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. Although not renowned for big mountains and rivers, I did basically grow up near the sea. I spent a lot of time biking and walking in the woods and fields – campfires, den building, wildlife – all that kind of stuff.

Where did you train?

I really 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 the Scottish Highlands?

I arrived in the tiny highland village of Tyndrum with a rucksack and a suitcase after graduating. A friend had encouraged me to get a temporary job where I could more easily get into the mountains in order to gain experience for my first qualification. That was in 1996 and I’ve been here ever since!

How did you get into the outdoors?

I’m a great believer in learning outdoors from as early an age as possible. For me, 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 was very much a country man. At school I discovered I could teach well and it wasn’t too long before I was combining my passions for teaching and the natural world.

Do you have a favourite place?

Yep – loads! Places that give me space to think, enjoy a fresh challenge or see 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.

So you’re into wildlife as well. Do you have a favourite animal?

I studied octopus behaviour at university and still think they are one of the coolest animals going. When I’m out with guests in the Highlands I always find encounters with birds of prey and otters exciting. And when I find myself near or on the sea, I’m always keeping an eye out for whales and dolphins! 

How long have you been doing this type of work?

I’ve been guiding and instructing in the Scottish Highlands and abroad since 1998. I worked as an outdoor instructor for Abernethy adventure centres. Then as a ranger for Explore Abernethy, here in the Cairngorms National Park. I then moved onto the RSPB’s Caperwatch and Operation Osprey interpretation programmes, based at the world famous Loch Garten reserve. And for about fifteen years, I have instructed in the Cairngorm Mountain Snow School. I’ve also been a veterinary nurse, ski tech, waiter, climbing wall builder and artist. In the winter of 2011/12 I set up Arc Guiding in response to requests for private guiding. I continue to work in a freelance capacity for some of the best nature-based tourism companies in the UK and abroad.

Where have you worked abroad?

I’ve led expeditions with young people in Croatia and Swaziland with World Challenge. More recently, I have been an expedition leader in Eastern Greenland for Natural Habitats Adventures, WWF’s travel partner.

What else do you do apart from outdoor stuff?

I’m also a husband, dad and a big fan of sci-fi, chocolate and coffee. 

Click the following link for details of my qualifications .

Dates now available for Ski Touring and Winter Skills courses! Winter Wildlife Guiding dates throughout the Highlands also online. Dismiss