Are you considering taking a budget tour of Scotland? Chances are you’ve stumbled upon Haggis Adventures, an Edinburgh based tour company. I recently went on their Skye High tour – here’s my Haggis Adventures Review, complete and unbiased!
With only a month or so left of my time in the UK, I was suddenly struck by a desperate need to visit Scotland. Not only is it my ancestral homeland, but it’s also one of those places that I always find myself admiring on Instagram.
The Isle of Skye was a non-negotiable, and my first idea was to take the “DIY” route. I generally prefer independent travel over organised tours, however it soon became clear that would present some challenges in Scotland.
Driving in the UK isn’t really my thing at the best of times, and the wet and winding roads of Scotland didn’t really appeal. Soon, I came across Haggis Adventures.
I was first intrigued by the price, but I also loved the playful feel of their website (good job, designers!). I started looking up Haggis Adventures reviews, and impressed by what I saw, I booked into the three-day ‘Skye High’ tour.
One thing I noticed about many of the reviews of Haggis Adventures tours were that they were by bloggers who got complimentary tours. Now, I do not decry any blogger getting a freebie or two (blogging is harder than it looks, guys!) but I always wonder if bloggers get the red carpet treatment while others get the standard package.
So, one unique thing about this Haggis Adventures review is that I paid the normal price for the tour (less a 20% last minute discount). I didn’t mention I was a blogger, and just went along as a regular old guest. Here’s what I found.
About Haggis Adventures
Haggis Adventures is a tour company operating under the umbrella of Radical Travel, which also runs Shamrocker Adventures in Ireland and Busabout throughout Europe. I understand that Radical Travel is actually Edinburgh-based, so it is actually a local company to Scotland.
The Haggis Adventures tours are definitely aimed at budget-conscious travellers, which is totally up my alley. That said, they do welcome visitors of all ages and there was a variety of people on my tour (more on that soon).
Haggis Adventures has a great reputation worldwide, with tons and tons of rave reviews on Tripadvisor. I was also drawn to Haggis Adventures due to their green ethos – they were the first tour operator in Scotland to achieve a Green Tourism Award.
So, while I do generally like to try to support small tour companies, all in all I felt that Haggis Adventures was a great offering.
Haggis Adventures Review: Practicalities
Lawyering habits die hard. Let’s take a look at the logistical stuff first.
When I first saw Haggis Adventures’ prices, I thought they were too good to be true. Turns out they were, kind of.
Haggis Adventures has a unique system of paying for tours. You can pay simply for the tour, and then pay for your own accommodation, or you can buy an all-inclusive package (with either dorm or private rooms). So, the “from” price advertised on the website is not your ‘all in’ cost with accommodation.
That said, I elected to pay for the package that included accommodation, and it was still pretty amazing value. All in (with my last minute discount), the price was under 200 pounds for a three-day tour.
Considering that the UK is not exactly budget paradise, I felt this was fantastic value for transport, guiding services and accommodation. I stand by that!
One of the great things about the Haggis Adventures tour is that there isn’t that much to pay for during the tour. Apart from meals (and the guides are great at helping you find budget options), there’s really nothing you ‘must’ pay for.
With some tours, you arrive only to find out you’ll need to pay a fortune in “optional extras” if you want to do anything. Not Haggis Adventures. Pretty much everything we did on the Haggis tour was free. I really loved this aspect of the tour.
I brought £100 in spending money on the tour, and left Scotland with £8 left over. So, I spent £92 on food, additional extras (such as visiting Eilean Donan Castle), alcohol, transport from the airport and one lost phone charger. Pretty good, I reckon, since I was not trying hard to stick to a budget.
Another common gripe I have with tours is when they’re offered once in a blue moon, making planning a last minute tour a nightmare.
The Skye High tour leaves Edinburgh on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays which gives you great flexibility. Other tours also have multiple departures per week which means you’ve got a great chance of fitting them in to your travel plans.
Types of tours
Although I opted for the three day Skye High tour, there were plenty of other options to choose from. In fact, I spent a long time tossing up between the Skye High tour as well as two five-day tours that were also on offer.
The tours on offer by Haggis Adventures range from daytrips through to 10-day adventures. They travel all over Scotland, with an emphasis on getting out to see the wild side of Scotland.
All of the tours are budget-friendly and appear to be aimed at the young and young-at-heart. As well as your typical bus tours, they also have a couple of more active adventures if you’re into kayaking and cycling (i.e. are those people who make me feel really bad!).
Personally, I am not a fan of long tours as I start itching to head off on my own – but the variety means there’s something to suit pretty much everyone.
Skye High Tour Review
Overall (spoiler alert!) this is going to be a really positive review of Haggis Adventures. I had a fantastic time on the Skye High tour. In fact, it was one of the most fun tours I’ve ever been on.
That said, I do want to be honest so that you know what to expect and can make an informed decision whether you think this tour would suit you. A tour can be fantastic for one person and not for another, depending on what you like. An active cycling tour might be one person’s dream holiday, while it’s basically what my nightmares are made of.
It’s also worth noting that in my experience, tours are a little ‘luck of the draw’ depending on your group. Mine was amazing. It was also pretty varied, with guests ranging in age from about 18 – 50 and from a bunch of countries including ‘Straya, Canada, Sri Lanka, Spain and Vietnam.
However, I do think that the fun attitude of Haggis Adventures and the passionate guides help to attract fun travellers. So, I think you’ve got a pretty good chance of spending your time with some fun fellow travellers. Also, the great thing is that most people are pretty tolerable for three days!
As the crowd leans young, it is a bit of a party bus (although not too much). This is not a bad thing, as I had a great time – however, I appreciate that some people may not enjoy that. That said, you also learnt a lot about Scottish history and culture, and visited plenty of attractions. Also, some people did decide to retire early rather than party on, which no-one batted an eyelid at.
The tour started at 8:30am in the Royal Mile, and the check-in was very easy. There were a lot of people checking into various tours, but it was quick and well-organised.
It was impossible to miss the bus once it arrived. I mean, it’s bright yellow with “WILD & SEXY” sprawled on the side. You do not need to be concerned that you might struggle to find your carriage!
The bus was modern and comfy inside, with spacious seats and room for a small bag up top. There was a handy USB charger (which took two cables, to avoid fallings out between passengers). There was no wi-fi on the bus, but honestly I think this is a good thing. It was really nice to disconnect and meant I spent a lot of time staring at the scenery.
Haggis Adventures bus drivers are apparently legendary and I can see why. Our guide’s name was Michael, and I really must sing his praises.
While I am not a monster (I swear!) I am not really an easy person for a tour guide to impress. I really love history, and I’d read a fair bit about Scottish history and the Highlands in particular. Having been on tours where guides have been – to put it bluntly – kind of full of sh*t, I was a little worried that Haggis’ fun persona might mean the facts were a little light on. Or totally made up.
At the same time, no one wants to make their way through the countryside with a monotone guide droning on about facts, figures and dates as everyone drifts off.
Michael was just the right level of informative and entertaining. In all honesty, this isn’t a deep dive into Scottish history and it doesn’t pretend to be. That said, it does do an excellent job in providing a concise and accurate overview of historical events – especially the Jacobite Uprisings – with some fun stories thrown in.
Another plus for Michael was that he was happy to respond to our particular interests. Again, one of my pet hates with tours are guides who unwaveringly stick to an itinerary – “if it says hike, we hike! Even in the pouring rain!”
Wherever he could, Michael was flexible in accommodating our requests and also responded to the weather to make sure we had the best time possible.
Finally, as a solo female traveller, it’s kind of a shame that I even have to say this, but I appreciated Michael’s professionalism. I’ve heard stories about women being made uncomfortable by tour guides with other companies, while I have certainly been on tours where sexist jokes are considered the height of humour.
None of this was the case for Michael. He was fun, friendly and chatty, but he was also professional and responsible. No sexist jokes, thank the Lord. He made an effort to put everyone at ease, and I really appreciated that.
While you can pay to upgrade to private rooms or even book separate B&Bs or hotels if you want to, I suspect the vast majority of Haggis Travellers opt for the dorm option. They certainly did on my tour.
Let’s be honest here: you get what you pay for.
If you go on the tour expecting to find luxurious digs, you’ll be disappointed. The accommodation is basic, although it’s safe and comfortable. Most of the time you were sharing rooms with 6 – 8 people, which was totally fine with me. I figure as soon as you’re in a dorm with a stranger you might as well be in there with six!
The first hostel was the Portree Independent Hostel. The owner was mildly Fawlty Towers-esque, and there were numerous moments where I’m still not quite sure if he was making a joke or telling us off. I lean towards the first option, but I can’t be totally sure.
The hostel was a bit old and dated, but I honestly prefer them to the ultra-sleek modern hostels. It also had a great location within walking (/stumbling) distance of a few local pubs and bars, so it was all good in my book.
The second hostel, Morag Lodge, was also clean, safe and comfortable. I won’t mince words here: it’s a party hostel.
The night we visited there was a ‘Pub Quiz’, which was fun overall but some comments from the quiz master (such as being told ‘we got d*ck’ – as in, nothing – multiple times) and games (such as giving dirty pick up lines to randomly selected participants) made me feel kind of uncomfortable.
(It’s worth noting that the quiz is in no way compulsory – you could always spend a cosy night in or head out to Fort Augustus if you wanted to skip it.)
Overall, it was a fun place to stay for one night and once the quiz ended and we hung out chatting things improved considerably. However, it’s not a place I’d rush back to.
Probably the most important part of the tour is the itinerary, and in this respect I think that Haggis Adventures really delivered.
Often with tours, the first and last day are essentially nothing. So I had some concern that our “three day” tour might actually be a glorified day trip – luckily, this concern was misplaced. We saw A LOT during our tour.
Obviously three days is not a generous amount of time to explore the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh – you could easily spend a week or more. As a result, every tour needs to make sacrifices in terms of the number of stops or the amount of time at those stops.
I think Michael did a really good job of striking a fine balance here. It definitely leaned towards more stops with less time at each, but I think that was the way to go. The time spent at each ranged from 20 minutes to two hours, with the largest amounts of time reserved for two amazing attractions: the Old Man of Storr and the Fairy Pools.
It even left enough time for me to set up my tripod and take a few longer exposure snaps of the pools! (Although I did have to power walk back to the bus on that particular occasion).
Variety of stops
In terms of the variety of the stops, it was good. My highlight was exploring the Isle of Skye and thought the itinerary took in the island’s main highlights. Additional stops at Loch Ness (of course), Eilean Donan Castle and gorgeous Glencoe were also fabulous.
The whisky distillery tour and stop in at the modern statue of the Kelpies added something a bit different to the itinerary, so it was varied enough to keep things interesting.
The first day was a long one for driving, which Michael warned us about. However, the stops at the Kelpies, Glencoe and Eilean Donan meant it didn’t feel too bad. Plus, the long drive got most of it out of the way so the second day maximised our time on Skye.
We were a bit late getting back to Edinburgh on the third day, which was no fault of Haggis Adventures’ (the road into Edinburgh was closed, and the city was a carpark thanks to the Fringe). So make sure you leave plenty of leeway for any connecting travel.
Overall, I have to give big props to Haggis Adventures for helping me pack a lot into three days in Scotland, without feeling like I was rushing around at breakneck speed.
Room for improvement
I genuinely loved this tour and would definitely recommend it. Yes, it’s on the party hardy side but I really enjoyed letting my hair down and having a laugh.
I do think that three days was the perfect length for me. As mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of organised tours – I tend to be introverted and independent, so I can find long tours a challenge. So, it’s worth considering this if you’re looking at a longer tour.
My only other minor gripe with the tour was the included t-shirts. As part of pre-paying your accommodation, you also got a free t-shirt. Having recently watched a documentary about fast fashion and considering Haggis Adventures’ green ethos, I thought they were kind of wasteful. They say “Deep Scottish Love” in huge letters, which isn’t exactly something I was going to get huge use of – so I’d rather just not have gotten one.
Hopefully it is clear from this Haggis Adventures review that I had a great time on their Skye High tour. I’d recommend this tour for anyone who’s looking for a fun and affordable tour of Scotland, and doesn’t mind sacrificing a bit of luxury along the way.
While I had a couple of small gripes with the tour, overall it easily ranks as one of my favourite ever tours. Scotland is an amazingly beautiful place filled with friendly and hospitable locals, and I’m so glad that I managed to make it up north before flying back to Australia.
For that, I’ve got to give a big thanks to Haggis Adventures for a tour that was on budget and on point!