Hiya, I’m Malcolm O’Reilly
By way of introduction, I thought I would answer some of the questions I’m often asked while guiding…
Where are you from?
I was born in the coastal town of Southend on Sea, Essex. But I seemed to have spent more time biking and walking in the woods and fields, than hanging around arcades and shopping malls! That’s not to say my childhood was boring – campfires, den building, wildlife and chemistry prevented that. Wrecked old boats were common in some places where I played. Apparently one of them might be the HMS Beagle – Charles Darwin’s ship! I thought that was pretty neat. As for ‘where are you from?’ – that’s a whole different question, that I find very interesting 🙂
Where did you study?
I badly wanted to study animals, somewhere with mountains and rivers. I ended up at the University College of North Wales, Bangor and gained an Honours degree in Animal Biology. Then a one year course in Adventure Leadership at Ardgour on the Scottish west coast, followed by ongoing CPD.
How did you end up in Scotland?
I arrived in the tiny highland village of Tyndrum with a rucksack and a suitcase after graduating. A friend encouraged me to get a temporary job where I could more easily get into the mountains. It seems to have worked!
How did you get into the outdoors?
I’m a great believer in schoolchildren learning outdoors. It was school trips to the Lake District that got me into these sports I now love. I was strongly influenced by my Scottish grandad, who had lived on wartime occupied Jersey and was a nature lover and lay preacher. At school I discovered I could teach well and it wasn’t too long before I was combining my passion for teaching and the natural world.
Do you have a favourite place?
Yep – loads! Places that give me space to think, fresh challenge or great wildlife. I’ve always had a soft spot for islands. There are still lots of corners of Scotland and habitats overseas I would like to explore more.
What is your favourite animal?
I studied octopus behaviour at university and still think they are one of the coolest animals going. We had loads of different pets while I was a child, but most escaped at some point or other. Maybe it’s just as well I never got that chameleon I always wanted… When I’m out with guests I always find encounters with birds of prey and otters exciting.
Does your wife share your interests?
To a certain extent – yes to wilderness, great wildlife and coffee shops. No to scary places, cold hands and big air (or big hair, for that matter).
Do you have any children?
We do have a very spoilt collie, who I reckon involves the same effort as about three children. Hates fireworks and cats. Loves tunnels and squirrels.
How long have you been doing this work?
I’ve been guiding and instructing in the Scottish Highlands since 1998. I worked as a ranger here in the Cairngorms national park and for the RSPB in osprey and capercaillie conservation. I’ve also been a veterinary nurse, ski tech, waiter, climbing wall builder, artist and signmaker. In the winter of 2011/12 I set up Arc Guiding in response to requests for private guiding.
What else do you do apart from outdoor stuff?
Eat chocolate. Watch sci fi films. DIY and occasionally preach.
I still work in a freelance capacity for and with some of the best outdoor and wildlife practitioners in the UK. I’m blessed to meet lots of great people and explore wonderful places each year. And I’ve still got loads to learn!
See this FAQ for details of my qualifications .