On Holiday with Paralympic Champions Lora & Neil Fachie

From experience, we’ve found that having something independent from our Paralympic Games performances to look forward to allows us to get the most out of ourselves in competition. Before, when the Tokyo Paralympics were still to be held in 2020, we booked a three week adventure to Canada. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. When Tokyo was finally confirmed for 2021, covid was still a risk and there were many travel restrictions in place. We still wanted an epic adventure, just one much closer to home.

We’d heard the Hebrides and Scottish Highlands were beautiful and seemed like the ideal place to go – cue me going into a planning frenzy where, for a couple of weeks, I engrossed myself in research. I became so obsessed that it was all I could talk about before deciding it would be far easier letting someone else do all the hard work for us. We could just sit back and enjoy the anticipation – thank you McKinlay Kidd!

Barra runway – AKA the beach!

The holiday lasted just over two weeks, spanning several islands and incorporating a small detour up Ben Nevis. Both of us are visually impaired and unable to drive so are completely reliant on public transport and taxis; fortunately, McKinlay Kidd specialise in car-free holiday itineraries. Our trip started with an epic flight from Glasgow to Barra, the furthest south-west Island of the Outer Hebrides, where the airport runway is the beach and the luggage reclaim is a bus shelter. We asked for unique experiences and this was certainly one!

We stayed at a warm and welcoming hotel and were given a fantastic tour of the island by a very friendly and knowledgeable guide – all organised for us by McKinlay Kidd. We enjoyed the place so much – the fact that it was so far away from the crowds but still had everything you could possibly need made us fantasize about living there (even going so far as to look up local house prices!)

After two nights, we caught our first ferry over to Eriskay. We were driven by taxi to North Uist and the family-run hotel here had a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Fishing is a main attraction here, but there are also some lovely walks to be found. We enjoyed the scenery and superb food, especially the vast array of cakes.

Enjoying fresh seafood with a view

Our third island was Harris, our favourite island of the trip. Mountains, beaches, rocks, sea and lochs – this island has the lot. It’s also home to one of the best gins I’ve sampled (and hopefully whisky soon as well). We could’ve stayed longer on beautiful Harris but we will definitely come back. Next stop was Skye where we had three nights in Portree, the biggest village on the Island. Our tour here was conducted by a thoroughly-entertaining local who regaled us with stories, facts, and taught us some Gaelic along the way. His catch phrase, “Living the dream”, will be used by us both to spark happy memories for a long time to come.

Waterfall on the Isle of Skye

After Skye, we caught the ferry back to the mainland at Mallaig and boarded the famous Jacobite/Harry Potter steam train across to Fort William. The next day, it was with some trepidation that we set off for Ben Nevis very early in the morning, laden with packed breakfast and lunch from the hotel. Our taxi driver certainly thought we were mad given the rain. However, something miraculous happened as we arrived at the visitor centre to meet our guide – the rain stopped falling. We managed to stay pretty much dry for the four-and-a-half hours it took us to reach the summit. The sense of achievement was immense.

Neil & Lora Fachie conquer Ben Nevis

Returning to the family-run hotel in Spean Bridge for the evening to rest up, dry out and refuel was perfect. This was our favourite hotel of the trip. It was so unassumingly welcoming and cozy, like staying in someone’s house, and the food was superb. Luckily, the following day of travel to Islay allowed us to rest our sore and tired legs. Arriving late meant that we didn’t really get to appreciate this island properly until the following morning but the wait was worth it. So was the whisky. I’m not a fan of whisky but Neil is, so we tasked our tour guide with finding me a whisky I’d like. Thankfully, he didn’t disappoint as he took us to Bunnahabhain Distillery for a warehouse tasting – a fun experience and, yes, we did find a dram I liked!

The rest of the day was spent touring the island, stopping in at a couple of other distilleries and visiting a few landmarks en-route. What we thought would be our final full day in Islay was spent strolling along the coast, enjoying the atmosphere and the sun. Due to the weather the following day, our flight home was cancelled. Thankfully though, we were well looked after so this wasn’t a big deal and gave us more time to sample a few extra whiskys!

Enjoying the whisky in Islay

All in all, this was a fantastic experience, leaving us with memories to treasure and a love for the Western Isles that will, no doubt, draw us back in the future. Everywhere we went the people were kind, generous and incredibly proud of their heritage. The food—especially the abundance of fresh seafood—was delicious and even the rain didn’t dampen our spirits or our love of the trip. We are already considering when our next visit might be.

Words & Images by Lora Fachie

If Lora and Neil’s trip has inspired you to visit Scotland or discover Scottish Island Hopping, do get in touch with us and we’d be happy to create a tailor-made proposal for you.

Reflections on Summer 2021

Are we there yet? That over-used phrase of kids on long journeys, bursting with hope yet irritatingly impatient, feels pertinent just now. At McKinlay Kidd we are nearing the end of a very busy summer and autumn season. But no-one is quite prepared to proclaim that we are definitely there yet when it comes to Covid.

Since we started McKinlay Kidd in 2003, we’ve always believed in helping people to venture off the beaten track, even within their own country. This has provided us with solid foundations despite these turbulent times.

Uig, Isle of Lewis

We are hugely grateful to those customers willing and able to travel with us in 2021, whether on one of our small group guided tours or a tailor-made holiday within the UK & Ireland, whether for the first time or the tenth time.

Customer photo by Helen

We had an amazing time and the route and accommodation you planned for us were perfect

Helen, UK – Tailor-made Scottish Honeymoon

We organised trips for as many people this year as we did as recently as 2018, which is remarkable given the restrictions on inbound international travel. Recently we’ve celebrated the arrival of our first intrepid visitors from overseas, prepared to navigate the forms and testing that may yet be with us for some time to come. Thankfully the guidance, systems and costs are becoming more transparent – and therefore more manageable – by the day.

Customer photo by Tricia

I can’t get over how jam packed this tour was and still it was really well organised and thought out… I’ve come to expect very little when travelling but this was never the case with you guys, I was always included

Tricia, Tampa, USA – Loch Ness, The Jacobite & Skye Guided Rail Tour

We also wish to thank sincerely those customers, both in the UK and around the world, who have stood by us with credit in place for a future trip, sometimes having had to reschedule several times. Rest assured, we are here to help. Just get in touch when you are ready to confirm your travel dates. Interest is high already for May and June 2022, especially in the remoter destinations such as the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, the popular spots such as Devon, Cornwall & Scilly and for rail touring trips. So if you have plans forming for your trip to Scotland, Ireland, England or Wales, do get in touch sooner rather than later – call us or email [email protected]

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

Your holiday matters to us as much as it does to you. As a fully-bonded tour operator, we provide 24/7 back-up during your trip and your money is financially protected. We like to think we do the hard work so you don’t have to – leaving you free to enjoy your precious time away.

We are a small, personal company – my name and my wife’s name are ‘on the tin’. Back in March 2020, I wrote about the business origins and how determined we were to come through the pandemic. At the time we anticipated weeks of disruption, unknowing that it would last so long. Are we close to being there yet? Let’s hope so.

2021 has been rather consuming but the time has now come for us to turn our attention positively to next year. We will soon share new ideas and new trips to inspire you alongside established favourites. We look forward to welcoming you back on a McKinlay Kidd trip when the time is right for you in 2022 or beyond.

Words by Robert @McKinlayKidd