A Mega Highland Christmas with Haggis Adventures
Last month I went in search of a fairytale Christmas; I joined the five-day Mega Highland Christmas tour with Haggis Adventures and I discovered far more than I ever expected. Not only did I get my fairytale adventure, I fell in love too. With Scotland. Yes, Bonnie Scotland, you have worked your magic on me!
So here’s my mega-post on this Highland fairytale adventure. If you would rather watch than read, scroll to the bottom for a two-minute video which gives you a real taste of the fun we had!
Once Upon A Time…
My Highland fairytale adventure began one cold, dark, wet morning in Edinburgh. Thirty of us met our knight in shining armour and his trusty steed. In true Scottish style, this knight, known as Andy, was wearing a kilt rather than armour, and instead of a white horse, he rode a big “wild and sexy” yellow bus!
Our fairytale quest
All fairytales involve some sort of quest and we soon set out on ours to discover the magic of this enchanting fairytale land. Each day we were presented with an exciting new quest to discover magic, legend, myth and lore.
The road to Fort AugustusOn the first day of this Highland fairytale we made our way to a village called Fort Augustus, where we stayed for two nights, near the banks of Loch Ness at Morag’s Lodge. Soon after leaving Edinburgh we encountered The Kelpies, two 30 metre high horses’ heads near Falkirk. In Scottish folklore, kelpies are shape-shifting water spirits, usually found inhabiting lochs (lakes). Kelpies shift from horse to human form. They resemble white horses which are considered mythical in various parts of the world and there appears to be plenty in Scotland. Andy told us of the luck seeing a white horse would bring. And so our first challenge was presented; we had to find 30 white horses over the next 5 days to ensure good luck for all. This challenge also involved shouting; “White horse! White horse! White horse!” on seeing one of these magical creatures. It’s important to follow the rules on these quests. No excuses.
Highlights from day 1:
- The National Wallace Monument. If you have seen Braveheart, you know how Sir William Wallace’s life came to an end.
- Doune Castle. Fans of Games of Thrones will recognise this place.
- Loch Lubnaig. Such a beautiful place to enjoy a quiet moment.
- Glencoe. We had a fantastic lunch at the Glencoe Mountain Resort, got up-close with local deer, visited a Skyfall filming location and learned about the Glencoe Massacre.
Morag’s lodge is lovely place to stay; I shared a 4-bed female dorm with en-suite which was of a high standard. We were greeted with chocolates on our pillows and had a lively and fun evening with excellent food (chicken with haggis or veggie pie), a quiz and dancing. I would love to return for another stay.
The Isle of Skye
I was so excited about day 2; our quest was to visit the Isle of Skye! I love to explore the natural world, escape city-life and go somewhere wild. Even better, Skye is filled with magic, legend, myth and lore, making it the perfect Highland fairytale destination! On our way to Skye we stopped at Eilean Donan Castle, Glen Garry and Loch Garry where we built small stone sculptures and made a wish. We also stopped for a walk in beautiful Glen Shiel.
Highlights from exploring Skye included:
- The enchanted River Sligachan. Local lore encourages visitors to plunge their faces in the cold enchanted waters in order to make themselves look more beautiful.
- Portree, Skye’s largest town – check out MacKenzie’s Bakery!
- Bride’s Veil Waterfall. A beautiful fairy location.
- Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. Kilt Rock gets its name from the pleated appearance of the cliff face.
Fort Augustus to Inverness
On the third day of our quest we went in search of a famous monster – the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately referred to as “Nessie”. I hadn’t been to Loch Ness since I was a child and was excited at the chance of spotting this magical creature! Loch Ness is the largest body of fresh water in Britain, impressively containing “more water than all the other lakes in England, Scotland and Wales put together”! (Source: The Legend of Nessie) Unfortunately we didn’t see Nessie at the Loch but later in the day when we stopped for lunch, I’m pretty sure I spotted him as I looked out of the window of the cafe!
We spent the morning exploring Invermoriston a magical place worthy of fairytale status. We met the cute local hairy coos (cows, if you don’t speak Scottish) too.
- Urqhart Castle, a beautiful ancient ruin by Loch Ness.
- Balnuaran Of Clava, one of the best preserved Bronze Age graveyards in Scotland. We were encouraged to wrap our arms around one of the megalithic stone structures, which is said to help align mind, body and spirit.
- Culloden Battlefield, which is where the final battle of the Jacobite Rising took place in 1746.
Before arriving at The Royal Highland Hotel in Inverness, we stopped in Baurley to explore the Priory Ruin and stock up on festive treats for the next couple of days! It was Christmas Eve and we were all ready to party – not before a enjoying a fantastic hot buffet dinner and drinks at the hotel though!
Christmas Day and a trip to Nairn
After a late night, we all had the chance to have a wee lie-in before heading off on our Christmas Day quest!
On climbing aboard our trusty steed, we were given a brown bag lunch and we each found a Christmas stocking filled with Scottish Christmas treats on our seat! Such a wonderful surprise. I didn’t want our Knight-in-Kilt to miss out and I’d already brought something along for him – a bag full of chocolate sprouts! This turned out to be completely appropriate because Andy doesn’t like his veggies, but he does like his sprouts at Christmas – I gave him some real sprouts later too!
Our first challenge of the day was to visit the footbridge in Inverness. Sounds easy right? There was definitely a lot of alcohol consumed by the group the night before but we all went to shake off any lingering hangovers by having a good ole jump on the bouncy bridge!
Other Christmas Day highlights:
- Rogie Falls, a wonderful place for a Christmas Day walk. The air was crisp, the ground frozen and the sky blue; it was beautiful.
- Nairn for lunch on the beach. It was so cold the beach was frozen solid! I spent time exploring the beach, looking for evidence of magical creatures – if you look close enough, you can usually see something mythical!
- Christmas drinks and games in a pub in Nairn.
- Christmas Dinner at the Royal Highland Hotel. This was first class and the Wallace Ballroom is most definitely suited to fairytale royalty. The food was amazing (I had haggis, turkey and sticky toffee pudding), the staff were brilliant; we had music playing, there was dancing – all before the planned after-dinner entertainment!
- Following dinner we had the promised traditional Scottish Ceilidh, which was fantastic!
The Road back to Edinburgh
Boxing Day started with a hearty Scottish breakfast and a farewell to the magnificent Royal Highland Hotel. Of course they didn’t let us leave empty handed and made sure we were well prepared for our journey with another brown bag lunch. Royal Highland Hotel, I do hope we meet again.
We travelled back to Edinburgh with a drive through the beautiful Cairngorms National Park. Most of the landscape was frozen and reminded me of Narnia.
Highlights of the last day:
- Ruthven Barracks: it was so cold but it was great to explore the old barracks and observe brilliant views of the frozen landscape.
- Pitlochry: we stopped in this little town for lunch. I headed to a lovely coffee shop with some of the group and had a well-needed and indulgent hot chocolate with marshmallows, lots of cream and a flake!
- The Hermitage: a beautiful and enchanted-looking forest with waterfalls.
- Dunkeld: to view the cathedral and take a wee stroll around the town.
A perfect Highland fairytale Christmas
I was blown away by just how much awesome we packed into this five-day itinerary!
If you’ve never travelled during the Christmas holiday season, you should definitely give it a try; it’s such a magical and fun time to be away! Everyone you encounter is super-happy and friendly.
I was amazed at just how much we managed to bond as a group within such a short space of time too. Typically I travel on group tours with much smaller groups, so although there were a number of groups of friends travelling together, everyone made an effort to include everyone, which I always like to see. Group travel is never just about “me”, it’s about “us” and by all making an effort with one another, including the guide and other people who help along the way, we all have the best possible experience.
Our Knight-in-Kilt and hero in this fairytale, Andy Cowan worked incredibly hard from the moment we got on the bus; he had us laughing, singing and learning absolutely loads about this magical land. It’s always a pleasure to travel on a tour with such a passionate and knowledgeable guide!
Oh and if you’re wondering, we achieved our White Horse Challenge! Ok, so we might not have SEEN 30 white horses with our own eyes, but we did see almost 30 and on the drive back to Edinburgh, we could sense the rest were out there, hidden by the enchanted fog that masked the landscape!
See for yourself – watch this short film
Take a look at this short film of some of the trip; I think the footage speaks for itself. I also asked the group for their opinions of the tour though too because I didn’t want to just give you my perspective. I hope you enjoy it!
This Highland fairytale might be over for now but I will definitely be making more plans with Scotland this year. If I didn’t have work commitments, I would have loved to have joined the Up Helly Aa Viking Festival tour to the Shetland Islands too, for even more magic, legend, myth and lore!
Disclaimer: I joined the Mega Highland Christmas tour courtesy of Haggis Adventures. In return I am blogging and sharing my experiences on social media, providing you with an honest account. I would never let my editorial independence be compromised because a trip is hosted. For further information, please read my Ethics page.