Haggis Adventures is a Scottish bus tour company. I recently did the 5-day Highland Fling tour, which took me around the Highlands of Scotland.
I’m not an organized tour person. I know every wannabe travel “vagabond” says that – but I actually mean it. In fact, the Haggis Adventures Highland Fling is the first and only organized bus tour I have ever been on.
I don’t have a problem with bus tours. I just figure I have plenty of time for bus tours as I get older.
With that caveat in mind, I’m very happy I did the Haggis Adventures Highland Fling tour. I met some amazing people and saw Scotland’s prettiest sights in a whirlwind five-day, four-night adventure.
What to Know
Haggis Adventures is a Scottish bus tour company. They’re part of The Travel Corporation family, which includes Highland Explorer Tours and Shamrocker Adventures.
Just like with Shamrocker, Haggis Adventures is catered to a younger (and younger at heart) crowd.
Most people on our bus were ages 22-35. I was 25 and felt there were plenty of people right around my age.
You stay in hostels. However, you can pay extra to stay in your own room – which several couples (and one single) on our tour did.
There was a couple in their 70s on our bus – and they fit in great. They had met traveling a long time ago and wanted to feel young again, so they joined our bus tour. Age is just a number – and if you want to have a good time while seeing Scotland’s best sights, then Haggis Adventures might be the right choice.
I booked my bus tour two months before I flew to Scotland. Haggis Adventures regularly has discount sales, including 10% to 15% discounts for booking in advance. After booking, you can see the names and locations of people from your tour. It was cool to watch the tour fill up with people from Canada and the United States.
I was initially planning to solo travel. However, two friends (also age 25) joined me. There were plenty of solo travelers on our bus, and they all fit in well. We were all good friends by the end of it.
Most of our bus was from Australia or the United States. There were also Canadians and Kiwis and a few people from Scandinavia.
The 5-day Highland Fling is one of several tours offered. They have a range of Scotland tours lasting 2 to 10 days. They also have day tours from Edinburgh.
What to Expect
I had a great time on my five-day Highland Fling tour with Haggis Adventures. Here’s how it went down.
Day 1) Edinburgh to Loch Ness
We woke up at our hostel in Edinburgh (Castle Rock Hostel) and walked to the bus stop for an 8:30am departure. A crowd had gathered. Instead of waiting around, we went to get breakfast.
After boarding the bus, our guide (Jodi) introduced herself and explained the history of Edinburgh. The bus pulled away, and we were heading out of Edinburgh within 15 minutes.
Our first stop was Queensferry to see the Forth Bridge, a railway bridge across the Firth of Forth.
After Queensferry, our bus played a social game. It’s like speed dating: you swap seats every 30 seconds until you’ve met everyone on the bus. It’s a great way to force everyone to interact with one another.
Our second stop was Dunkeld, a small and pretty town best-known for the Dunkeld Cathedral, a 14th century cathedral. We had a few minutes to walk around town.
Being wandering boozebags, we picked up some mini bottles of scotch at a gift shop in downtown Dunkeld. Hey, it had our family name on it!
Next, we traveled just up the road to Pitlochry, where we stopped for lunch. We were free to choose anywhere in town. We chose the McKay Hotel for some fine local Scottish cuisine with a beer.
After lunch we visited a historical site called the Highland Folk Museum in Newtownmore. This open air museum was really cool. They’ve recreated a highland village the way it would have looked between the 1700s and 1960s. They actually filmed some scenes for Outlander here.
You also get a firsthand demonstration of Scottish school life in the 1960s. You can view workshops, duck in and out of huts, and explore a traditional Scottish farmhouse.
Next up was Loch Laggan Dam, a hydroelectric dam. I’m from BC, so seeing a small hydroelectric dam isn’t terribly exciting. The dam was built in 1934, although it looks like it’s 300 years old. The scenery in this area is beautiful, and you really start to feel you’re in the Highlands.
Just before pulling into our hostel, we stopped at the Commando Memorial, a commemorative statue featuring three World War II commandos (commandos trained in this area during WWII). The statue is nice, but the scenery is incredible. You have a 360-degree view of the highlands and hills. There was snow on the mountains on June 29.
Finally, we pulled into our hostel in Fort Augustus: Morag’s Lodge. You could pay extra for dinner and a Loch Ness cruise. We did both. We checked in, got settled, then met back downstairs for the cruise.
The Loch Ness cruise was neat. I mean, you’ve come all the way here. You might as well see Loch Ness. You take a slow loop around the lower half of the Loch. Oh, and there’s a bar on board.
Morag’s Lodge has its own (small) pub on-site. They had a trivia night, so we signed up with some girls from our tour. We won trivia night by one point, scoring us a bottle of (cheap) champagne. It ended up being a wild and fun night.
Day 2) Loch Ness Castles, Inverness, Culloden, & Scotch Tasting
After an action packed day 1, we started off slow on day 2, taking the bus to a nearby park. There were hairy “coos” (these cows are a big deal in the Highlands).
Jodi (our guide) led us on a nice walk along the River Moriston to see Invermoriston Bridge. We were free to roam around before meeting back at the bus.
We continued driving north up Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle, a ruined castle with a spectacular view over the lake. You can pay to go in, but there isn’t much to see. We got plenty of nice photos above the castle.
Next up was Culloden Battlefield, an important spot in Scottish history. During the 1700s, a group of Scots rebelled against the English. They called themselves Jacobites. To make a very long story short, the Jacobites met the English for a decisive battle at Culloden in 1746.
The Jacobites lost, and Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom to this day. This battlefield is particularly cool if you’re a fan of Outlander, as Jamie Fraser almost dies during the battle. There’s even a Clan Fraser tomb at the battlefield.
Speaking of Outlander, we visited a nearby set of standing stones called Clava Cairns next.
Then the bus drove us into Inverness, where we had 2 hours to roam around, get lunch, and get snacks (and beers) for the afternoon.
It was arguably the sunniest day in Inverness history when we visited. I’m told it’s never like this. It was so warm, in fact, that we saw pasty old men walking around shirtless. They call it “taps aff”, or “tops off”: on rare days when Scottish weather is sunny, local men take their shirts off to soak it up.
I had been looking forward to the distillery tour since booking the Haggis Adventures Highland Fling. We visited the Tomatin Distillery Visitor Centre and got a tour of the place. You see how they make scotch. You see the scotch barrels – including barrels with your year of birth on it.
Then, of course, you get to sample the whisky. This is where things got amazing: many of the girls on our trip took one sip of the whisky and didn’t like it. Knowing we were boozebags, they generously donated their leftover whisky tastings to us. It was a blurry and boisterous bus ride back to the hostel.
We stayed at Morag’s Lodge (the same hostel) the second night. There was a local musician playing. It was a more lowkey night as we were all partied out from a wild trivia night (and a boozy afternoon tasting whisky).
Day 3) More Castles and Isle of Skye
We woke up and checked out of the hostel, heading for the Isle of Skye. Along the way, we stopped at a random field in the middle of the Highlands.
Haggis Adventures partners with a non-profit organization called Trees For Life. You plant a tree, then hop back onto the bus.
Then, we stopped at Eileen Donan castle, which is one of the most beautiful castles I’ve ever seen. It’s plunked on an island on the edge of a lake. It’s like something from a fairy tale or fantasy novel.
You used to take a ferry to the Isle of Skye. In the 1990s, the government built a bridge. Our Haggis Adventures bus stopped in Kyle of Lochalsh, letting us walk across the bridge to Kyleakin.
Getting back on the bus, we drove up the Isle of Skye’s main roadway, stopping at various points of interest along the way.
We stopped underneath a bridge to dunk our heads in some magical water that was supposed to make us beautiful.
We stopped in Portree, the largest town (and capital) on the Isle of Skye. We grabbed some fish n’ chips and beer, then sat along the harbor. Portree is beautiful: it’s exactly how you picture an old Scottish fishing village.
Next up was Old Man of Storr, a highlight of my trip to Scotland.
You’ve seen this rock in hundreds of photos. Although we didn’t have much time, I ran to the top to get the best view.
We stopped at a waterfall on the way back.
We also stopped at a supermarket where Jodi told us to buy food and booze for the night.
Finally, we drove back down to Kyleakin, staying in a hostel called Saucy Mary’s Lodge, which is still one of the best hostel names I’ve seen.
We walked across the street to a lively place called The King Haakon Bar for dinner and a few pints. We had an amazing view of the Skye Bridge and water as the sun went down.
Our night ended with us drinking and playing drinking games in the hostel. At one point, we decided it was a good idea to yell our respective national anthems. It started with us singing Oh Canada (it was Canada Day, after all). Later, Jodi told us she could hear our singing from her hotel down the road. Whoops. We might have woken up a whole Scottish village for Canada Day.
Day 4) Ferry Rides, Harry Potter Bridge, Oban, and Ceilidh Night
I woke up early and slightly hungover, so I cleared my head by walking around Kyleakin. It’s a small village, but there’s clearly a lot of fishing history here.
There’s also a small, ruined fort overlooking town. You can hike to it.
We got back on the bus and headed south to Armadale, the main ferry terminal on that end of the Isle of Skye.
We had some time to explore the area around the ferry terminal. You can walk down to the rocks and see seals.
Next, we caught the ferry to Mallaig, taking about 30 minutes to cross the sea. We could grab lunch anywhere in town. Then, half of the bus hopped on the Hogwarts Express to cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct, while the other half got on the bus to Glenfinnan, where we watched the train cross (you pay an extra fee to take the train).
This whole area is insanely beautiful. There’s a lake with an island in one direction, and there’s the god damn Harry Potter bridge in the other direction. Eventually, you see the train carrying your bus mates cross the bridge, and you hop back on the bus to go pick them up.
Next up was our final stop of the tour: Oban. Oban is a pretty and historic town known for its scotch.
We checked into our hostel (Backpackers Plus) and had a couple hours to get some food and drinks.
Then, we met in the hostel common room, played some drinking games, and got dressed for the ceilidh (pronounced “kaylee”).
A bagpiper met us at the hostel. We walked to the ceilidh hall behind a man playing the bagpipes. If that’s not peak Scottish, then I don’t know what is.
The ceilidh was a lot of fun. The band (Skipinnish) was excellent. I’m not the type of person to start dancing, but everyone joins in regardless.
Prepare to sweat a lot at the ceilidh. Hundreds of people dancing vigorously in a small space is bound to create some heat. The jager bombs they serve at the bar were very refreshing.
We drunkenly planned to stay up all night, climbing to the hill above Oban (McCaig’s Tower) to watch the sunrise. Instead, we got back to the hostel and quickly fell asleep.
Day 5) Glen Coe, Loch Lomond, Stirling, and Back to Edinburgh
Although this was our last day, our Haggis Adventure Highland Fling was far from over.
Our first stop was Glen Coe, also known as the Great Glen. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Scotland.
It’s a huge valley that played an important role in Scottish history. Clans sheltered here. Clans got slaughtered here. They wrote a song about it.
You can hike up to the far side of the valley to get an even better view over everything. I recommend it – especially on a sunny day like the one we got.
We stopped at several scenic lookouts in this area, including one spot close to where they filmed the James Bond movie Skyfall.
Driving back towards Edinburgh, we stopped at Balloch, a town on Loch Lomond, for lunch. Again, we were free to pick anywhere in town for lunch. We stopped at the supermarket and ate at a lovely public park.
Last stop was Stirling, a historic town between Glasgow and Edinburgh. We stopped at the National Wallace Monument, a beautiful monument to Scottish hero William Wallace.
The monument stands above the site of one of Wallace’s first and most important victories.
You can pay to enter the monument, which is a museum and gives you a panoramic view over the valley. You can also hike around for free.
After five long days, we got on the bus for the final time. The bus dropped us back off in downtown Edinburgh. There were some goodbyes at the bus, although most of us agreed to meet up later that night at a pub – we ended up staying out till 2am with our new friends for another unforgettable night in Scotland.
What I Liked
I thoroughly enjoyed my Haggis Adventures Highland Fling bus tour, and I’m glad I did it.
The Scenery: They take you to some of the most beautiful sights in Scotland. I was extremely impressed with the views.
Action Packed: We saw a ton of sights, and every day was filled with big and small things to keep us entertained. I know there’s more to see, but I feel like I got a comprehensive tour of the Highlands’ main sights.
Stress Free: I’m the type of person who researches trips for hours to ensure I have the best route while not missing major sights. With all of this planning out of my hands, it felt extremely stress free. Just sit on the bus and wait for the next sight.
Plenty of Downtime: We had a couple hours of downtime every day. Morning starts weren’t overly early, and nights were generally free reign. It felt like the right amount of downtime.
Choose Your Own Adventure: You can have meals with the group. Or, you can have meals anywhere you like. At most stops, you’re free to choose wherever you want to eat, and Haggis Adventures doesn’t pre-reserve restaurants or railroad you through certain restaurant partners.
Travel with Like-Minded People: I was worried our tour was going to be full of quiet, boring people. It was the opposite: everyone was around our age (mostly 22 to 35 year olds) and ready to have a good time.
What I Didn’t Like
I had some minor complaints with the tour, but nothing serious:
Joining Up With Another Tour on Day 3: On the third day of our tour, we met up with a group doing a longer tour (the 8 or 10-day Haggis Adventures tour). They joined our bus for the rest of the trip. After bonding with our group for two days, this changed the dynamic a bit, and it made our bus more crowded. However, it wasn’t that big of a deal, and we made new friends.
Basic Hostels: We mostly stayed in 8 or 10 bed hostels. All of the hostels were very basic. The emphasis is on having a good time at a cheap price – don’t expect luxury accommodations or shower arrangements (again, you can pay extra for your own hotel as well).
Before I booked my Haggis Adventures Highland Fling tour, I couldn’t find many reviews online. I wrote this review to help others know what to expect.
Overall, I had a great time, met some amazing people, and saw Scotland’s best sights – all in a whirlwind five days.
I’m happy with the price I paid for the tour, and I feel I got good value. I still have 20+ people from this tour on Facebook, including friends I’ve met up with years later. I definitely recommend booking a Haggis Adventures Highland Fling tour.