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. 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 study?
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 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, 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. Have you got a favourite animal?
I studied octopus behaviour at university and still think they are one of the coolest animals going. I’ve had plenty of different pets over the years, including a number of dogs. When I’m out with guests I always find encounters with birds of prey and otters exciting.
Does your wife share your interests?
Yes, definitely. She loves being outdoors – walking, biking, skiing, canoeing, whatever. And she shares my love of coffee shops, thankfully.
Do you have any children?
A boy and a girl – both of which seem to be quite outdoorsy and up for adventures.
How long have you been doing this 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, artist and signmaker. 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.
Do you ever get to work abroad?
Yep, occasionally. Done some personal ski training in the French and Swiss Alps and led expeditions with young people in Croatia and Swaziland with World Challenge. More recently, I have been an expedition leader for walking, wildlife and cultural itineraries in Eastern Greenland for Natural Habitats Adventures, WWF’s travel partner.
What else do you do apart from outdoor stuff?
See this FAQ for details of my qualifications .