Meet the Team: Neil


Meet the Team

Christmas has come early this year! Our fantastic guides have put together their best travel tips for touring Scotland on a budget. Whether you are thinking about joining on a guided tour of Scotland or looking for the inspiration for backpacking around Scotland, we got you!

On the first post of our brand new and extremely Scottish blog series, you will meet Neil, who will tell you why he became a tour guide and what are his favourite things about touring Scotland.



Neil Mclennan

Why did you become a tour guide?

I became a tour guide by luck. I was backpacking through the Highlands, from my village up through the Highlands of Scotland to Orkney. We were hitchhiking, had terrible lifts, and eventually had to camp outside Inverness. The next morning, after eating breakfast whilst watching dolphins in the Moray Firth, a wee mini-bus stopped. The driver, a tour guide with some space on his bus, picked us up and took us almost the whole way to Orkney. The entire time he was telling us stories, pointing out things beside the road, and I thought ‘He’s being paid for this.” Eureka! 

15 years later, after many other jobs, in Scotland and other countries, MacBackpackers gave me the keys and the chance to do my own bus tour around Scotland.

What’s your favourite Scottish story?

There are lots to choose from. Coming from Perthshire, though, I’ll choose a story from there. It’s set around the southern end of The Cairngorm hills, Beinn a’ Ghlo, specifically, and tells of two hunters who encounter some rather surprising summer weather conditions, gales and torrential rain, then snow and fog, leading them to become lost. They eventually find shelter in the home of a mysterious old woman. 

What’s your favourite MacBackpackers tour?

That’s an easy question; the 5 Day Skye & Highland Fling. I like it for many reasons, but mainly the variety. There are so many places to visit, so much variety; it’s always interesting. A good cocktail of sites and activities, and a Monday to Friday duration. Perfect.

What’s your favourite season to explore Scotland?


That’s rather difficult. I love Spring in The Scottish Highlands, but I think Autumn, just, by a tiny wee bit, beats it as my favourite season. The weather can be more stable in September and October, there are fewer midgies, but it’s the colours; the plant life turning red, orange and golden brown that so impress. Areas of Scotland, especially Perthshire and Argyll, have quite a lot of forest, both native and introduced species, and watching the colours change is always a pleasure.

The Isle Of Skye in Autumn is beautiful; the contrast between the dark hills of The Cuillin and the colourful grasses and bracken never gets old. 

There’s no bad time for a trip to Scotland, but Autumn is the best.

Your top three favourite books/podcasts about Scotland?

I have shelf after shelf full of books about Scotland. One that I’d strongly recommend is Before Scotland, by Alastair Moffat. It’s about the history of what is now Scotland before the nation of Scotland was founded, the geology, migration, environmental and political factors that created the nation. 

Another great read is Highland Myths And Legends, by George W MacPherson. It’s full of wonderful stories, magical and historic.

Podcast wise, the one I most regularly listen to is Out of Doors, a BBC Radio Scotland show, a lovely wee mix of nature, history, environmental and activity stories.

What's your favourite Scottish food or drink?

I love food and drink, and have the body to prove it. The good news for me is that Scotland produces lots of amazing things to put, eat and drink. 

The seafood here is fantastic, according to my pals who eat it, my brother loves the venison, but for me, it’s the tattie: the spud, the tater, the potato. There’s so many ways to cook them, so many varieties; they never get boring. Not glamorous, but neither am I.

 To wash the tatties down, I rarely reach for the water of life, whisky, or the other national drink, Irn Bru. Famous though we are for producing whisky, it’s never been my top choice. The good news is that many Scottish Distillers are now making gin, in fact, more gin than whisky these days, and the best of them is Caorunn, from Speyside. I might be in love.

If you weren’t a tour guide, what would you do?

I’ve tried many jobs; the shortest was working in a call centre, that lasted 4 hours. Other than tour guiding, pulling pints was the longest, four years. 

If I stop guiding, that’s when my career as an astronaut will take off.



Featured Reviews

3 Day Isle of Skye

Emma said...

I'm actually from Scotland but I booked the 3 day isle of Skye tour with my Canadian buddy. I've never visited Skye or many of the lochs and mountains on the way up to Skye.... It was amazing! The tour guide, Neil…
Read More Buzz


  • Image for Days are getting shorter and darker, so we decided to put some colours on the buses. Matches great with autumn foliage.
  • Image for Even in the busy summer months we manage to find stunning places off the beaten track.
  • Image for Sometimes it's hard to believe how big Scotland is. Even after all these years, we discover new stunning places to show you. Adventures like these set us apart from anyone else!
  • Image for Happy #coosday!
  • Image for Happy September, everyone! According to our Facebook poll, it seems that most of you prefer Scotland in autumn rather than spring. It's still all warm and green, but we're not far away from those magnificent autumn colours.
  • Image for The summer hols might be almost over, but going back to uni has never been this good! Because this year, we've got some exciting news for all the students! For the first time ever, we're introducing brand new student prices. Students get £10 discount on t
  • Image for Who's ready for an adventure?
  • Image for A couple of weeks ago @girlaboutglobe jumped on our 5 Day Skye and Highland Fling. If you are thinking about travelling solo check out her Insta & blog for great tips.☝️
  • Image for Ever seen Rob Roy, Monarch of the Glen or Outlaw King? Then you probably recognise these celebrity hairy coos.
  • Image for Happy Summer Bank Holiday!☀️ Hope you all had a fantastic long weekend. Today is also the last day of @edfringe. This can only mean one thing; the universities will start again in a couple of weeks. Follow us for amazing student deals!
  • Image for It doesn't get more Scottish than this!
  • Image for Enjoy the long weekend!
  • Image for Did you know that the famous Glenfinnan viaduct opened more than 100 years ago in 1901?
  • Image for Happy #Coosday! 
Once again thanks for the amazing pic @kaihyde
  • Image for Happy World Photo Day!
  • Image for We love to see your fantastic photos. Thanks so much for this beauty, @at.pennington!
  • Image for Scottish gins are more popular than ever, and it was close, but according to our latest @Facebook poll, Scotland's world-famous whisky is still your favourite!
  • Image for Last week @girlabouttheglobe joined us on our 5 Day Skye & Highland Fling. If you're planning to go to travel solo but not quite sure yet where to begin, give her a follow and check out her brilliant blog.
  • Image for We only have five 7 Day Best of the West tours left this year. Join us to explore the breathtaking west coast of Scotland, including the magical Outer Hebrides.
  • Image for We love seeing your fabulous photos from our tours!
  • Image for Happy #Coosday!
  • Image for Win a FREE TOUR!
Fancy a wee tour around the breathtaking Scottish Highlands and Islands, creating a banging video for your favourite tour company? If you said aye, you’re in the right place. We’re looking for smashing video creators to be our next brand
  • Image for Here's an epic sunset on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland last summer. Lewis and Harris are stunning.
  • Image for If you've been on tour with @markmacb, you've probably posed with this flag!
  • Image for Wow, our latest poll on Facebook! 90% prefers beautiful nature over famous places. Fair enough, though, we have fantastic scenery here.
  • Image for Even the traffic jams are better in Scotland.
  • Image for Happy Summer bank holiday!
  • Image for Nothing quite compares to these views. If you want a break from Edinburgh this August, join us to discover the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
  • Image for Fringe started today! Who's coming to Edinburgh this month?
  • Image for If you still want to see the puffins before they migrate away in the mid-August, head to the coast now!
  • Image for This coo definitely how to enjoy the great weather and chill!
  • Image for Couldn't be a better day to explore the beautiful Gairloch.☀️
  • Image for If you've been in Skye during the summer month, you know how busy it can get. But not every tour company has guides like Neil, who take you to the roads less travelled. Legend!
  • Image for Here's this weeks throwback to one of our 7 Day Best of the West last year. The sea stacks on the west coast of Isle of Lewis are just amazing.
  • Image for Did you see us on tv last Sunday? If not, you can watch 'How Scotland Works' from BBC iPlayer!
  • Image for Happy #Coosday!
  • Image for We all love a good story!
  • Image for If you love a good sunset, Kyleakin is a perfect place to stay at. All our tours spend at least one night in this idyllic small village at the Isle of Skye.
  • Image for Happy World Emoji Day!
  • Image for Happy Tuesday or should we say #Coosday!
  • Image for So we all know Stonehenge, it’s pretty old, aye? But did you know that The Calanais Standing Stones predate England’s famous Stonehenge monument? This extraordinary cross-shaped setting of stones erected 5,000 years ago and was an essential place for a ri
  • Image for If you ever think that it rains too much in Scotland, don't forget that we wouldn't have this kind of beautiful scenery without so much rain.
  • Image for New Year's Eve might feel like ages away, and well actually it is. We'll still need to wait 172 days. But our Hogmanay Hootenanny is selling fast. So be quick and secure your place before it's full!
  • Image for This Monday we asked on Facebook which type of Scottish coastline do you prefer, rugged cliffs or sandy beaches? 78,5% of you prefer the rugged cliffs, so here's a throwback to one fantastic piece of the Scottish coast.
  • Image for Every day is a new adventure.
  • Image for Will pose for carrots.
  • Image for The beautiful beaches of Gairloch.
  • Image for How amazing are the Highlands?
  • Image for Congrats to all the graduates!
  • Image for We quite literally head off the beaten track straight into the wilderness on our tours... and make new friends on the way!
  • Image for Really hard to beat a sunny day in Scotland checking out the beautiful Eilean Donan Castle. Have you visited it yet? If not you can see Scotland's most Instagrammed Castle on our 3 Day Isle of Skye @macbackpackers tour this summer! Leaving every Monday an
  • Image for The coos couldn't wish for better views!
  • Image for Who's ready for an adventure?
  • Image for Since it's National Sunglasses Day, here's a throwback to a sunny day at the beautiful Outer Hebrides.
  • Image for Coo cooling down a wee bit.☀️
  • Image for Hey EU, we love you!❤️
  • Image for Recognise this castle from somewhere? If you think that it's Winterfell, your friends say it's Castle Leoch and your dad says it's the castle from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you're all right.
  • Image for Happy first day of summer!☀️
  • Image for Ever wanted to see this famous view?
  • Image for Have you #GotTheBottle to prevent plastic pollution?
Did you know that every minute, one million plastic bottles are bought around the world, and that figure is expected to go up 20% by 2021? Alone in the UK, over 7 billion plastic water bottles are used
  • Image for You know it's #coosday when your Insta feed is full of adorable hairy coos.
  • Image for Scotland's being a bit dramatic.
  • Image for Experience Scotland's great outdoors! There's nothing quite like adventuring in the breathtaking scenery to start your summer off right.
  • Image for Happy National Beer Day!
  • Image for Gearrannan Blackhouse Village is a very unique hostel in Scotland. The coastal crofting village is situated in a secluded bay within the district of Carloway, on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. We stay in this fantastic accommod
  • Image for There's no better time to look old photos and wonder what the actual heck is going on here than a throwback Thursday.
  • Image for Happy #coosday everyone!
  • Image for
  • Image for It's Best Friends Day today!
  • Image for Edinburgh getting ready for the Quidditch World Cup again.
  • Image for Hey fam! We're on Snapchat! Let's be friends?
  • Image for A throwback to @markmacb's first 7 Day Best of the West this year.
  • Image for Today is World Environment Day!
  • Image for Happy #coosday!
Thanks for the lovely pic @louise283_
  • Image for Last chance to save 33% on all our standard tours! 
Check out @TourRadar's World Touring Day Sale now.
  • Image for Our favourite day of the week is here! A Throwback Thursday. What is your favourite memory from our tour?
  • Image for Today is World Otter Day.
The International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) was inspired by observing otters in their natural habitat.

Because the otter lives, feeds and plays on land and in the water and is at the peak of the food chain it is an ambassador s
  • Image for Happy #coosday!