Over to Orkney

As the short Loganair flight from Glasgow to Kirkwall began its approach to Orkney, I had the pleasure of viewing the stunning scenery that was waiting for me. I could relax in the peace and calm of the off-season before the warm weather kicks in, with a gentle blanket of snow on the ground.

The coastline was beautiful, with an abundance of farmland across the flatness of the landscape – quite a contrast to the different, more rugged feel of Shetland.

My first stop was the centre of Kirkwall itself, where I enjoyed spending a bit of time exploring what the town had to offer. There’s a wonderful variety of independent, local businesses – from vibrant cafes and restaurants to shops for jewellery and art.

Loganair plane waiting on the runway

Up bright and early the next day, where I was really looking forward to my tour with a local expert guide, who would take me through a selection of the fascinating sites on the island. The Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and the Italian Chapel – all of them capturing the imagination, with my guide bringing the history into vivid life.

The Orkney Museum is also well worth visiting, to get a better understanding of the rich history of the islands. From the Stone Age to the Picts and invading Vikings and on to the present day; with accompanying details and videos to create an immersive experience.

You can also find great examples of Orkney Chairs here. These traditional pieces of furniture are unique to the islands and an instantly recognisable part of Orkney’s identity. Centuries ago, these were crafted using driftwood collected from the shores and, in the present day, the tradition continues, although with a modern twist.

A collection of Orkney chairs in Orkney Museum

After taking the time to get under the skin of the mainland, it was time to head to South Ronaldsay. To do this I drove across the Churchill Barriers, originally built during World War II, as a defensive measure to prevent enemy ships and submarines from entering Scapa Flow, they also link the two smaller islands of Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm.

Then it was on to the ferry to the wildlife watchers’ haven of Westray, where I was to meet another local guide to take me around the island. Across enchanting beaches and captivating castles, they regaled me with tales of Orkney history. On a more modern note, we saw the Take-off strip of Papa Westray, sadly I couldn’t fit in the flight which lands here that some of our customers choose to include. The flight only takes a total of 90 seconds! No in-flight meal on that one.

Seals enjoying a rest on the shore
Stopping off to check out the beautiful coastline

Finally, it was onto the ancient village of Birsay, a peaceful place with honesty boxes full of fantastic local produce dotted around. With almost all of the land in this parish devoted to agriculture, it’s lush with green farmland and happily grazing cattle. Birsay boasts several monuments, including the 16th century Earl’s Palace. Although only the ruins now remain, it’s easy to be transported back to the times when it was in its full grandeur.

Just a stone’s throw away is St Magnus Church which, though first established in 1064, has been continually refurbished throughout the years. The simple minimalism of its hushed interior is deeply calming, with its three stained glass windows providing a dramatic contrast.

It was the perfect location to reflect on my first visit to magical Orkney, with a return journey already in mind.

St Magnus Church, Birsay

Words & Images by Linsay.

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays to Orkney, including self-drive, public transport and small group guided tours.

If you’re interested in a guided experience, why not book a space on our North Highlands and Orkney Guided Rail Tour? Perhaps the world’s shortest flight has taken your fancy – you can experience this for yourself on the Orkney Experience holiday or, if you’d prefer to travel car-free, we have options including our Far North Line to Orkney trip. Do let us know if you’d like to include Orkney as part of a tailor-made Scotland tour. Visit our website for more holiday inspiration.

Traditional Music in Ennis, County Clare

Here we are in the County Clare, it’s a long, long way from here to there.
Flutes and fiddles everywhere.
If it’s music you want, you should go to Clare.

‘Lisdoonvarna’ by Christy Moore, 1984

It would be fair to say that the town of Ennis in Co Clare is not the first destination anyone thinks of when planning a holiday to Ireland. This little county town on the River Fergus, 40km north west of Limerick and around a 30-minute drive from the wild Atlantic coast is somewhat off the traditional tourist trail, but at McKinlay Kidd we love it as it has an atmosphere all its own. By some it is regarded as the very epi-centre of Irish traditional music.

There’s a commitment to upholding the legacy of ‘trad’ here, though there’s a lightness of touch that comes only when that tradition is simply a normal part of everyday life. Reverence exists, of course, but there’s little sign of stuffiness, and no stiff collars.

Sometimes it seems that musicians are the more common breed here; there’s a constant flow of youngsters attending competitions for every instrument from tin whistle to harmonica, fiddle to flute and concertina to harp and all points in-between. Compete in the town heats, move on to the county rounds and make your bid for the All-Ireland championships. It’s not uncommon to find All-Ireland champion players in the corner of a bar ‘leaning in’ to The Connaughtman’s Rambles or Drowsy Maggie.

Cooley’s House, pub in Ennis

On most evenings in Spring and Summer, it can be more difficult to find a pub from which the strains of Paddy McGintys Goat don’t emanate. Perhaps from a group of just three musicians – fiddle, flute and concertina, for example – or a larger ensemble including multiple fiddles, uilleann pipes, bouzouki and even full-size harp.

A favourite ‘tune’ (the colloquialism for a live music session) takes place at Considine’s Bar (known locally as Fafa’s – most pubs have a nickname, for some reason). ‘Piping Heaven, Piping Hell’ is hosted by uilleann pipe legend Blackie O’Connell, and features pipe players young and old from all over Clare, alongside bouzouki maestro Cyril O’Donoghue. The sound of eight sets of pipes belting out Spike Island Lassies seems to make the creamy Guinness go down even better.

Sit back and enjoy a pint of Guinness in a characterful pub

Perhaps pop into PJ Kelly’s where some of the very best of Clare’s musicians often gather, sometimes with Geraldine Cotter on piano, her brother Eamonn on flute, Jack Talty on concertina and Meadhbh Hendrie on fiddle, as well as an ever-changing mix of players from all over the county. It’s a relaxed affair; a few reels and an air or two, then maybe 10 minutes of chat. This is a social outing as much as a ‘tune’, the musicians’ way of communicating their day-to-day, their family lives and stories of the week, all over a pint or two, of course.

And one of the best things about all of this, is that everyone is welcome and no tickets are required. Indeed, Ennis is consistently voted ‘Ireland’s Friendliest Town’, so be aware that strangers will bid you ‘good morning’ or ‘how’re ye?’ in the street unprompted, and foreign accents in bars invite questions and curiosity.

Away from music (if that’s even possible here) Ennis features a stunning 19th-century cathedral filled with superb art and a wonderful pipe organ, as well as a 13th-century friary. There’s a pleasingly independent feel to the extensive shopping, with few recognisable names, including several excellent bookshops and a ramshackle antique shop or two.

Take a wander up O’Connell Street, the monument overseeing all, lined with shops of all kinds, great coffee bars and one or two excellent pubs (of course) then maybe stop by The Town Hall bistro for lunch of chunky seafood chowder and just-baked local bread. Ennis is a fine base from which to explore wider Co Clare, too, with the mystical landscape of the Burren, the soaring Cliffs of Moher and the superb beaches at Lahinch and Spanish Point all within easy reach.

Trad music session in Fafa’s

And I have something of a confession to make; this music-obsessed Glasgow boy met and fell in love with an Ennis musician, got married here in 2016 and moved here permanently in 2022. Having been visiting since 2011, the transition to full-time Ennis life has been a challenge, soothed in large part by the welcome afforded every visitor, and the incredible, authentic, joyous music that seems to vibrate from every corner of town.

Words & Images by Chris Hendrie

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays to Ireland, including self-drive, public transport and small group guided tours. Why not check out our Grand Tour of Ireland by Train to experience the best of the Emerald Isle? Our Wild Atlantic Way Guided Rail Tour also features an extensive trad music session in Ennis where you can discover the quirks and lore of traditional music and dance for yourself.

Do let us know if you’d like to include Ennis as part of a tailor-made Ireland tour. Visit our website for more holiday inspiration.

Make Time for Greenwich

London is a city of never-ending discovery. My favourite corner is the historic area of Greenwich, on the River Thames and only ten minutes by train from London Bridge. You won’t find it on the tube map, although it is a stop on the Docklands Light Railway. One of the most enjoyable ways to arrive is by boat – the Thames Clipper runs a scheduled service from various piers in central London.

Embarking from the river bus, you are instantly confronted with the choice of left or right, the tall rigging of the Cutty Sark enticing you towards it. But let’s start our virtual tour by heading left. Walk along the Thames Path, past the Christopher Wren-designed symmetrical domes of the Old Royal Naval College, now the study home for students of Greenwich University.

The Cutty Sark

If the tide is low, look out for jagged wooden prongs poking up through sandy mud – remnants of an ancient jetty. The Naval College was built on the site of the once grand Palace of Placentia – a favourite residence of Tudor Kings and Queens. Barely a trace remains unless you fancy mud-larking in search of hand-made bricks and old clay pipes, but enter through the gates to the grounds of the college and you will find a paving stone confirming that this was indeed the birthplace of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

You need to dig a little deeper into history to uncover that Henry VIII despatched from here his second wife, Anne Boleyn, on her final journey by barge to the Tower of London, where she would lose her head. This was also the spot where Britain’s great naval hero, Lord Horatio Nelson, made his final landing- his body shipped here to lay in state in the Painted Hall after his demise at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Continue a little further and you reach the bow-fronted, peach-coloured Trafalgar Tavern, a lively hostelry where outdoor tables line the railings and revellers queue up for a spot in the sun. The views down the river stretch to the O2, the dome built to mark the Millennium, now one of London’s most vibrant music and live performance venues.

Trafalgar Tavern

Take a refreshment or two while letting your mind wander to days gone by. The leading politicians of the Victorian eras would mingle at the Trafalgar over a whitebait supper while Charles Dickens would also linger here.

Next head away from the river and cross the main thoroughfare. In front of you is the striking classical Queen’s House. Commissioned by James I of England and dating from the early 17th century, Inigo Jones’ design is the earliest example of this architectural style in England. The colonnades stretching to the right lead you to the National Maritime Museum – it’s free to enter so worth a dawdle through the main exhibition halls and do seek out Turner’s painting of the Battle of Trafalgar. Rolling special exhibitions usually merit the splashing of a little cash if the subject appeals.

Timepiece in the Royal Observatory Museum

Now enter Greenwich Park, one of London’s smaller royal parks but nevertheless a welcoming expanse of greenery and tranquillity. Even on a busy summer’s afternoon, there’s space for everyone with vast open skies freeing you from city crowds. Clamber up the hill to the Royal Observatory. Here you genuinely are at the centre of the world, 0 degrees longitude and the birthplace of Greenwich Mean Time. Exhibitions inside relate the history of early astronomy and the importance of measuring time accurately to enable navigation of the high seas.

Gaze back across the river to the skyscrapers of the modern world at Canary Wharf – a captivating view of London. Exit the park onto King William Walk, where plenty of pubs vie for your custom. Navigate the busy traffic and duck through one of the alleyways into Greenwich Market. Depending on the day of the week, you may find art or antiques, crafts or clothing. Various street food stalls add a global flavour while an array of independent shops frames the stalls.

Leaving the market, it’s time to face up to The Cutty Sark, once the fastest ship in the world, a tea clipper at the forefront of the development of international trade. You can visit aboard for a small fee – admire the world’s largest collection of figureheads, take afternoon tea on the lower deck or even climb the rigging if you have a serious sense of adventure. In any case admire its restored grandeur from the outside, seeking that perfect angle for your photo.

Looking across to the Cutty Sark

If your hunger for history is sated, but the pangs are there in your stomach, head a little further along the Thames Path, this time towards the centre of London. Here you’ll find a couple of modern bar/ restaurants – The Sail Loft and the Oyster Catcher. Both have views out across the river, an ideal location to take the weight off your feet and reward yourself with your preferred refreshment.

But if you still have energy to spare and a thirst for something more quirky, investigate the rotunda between the Cutty Sark and the river. This is the entrance to a foot tunnel under The Thames, dating back to 1902 and still used by both visitors and commuters. Walk through the tunnel to Island Gardens then buy a ticket and hop aboard the DLR for the short trip back to Cutty Sark or Greenwich station.

That’s more than enough for one day!

Words & Images by Heather @ McKinlay Kidd.

London is the perfect destination for a stop-off en-route to or from your McKinlay Kidd holiday. We offer a number of self-drive, public transport and escorted small group rail tours in England. For more information, or for a tailor-made proposal, visit our website.

A Flying Visit to the Outer Hebrides

The Outer Hebrides have been on my wish list for a long time so it was with excitement that I boarded the plane from Glasgow to Stornoway. Deciding to travel light, I made a last-minute decision to remove my sunglasses case from my bag. But alas, in an ironic turn of fate, the islands decided to provide bright (mostly sunny) weather which persisted for the majority of the trip. Typical!

Callanish Stones

We started the first day with a local expert guide on the Isle of Lewis. This was a fantastic way to tour the island and visit some of the distinctive sites such as blackhouses, the mystical Callanish stones, the Iolaire Monument memorialising the HMY Iolaire shipwreck in 1919, and several hidden sandy bays. I would certainly recommend going out with a local guide for a day as there is no better way to get really under the skin of a destination. You will gain insights and knowledge which you wouldn’t easily discover on your own, as well as being charmed by personal anecdotes and amusing stories, courtesy of your tour guide.

Blackhouses on the Isle of Lewis

The following morning, we ventured to the Museum nan Eilean (Stornoway) which offers interactive exhibits encompassing the history and culture of the Outer Hebrides. Here, you can see six of the famous Lewis Chessmen which have returned to the island long after their discovery on an Uig beach in 1831. Although the exact details of their origin is debated, they were amongst an estimated ninety-three different pieces within the buried hoard.

The museum is situated in the grounds of Lews Castle which you can wander through at your leisure. The castle boasts grand rooms decorated in a gothic revival style and ornate ceilings to marvel at.

Lewis Chessmen in the Stornoway museum

Next, it was time to set off for the Isle of Harris. Interestingly, Harris shares the same landmass as Lewis so there’s no need to catch a ferry or cross a causeway to get there. Driving across the island from Lewis was truly atmospheric – dramatic, contrasting landscapes waited to be uncovered at every turn. Large expanses of moorlands, machair and mountains demanded my continual attention, with glorious white sandy beaches peeking through at intervals along the coast.

Uig Sands, Isle of Lewis

There were so many places to stop off and take picture after picture. Along the way, I experienced the charm of the islands with quaint honesty boxes housing locally-made crafts and food, as well as witnessing the nonchalant sheep grazing or strutting across the roads at their leisure. Overall, this part of the Outer Hebrides felt so much bigger than I expected when first looking at the map.

Luskentyre beach, Isle of Harris

Luskentyre beach was certainly a highlight on the Isle of Harris. Travelling down a single track road, the sand dunes and crystal waters of the beach-haven unveiled themselves. The sun glistened on the clear turquoise water, while white sand extended as an almost limitless expanse. It’s no wonder that it has been named one of the UK’s best beaches in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.

Although only a flying visit, I’m already looking forward to the day I can return to these beautiful islands. Photos don’t do it justice – you definitely need to experience this magical destination for yourself. If I were to give one piece of advice, it would be to pack for all types of weather – and don’t forget your sunglasses!

Words & Images by Keira @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays to the Outer Hebrides, including self-drive, fly-drive and public transport options. For more information – or for a tailor-made proposal – visit our website.

Tips for UK & Ireland Rail Touring

Leaving the car behind is an increasingly popular way to travel around Great Britain and Ireland. It’s a responsible, lower carbon way to go and thus tipped as a big trend. For McKinlay Kidd, designing holidays based around rail touring began way back in the mid-2000s. We started by offering short breaks featuring a return trip on the Jacobite Express Steam Train. Then it dawned on us that the service could be used as part of a tour. The excursion starts from Fort William and chugs passengers through the drama of the Scottish Highlands to the fishing port of Mallaig, the departure point for the ferry over the sea to Skye. So why not extend the trip to include the misty isle of legend and romance?

Take the ferry from Mallaig over to the Isle of Skye

At first, some local accommodation owners and managers thought the idea of depositing customers with them without their own transport was rather odd. We soon overcame this by adding in private or small group day tours or the option of car hire to ensure McKinlay Kidd customers got to see the length and breadth of the Isle of Skye.

Soon, we created rail tours ranging from a week’s exploration to fortnight-long grand tours. Initial feedback from visitors showed how enjoyable such a trip could be, simply using regular service trains. UK customers reported on the joyful relaxation of meandering trips, sometimes reaching areas otherwise inaccessible by car, such as the great wildernesses of Rannoch Moor and Scotland’s Flow Country. Overseas visitors rejoiced at not needing to manoeuvre an unfamiliar small car along narrow and twisty country roads. They also appreciated the chance to interact aboard trains with fellow passengers, often locals going about their regular daily lives.

Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast

At McKinlay Kidd, it has long been part of our ethos to ensure we feature not only the in-demand holiday highlights but also seek out places and experiences away from the beaten path. This means helping you to travel beyond the end of the rail-line. Skye is not the only island we bring into reach. Take the slow journey from Inverness on the Far North Line to hop over to the Orkney Islands. Travel by train to Penzance then onward by plane to the Isles of Scilly. Journey by train from Dublin to the West of Ireland then explore the Wild Atlantic Way with a local guide and spend a day on the Aran Islands. We love carrying out the detailed research, pairing rail journeys with characterful locally-owned accommodation, providing taxi transfers and locally-guided tours to ensure a carefree trip.

If you are seeking a little luxury, consider indulging in a break featuring the Caledonian Sleeper and top-notch accommodation. It’s a unique feeling to depart London at night and open your eyes the following morning to the wonder of the mountains and lochs of the Highlands.

Orkney’s Italian Chapel

We spend hours meticulously planning such holidays so they run like clockwork. It’s the reason why we have built such a strong reputation for self-guided rail tours, long before they became tipped as a burgeoning trend. It’s also why we launched a range of fully-escorted small group rail tours in 2019. Spend a week in the company of like-minded travellers discovering the history and legends of Scotland or Ireland, featuring highly-memorable train journeys along the way. You’ll be looked after throughout by McKinlay Kidd’s tour guide who will keep you on track while regaling you with fascinating stories and insights.

If you’re considering a tailormade rail tour or joining a group tour, these are our tips for before, during and after:

Before:

  • Do book with a bonded tour operator to make sure your trip is financially-protected. And check the flexibility policy – McKinlay Kidd offers a free change up to eight weeks in advance of departure, plus a value for money guarantee.
  • Review the detail of the itinerary to see how much rail travel is included. Of course, some days will be spent in vehicles with guides in order to reach the spots worth seeing beyond the end of the rail-line. However, this shouldn’t mean you spend most of your trip aboard a coach.
  • Check out past independent reviews of the operator and the trips. Do they have a long-standing reputation for organising and running such trips?
  • When you enquire, let the operator know of any special requests or ways in which they can tailor-make the trip for you so that these can be incorporated from the outset.
Enjoy the views from The Jacobite Steam Train

During:

  • Pack lightly – space is limited aboard trains for storage of baggage and few stations offer porterage so make sure you can carry your own luggage on and off the trains and for short distances.
  • Bring some supplies aboard for the longer journeys – catering is not always reliably provided by the rail companies.
  • Don’t worry too much about which side of the train you are sitting on – longer journeys will feature much of interest on either side.
  • Do engage with other passengers – this can be a rewarding way to learn more about local life and add some fresh perspective to your trip.
  • Stay two or three nights at each destination – space your travel days with the chance to explore the local area. We provide plenty of tips for walks or local excursions that don’t need you to drive.
  • If you have booked with McKinlay Kidd, enjoy the reassurance that we are contactable 24/7 during your trip. If plans are disrupted at all, that’s not your problem – it’s ours.
Travel along Scotland’s West Highland Line

After:

  • Give yourself credit for choosing to travel in a sustainable and responsible manner.
  • Provide feedback on your trip. At McKinlay Kidd, we act upon information from our customers to review and improve all we do.
  • Share the delights of UK & Ireland train touring with your friends and family and encourage them to leave the car behind for a carefree future holiday.
  • Start planning your next adventure by rail – and beyond.

Words by Heather McKinlay

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