Edinburgh & the Scottish Highlands
Known for whisky, mysterious creatures and stunning historical sites, Scotland astounds at every turn on this rail vacation.
Travel through the unbelievable beauty of the Scottish Highlands, soak in the ambiance of years past in castles and historic sites and ride aboard iconic rail lines over the course of 9 days on this vacation of a lifetime. The round-trip vacation begins in Edinburgh, where a guided tour gives you a glimpse at some of the most important sites in the city. From here, we travel onto Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, where a tour takes us to the most sought-after historic sites. Moving on, we take a look at the portside town of Oban and journey out to the Isle of Mull, where wildlife spotting is a favorite pastime. We will journey through the highlands to Mallaig, Aviemore, Craigellachie and St. Andrews. Along the way we will see castles, ruins, and even Loch Ness! Best of all, the journey is highlighted by rides aboard three of Scotland’s beloved train lines: The West Highland Line, the Jacobite Steam Train and the Kyle Line.
Highlights and Inclusions
- The West Highland Line
- Jacobite Steam Train
- The Kyle Line
- Hotel accommodations for 8 nights
- 14 meals including dinner at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
- Edinburgh and Glasgow city tours
- Isle of Mull excursion
- Boat ride on Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle
- Speyside Cooperage experience
- Services of a professional tour manager
- Transportation by deluxe motorcoach
Day 1 – Depart USA for Edinburgh
Make your way to Edinburgh, Scotland using your preferred airline for the overnight flight. (Flights not included.)
Day 2 – Edinburgh
Welcome to Scotland! Arrive at the airport and transfer to your hotel. Transfers will accommodate guests arriving in Edinburgh on Day 2. After checking into your hotel, the remainder of the day is at leisure to relax or begin to explore the city. Your tour manager will conduct a welcome meeting at the hotel at 6:00 p.m. Overnight Edinburgh.
Day 3 - Edinburgh Sightseeing
We start the day with a panoramic city tour. With streets steeped in history and a thriving cultural scene, Edinburgh offers the perfect balance between the traditional and the contemporary. During the tour, Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks come into view, including the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh New Town. A true highlight of the tour is a visit to Edinburgh Castle, which overlooks the city and is a stunning example in both its architecture and history. The day ends with a visit to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Some of the region’s most fantastic examples of Scotch Whisky are available for tasting here. We will receive a talk from a Whisky Ambassador and two tastings. A highlight of our visit is a chef-prepared dinner in the Georgian-inspired private dining room. Savor indulgent cuisine prepared using only the freshest locally sourced ingredients. Overnight Edinburgh. (B, D)
Day 4 - Glasgow/The West Highland Line
This morning we depart Edinburgh by deluxe motorcoach bound for Scotland’s biggest and most thriving city - Glasgow. Here, we will once again embark on a panoramic tour to see the destination’s most famous landmarks and attractions. After the city tour, we set off on one of the world’s best train journeys, the West Highland Line. As this iconic train travels north through Scotland, you will be astounded by views of the mountains, moors, lochs and remote villages. The ride truly is one to remember. We take the train to a village called Bridge of Orchy. Upon arrival, we take a short coach trip to the village of Killin, magnificently sited around the scenic Falls of Dochart. Watch as the famous white waters crash into the rocks as they flow around the Islands of Inchbuie. Overnight Bridge of Orchy. (B, D)
Day 5 - Oban/Isle of Mull
Grab your camera, this morning we will drive from our hotel to the port town of Oban, where we will take a ferry to the Isle of Mull. This enchanting place is the second largest island in the Inner Hebrides and is known for its abundance of wildlife, including the Golden Eagle, the elusive Eurasian Otter, the Atlantic Seal and Mull’s biggest land animal - the Red Deer. Dolphins and whales can also be spotted from the island’s colorful coastline. Moving inland just a bit, we visit the island’s capital, Tobermory. Here, you will have time to explore as you wish. Perhaps stop by one of the two single-malt whisky distilleries, or sample the local fare at a pub. The quaint shops offer an incredible selection of goods, and the Isle of Mull’s museum offers a glimpse at the fascinating history of the island. Following our tour, we will return to the mainland. Overnight Bridge of Orchy. (B, D)
Day 6 - Jacobite Steam Train/Mallaig/Aviemore
After breakfast this morning, a coach will transfer you to one of the major tourist centers of the Highlands - Fort William. It is here that you will board yet another of Scotland’s famous railways, the Jacobite Steam Train. One of the greatest railway journeys in the world, the ride will take us past a list of impressive sites: Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis; the deepest freshwater lake in Britain, Loch Morar; the “Harry Potter Bridge,” the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct; and the deepest saltwater lake in Europe, Loch Nevis. At the end of the line, we arrive in the bustling fishing port of Mallaig. Here you will have time to stretch your legs and walk around the village. Enjoy the selection of shops, eateries and pubs, or just sit by the water and watch the boats come and go. We transfer from Mallaig to Aviemore later today, with a stop en route at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore. It is Britain’s first open air museum and showcases how Highland people lived and worked from the 1700s up until the 1960s. There are more than 30 fully restored historical buildings onsite that tell this story. Overnight Inverness. (B, D)
Day 7 - Loch Ness
A quintessential Scottish landmark, Loch Ness is on the itinerary today. The famous lake is known not only for its astonishing beauty, but also for its storied inhabitant, Nessie. Will you be lucky enough to spot her? Keep an eye out on a 30-minute cruise across the deep blue waters of the lake from the port of Dochgarroch to the ruins of Urquhart Castle. This ancient stronghold dates back to the 13th century and looks directly over Loch Ness. Marvel at the remaining structures, including Grant Tower, a prison cell and a great dining hall and admire the many unearthed artifacts that hint at life centuries ago. We then travel through the quiet village of Craigellachie, where we find the Speyside Cooperage. This incredible factory has been using traditional methodology to make whisky casks since 1947. Tour the factory’s award-winning exhibition, participate in a 4-D cinematic film experience and learn all about the ancient art of coopering. You will have the opportunity to watch master craftsmen make and repair wooden casks from a viewing gallery. Overnight Inverness (B, D)
Day 8 - The Kyle Line/Eilean Donan Castle
We begin the day with a coach transfer to Eilean Donan Castle, commonly known as one of the most iconic images of Scotland. This castle is situated on its own island and is surrounded by majestic scenery. In addition to the stunning vistas, you will also enjoy a look at the 13th century structure. You will see why this castle is one of the most visited and important attractions in the Scottish Highlands. After the castle visit, we set out to the West Coast of Scotland with a ride aboard the Kyle Line. The train journeys from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness, traveling through dense forests, lush farmlands, beautiful mountains and past a handful of lakes and streams. Along the 83-mile route, you will see 17 beautiful train stations, as well as many charming villages. Overnight Inverness. (B, D)
Day 9 - St. Andrews/Edinburgh
Today begins with a drive to St. Andrews, where picturesque beauty meets the history of yesteryear. The ruins of St. Andrews Castle are our destination, and here, you will have the opportunity to look over the beach, to explore the dungeon and to go down into the castle’s series of mines. We will also see the nearby cathedral before driving back to Edinburgh. Marvel at the breathtaking scenery as we travel across the island, and enjoy one last iconic site, the Forth Bridge. This cantilever trussed railway bridge is one of the most iconic in the world and is a true symbol of Scotland. The bridge was voted Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder in 2016 and has UNESCO World Heritage designation. Upon arrival in Edinburgh, the evening is yours to soak up a last bit of Scottish culture. Overnight Edinburgh. (B)
Day 10 - Tour Conclusion
Following breakfast you will be transferred to Edinburgh Airport for your return flight home. Upon arrival at the airport, your journey through Scotland comes to a close. (B)
Train and Hotel Accommodations
Hotels include Apex Waterloo Hotel (Edinburgh), Bridge of Orchy Hotel (Bridge of Orchy), and Inverness Kingsmills Hotel (Inverness)
West Highland Line
Named as the “Most Scenic Railway Line in the World” 2 years in a row, the West Highland Line offers a beautiful rail journey through Scotland. Riders begin their journey in the heart of Scotland in Glasgow and have the option to choose three end destinations: Mallaig, Fort William and Oban. Along the way, the dramatic Scottish landscape unfolds. Enjoy a look at lochs, moors, mountains and the coastline as you meander through the countryside.
Jacobite Steam Train
Following a route from Fort William to Mallaig, the Jacobite Steam Train has been called the greatest railway journey in the world. The train follows a round-trip route the totals 84 miles in length - just over 41 miles in each direction. Along the way, sights to be seen include Ben Nevis, River Morar, the Glenfinnan Viaduct and Loch Nevis, amongst others. Scenic villages dot the landscape and complete the picturesque vistas.
The Kyle Line
Travel from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh aboard the Kyle Line. This iconic train is a single track railway that completes its full route in just under 3 hours. The train runs through moors and mountains, quaint towns and some of Scotland’s more populated areas. It is not uncommon to see animals grazing through the countryside, and as the train reaches its final destination, views of the Isle of Skye are simply breathtaking.
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