the private rooms DID have private baths. Though the hostel at Loch Ness might not be to your taste! 😉

      If you want a really similar experience but non-hostel lodging and a less backpacker-y crowd, I can recommend Highland Explorer Tours, which is a sister company of Haggis. I did a trip with them with my mom, and we both really enjoyed it. You can read about that one here: https://www.dangerous-business.com/2015/08/the-scottish-highlands-with-highland-explorer-tours/

        Thanks for the prompt reply! I am kind of tempted to go the hostel route, your photos of the hostel tour just seemed more fun! It’s only 2 nights! so not having hotel standards not a big deal. As long as we have a bed, indoor plumbing, I am good to go! Thank you.

          Well, remember that I did the 5-day tour with Haggis – not sure what their 3-day tour is like! (Though I’m sure it’s just as fun!)

            Thanks again, one question is there a reason why website is required to send a message? I just put in my yelp URL, I don’t have a blog or personal website. Where are you located? we are in Mountain View CA (Silicon Valley)

            The website part isn’t required! It’s just there for those who want to use it. 🙂 And I’m located in Ohio, near Cleveland.

    I’ve just come back from the Isle Of Skye Tour with Haggis Adventures and fell in love with Scotland and them too! I don’t usually do tours but you’re right, they are the nicest company ever! Had a great time with everyone I met and learnt so much about Scotland. Nice to see your review reflects exactly what I experienced too 🙂

      That’s awesome to hear, Alice! Haggis and Scotland really are both so special!

    Hi Amanda and thanks for all of this. I’m planning a trip late Sept/early Oct and thanks to your blog, will be booking the 5 day Highland Fling then onto Ireland and the 5 day Giant’s Rocker (sister company, also getting great reviews). A couple of questions regarding those hostels and I guess hostels in general (NEVER stayed in one before) .. do you have to supply your own bedding (sleeping bag and pillow) and are there showers available at hostels? Thanks again.

      That’s awesome to hear, Kathy! I haven’t traveled with Shamrocker in Ireland, but have heard good things. And I love Haggis! I’m doing another tour with them this fall, too. 🙂

      As for the hostels, they supply you with bedding (and usually a towel, too, though sometimes you need to rent one), and yes there will be showers and all of that! Think of a hostel as a guest house where you have to share a room with other people. They really aren’t that bad!

    Hi Amanda,

    I was wondering if you had a rough guestimate on how much you spent on doing the additional activities/on food (a personal question, I know, so if you don’t feel comfortable answering thats okay). I’m planning a tour with them, but I’m also trying to budget to do more of Europe, so I was trying to get a rough idea of what I’d spend in Ireland. Your trip looks like it was so much fun!

      It was definitely a lot of fun! On this one, the extra activities were minimal – less than 20 pounds total. As for food, I don’t have an exact number, but light breakfast is included at most of the hostels (i.e. tea and toast), and there are almost always supermarkets nearby where you pick can up lunch/snacks. I’d say I spent maybe 15-25 pounds per day on food/snacks.

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