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AITO Tour Operator of The Year 2016 - Gold Award

Our Story

Our mission: creating holidays made differently in Scotland, Ireland and England

McKinlay Kidd, launched in 2003 by husband and wife team Robert Kidd and Heather McKinlay, is dedicated to helping independently-minded visitors get the most out of their holiday. We started out in true small-business style in the dining room of our (then) Edinburgh home, and now employ a team of more than a dozen, mainly based at our office in central Glasgow. From day one, our principle has been that we won’t send you anywhere we haven’t been ourselves. Initially we focussed on helping our customers to see Scotland differently, with a range of creative holiday suggestions that could be tailored to specific requirements. We added Ireland in 2010 and have just recently expanded into the North of England. Heather is half-Scottish, half-English, while Robert is Irish, and between the two of us we have lived for at least 20 years in each country. We started the company because we wanted to help visitors see beyond the landscapes and tourist hotspots of these lands, whether of our birth (England and Ireland) or our present-day home (Scotland). That’s what we mean by holidays made differently.

Personal research

Between ourselves and our growing team, we personally research every area, as far as possible seeking out accommodation that is full of local character and where the owners demonstrate a commitment to customer service to rival our own. It’s fair to say that Robert tends to judge a lot by their porridge or home-baking, too. We strive to uncover the less obvious stories and places to visit, such as spots more favoured by locals. We’ve partnered with some excellent guides, so our customers can really get under the skin of a place, whether in search of wildlife, on a quest for social history or just being regaled with tales of war and greed, love and romance. Of course, things are constantly changing, so we re-visit and keep our ear to the ground. We also embrace and act upon ongoing feedback from our customers.

Contrasting experiences

We enjoy unusual combinations – perhaps this stems from an early recce visit in the Scottish Highlands in the winter, when we spent one day hiking in the snow and freezing in a remote cottage in Knoydart, then the next luxuriating in a hot-tub during a stay at a small five star hotel on a private island. Suffice to say, the latter still features prominently in some holidays but we’ve not had quite so many takers for the former! We continue to search for new and different experiences, from moonlit kayaking off the south-west of Ireland to a day with a creel fisherman in the north of Scotland; from whale-watching off the Isle of Mull to a guided visit to find Northumberland’s herd of wild cattle.

Travelling far and wide

Robert loves his cars, almost as much as his hat, so from the early days we have offered holidays including the hire of a classic or prestige vehicle and we love to try out and recommend different driving routes. We haven’t quite driven all the dead-end roads in Scotland yet, let-alone Ireland and England, but rest-assured we are working on it. Over the years we have learnt that many of our customers prefer to leave the car behind, so we have gradually expanded our range of train and public transport touring holidays, allowing relaxation while still travelling independently. We offer fly-drive trips, too – a great way to reach the Scottish and Irish islands and far-flung places when time is tight.

Back to the beginning

Finally, we sometimes get asked why we have a bird as our logo. Look closely and we hope you can identify it as a swallow. Whilst it has been re-designed recently, we have used it as an emblem since the very start. The designer originally chose it because swallows fly thousands of miles to return home to Scotland every summer. Appropriate, we thought.

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