Discover the West Highlands and Cairngorms on this fabulous round trip rail tour of Scotland.
About the Tour
Lochs and glens, castles and islands lie in wait of your discovery as we travel through the beautiful island of Scotland. The explorations begin in Edinburgh, where you can explore on your own before traveling to Glasgow. In Glasgow, we board the renowned West Highland Line and travel along lochs, past mountainscapes, and through quaint villages. Leaving the mainland, we journey by ferry to the Isle of Mull and enjoy a visit to an ancient castle and a taste of authentic Scotch whiskey. Continuing, we enjoy highlights such as Neptune's Staircase, a cruise of Loch Linnhe, a ride aboard the Jacobite Steam Train and the legendary Loch Ness. One final train ride, this time aboard the Kyle Line, takes us to Kyle of Lochalsh, where we visit the 13th century Eilean Donan Castle. As the tour wraps back to Edinburgh, enjoy even more quintessential Scottish vistas and feel your heart fill with memories of this wonderful country.
Your vacation start or end can be tailored to meet your travel needs.
- Standard Class rail travel on the Scottish rail network
- Three scenic rail excursions: West Highland Line, Kyle Line, and Jacobite Steam Train (early departures feature the scheduled Scotrail service)
- Hotel accommodations for 8 nights
- 16 meals including a special 'Scottish Evening' on the final night featuring a Scottish piper and a traditional Scottish menu
- Isle of Mull including Duart Castle
- Whiskey tasting
- Neptune's Staircase, Glencoe, and a scenic cruise across Loch Linnhe
- Cruise across Loch Ness and a visit to Urquhart Castle
- Visit to Eilean Donan Castle
- Transportation by deluxe motorcoach
- Services of a professional Tour Manager
Day 1 - Joining the Tour in Edinburgh
Our fantastic Scottish tour begins at the superb Apex Hotel Waterloo Place, located close to Edinburgh's main station, just off the renowned Princes Street. Your Tour Manager is available at the hotel later this afternoon, and your day is free to explore Scotland's fascinating capital. Overnight Edinburgh. (D)
Day 2 - The West Highland Line
Today we travel to Glasgow, before changing trains for a journey on one of the world's most spectacular scenic railway lines, The West Highland Line. During our time onboard, we travel along a hillside ledge overlooking Gare Loch before we enter the spectacular Highlands, an idyllic, remote and untouched landscape. The incredible route skirts the western banks of Loch Lomond and climbs quickly from Crianlarich to Upper Tyndrum and wild Rannoch Moor. Mighty mountains provide an imposing backdrop to the nearby village of Ballachulish. Overnight Ballachulish. (B, D)
Day 3 - The Isle of Mull
Today, we travel to the town of Oban. Leaving the mainland by Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, we make the 40-minute crossing to the Isle of Mull. As we head through the small islands and across to Mull, the incredible picture-postcard views are truly awe-inspiring; rugged coastline, hills rising sharply from the water's edge, endless greens, purples and browns of the moorland and jagged, exposed rock faces. We arrive at the town of Craignure from where we visit Duart Castle, the ancestral home of the Maclean Clan. The castle is only a few minutes drive from our mooring point at Craignure and remains in a superb condition, occupying a picturesque position overlooking Loch Don. After our visit, we enjoy a Whisky tasting at our hotel or the local distillery (departure dependent). Overnight Ballachulish. (B, D)
Day 4 - Neptune's Staircase, Loch Linnhe & Glencoe
Today we travel by coach to Neptune's Staircase, an impressive flight of eight locks operated by a team of at least three lock keepers. Situated on the Caledonian Canal, the locks are each placed at slightly different levels, overcoming a total height difference of 64 feet. It now takes approximately one-and-a-half hours to pass from one end of the staircase to the other, where water overcomes gravity and nature to climb the hillside. From here we continue to Loch Linnhe where we enjoy a scenic cruise across the water. After our cruise, we visit Glencoe, one of Scotlands most iconic glens. Glencoe has been used as the backdrop of many films over the years, most recently being used for the James Bond film, 'Skyfall'. Overnight Ballachulish. (B, D)
Day 5 - Jacobite Steam Train
This morning we join the Jacobite Steam Train* for a journey to Mallaig on the final leg of the wonderful West Highland Line, arguably the most scenic in the UK. During the journey the train steams past Ben Nevis, then climbs into the mountains surrounding Glenfinnan, a small town famous as the rallying point for Bonnie Prince Charlie's assault on the British throne. Here we cross the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct seen in the 'Harry Potter' films; one of the most iconic engineering works found throughout the British railway network. As we head towards Mallaig, we drop down to the sea's edge and the landscape opens up with the first views of the rugged 'Small Isles' - Rum, Eigg, and Muck - which hang tantalizingly close offshore and tease in and out of view near our journey's end. After time for lunch, we make the return journey by coach, passing the Glenfinnan Viaduct, to Inverness, where we stay for three nights. (B, D)
*On early departures the Jacobite Steam Train does not operate and we make this excursion using Scotrail's scheduled service.
Day 6 - Loch Ness
Today, travel to Loch Ness to enjoy a cruise. This iconic loch is most famous for its mythical dweller, the Loch Ness Monster, however it is also surrounded by some of Scotland's most breathtaking scenery. Enjoy your short cruise surrounded by the purple pained mountains, before taking a trip to Urquhart Castle, a 13th-century castle that sits perched on the banks of the loch. These atmospheric ruins are a delight to explore, and you have some free time here before we coach back to Inverness. The rest of your day is spent at leisure, ahead of a delightful meal together this evening. Overnight Inverness. (B, D)
Day 7 - The Kyle Line & Eilean Donan Castle
Today we enjoy one of the most breathtaking railway journeys in Europe, the Kyle Line. This incredibly scenic route takes us across Scotland from east coast to west, crossing the Caledonian Canal as we leave Inverness and skirting the shores of crystal-clear lakes. Countless photo opportunities present themselves as we wind through wooded hillsides and over sparse moors, climbing over the highlands and past charming loch-side and seaside towns. The tracks rise and fall over hills and valleys, traveling at low speed throughout most of the journey, giving you time to soak up the terrific views. The train sweeps one way and the next, wild deer grazing beside the tracks that follow a route dictated by politicians and powerful landowners as much as by civil engineers. During the final part of the journey we pass the picturesque white-washed houses in the village of Plockton. We arrive at Kyle of Lochalsh, the end of the line, located across a short stretch of water from the Isle of Skye. Afterward, we make a visit to Eilean Donan Castle, situated on a tiny island in Loch Duich, joined to the mainland by a small, elegant bridge. The island was part of the Macrae Clan's territory and in the 13th century, they built Eilean Donan Castle, which was initially designed to defend the clan's land from invading Vikings but which actually saw more battles between the warring Scottish clans. Overnight Inverness. (B, D)
Day 8 - Inverness to Edinburgh
We leave Inverness, traveling south through the Cairngorms, via Aviemore, Pitlochry and Kingussie, to arrive back in Edinburgh for a night at the Radisson Blu Hotel*. We enjoy a farewell dinner as part of a 'Scottish Evening'. For this, we are regaled by a Scottish piper with all manner of fascinating Scottish stories and snippets of local history. We also sample a menu of traditional Scottish dishes as we are entertained. Overnight Edinburgh. (B, D)
*Select departures my use an alternate hotel in Edinburgh
Day 9 - Tour Conclusion
After breakfast this morning, the tour concludes, and your Tour Manager bids you farewell. You are free to begin your journey home or enjoy more time sightseeing independently. (B)
Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, Edinburgh
The 4-Star Apex Waterloo Place Hotel is ideally located at the eastern end of Princes Street, close to Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station. The boutique-style hotel has a restaurant, bar, an indoor pool, sauna, and spa. The rooms feature a television, fridge, safe, tea and coffee making facilities, luxury toiletries and complimentary Wi-Fi.
The Isles of Glencoe Hotel, Ballachulish
Nestled on the shores of Loch Leven, the Isles of Glencoe Hotel offers a superb base for exploring the Western Highlands. The hotel's facilities include a swimming pool and bio-sauna, in addition to a well-equipped gym. The rooms feature amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi, a television and tea & coffee making facilities.
Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa, Inverness
The welcoming 3-Star Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa on the banks of the River Ness is a short walk away from the city center and the perfect place to relax and watch the river flow by. Built over 100 years ago, the hotel is equipped with a swimming pool, leisure club, brasserie, and lounge. Rooms include hairdryer and television.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh
The stylish 4-Star Radisson Blu Hotel is perfectly located on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, halfway between Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle. The hotel has a restaurant, a bar with a tapas-style menu and a leisure club with a jet stream pool, sauna, and a gym. The leisure club also offers treatments such as massages and facials (pay locally). The rooms are decorated in a relaxing, contemporary style and feature individual climate control, telephone, television, minibar, tea and coffee making facilities, safe and a hairdryer.
West Highland Line
Also known as 'the Iron Road to the Isles', a journey on the West Highland Line is an epic rail adventure that takes passengers through some of the world's most beautiful and dramatic landscapes. In fact, the line has twice been voted the world's best rail journey by readers of Wanderlust magazine. Running from Glasgow's Queen Street station, the train runs through the city's outskirts and on to Helensburgh. From here the train begins its ascent into the famous Highlands. Soon the train skirts the beautiful Loch Long, followed by the immense Loch Lomond, as it makes its way up the ever-increasing gradients. The journey continues alongside the Loch - Britain's largest body of inland water - whilst winding through pretty wooded slopes. Continuing northward through charming isolated villages, the train then climbs more than 500 feet (150 m) in just five miles, before arriving at the tiny hamlet Crianlarich. Here the West Highland Line splits into two branches. One continues to Fort William and Mallaig, the other heads west to Oban.
Jacobite Steam Train
The wonderful journey on the Jacobite Steam Train takes us along a section of the West Highland Line, which stretches from Glasgow to Mallaig, and takes passengers through some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery in the UK. We begin in the town of Fort William, spectacularly situated with Ben Nevis as its backdrop. As we leave Fort William we travel along the shores of Loch Linnhe before tackling the increasingly demanding Highland terrain. At Glenfinnan we reach the most scenic and dramatic section of the line, as the train crosses the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan Viaduct: a magnificent feat of railway engineering. Leaving Glenfinnan, the landscape opens up and we catch our first glimpse of the sea and the small islands close to the shore. During this section of the journey, the Jacobite Steam Train travels across two more viaducts: Gleann Mama and the Borrowdale Viaduct before reaching the small towns of Morar and Arisaig. On a clear, sunny day, the white sandy beaches along this stretch of coastline provide a beautiful contrast with the blue waters of the sea. From here, it is only a short distance to our final destination, the busy fishing town of Mallaig.
The Kyle Line
The Kyle Line takes us on one of the most scenic rail journeys in the British Isles, traveling between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh. On leaving Inverness, the line hugs the shores of the Beauly Firth before heading north to Dingwall. From here, the line immediately turns inland and climbs over the Highlands. As a result of a dispute with the landowners of the time, the builders of the railway were forced to make a sharp detour around Strathpeffer. After a steep climb to Black Rock the line descends through beautiful wooded hillsides until it reaches Garve on the shore of Loch Garve. On a still clear day this loch perfectly mirrors the surrounding hills and trees. From Garve station, the line climbs up to the broad straths leading to the West Coast before climbing to the summit of the line at Luib. The line then descends to the magnificent scenery of Loch Carron, where it twists and turns in and out of the loch side inlets. Plockton station and village, with yachts anchored in the shelter of its beautiful bay, is the next passing point, and was the location for the BBC Television series 'Hamish Macbeth'. The final section of the journey is perhaps the most dramatic (and the most expensive), as it was carved through the solid rock that leads to Kyle Pier. Kyle of Lochalsh ("strait of the foaming lake") sits at the entrance to Loch Alsh, opposite Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye. The two villages were formerly connected by a ferry service, but this was replaced by the Skye Bridge in 1995.
Please note: some of our tours travel on this route in reverse from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness or travel just part of this route. See individual tour for details.
We use the Scotrail service, traveling in Standard Class, on early tours that use the West Highland Line in Scotland. Scotrail is operated by Abellio, and links the main cities in Scotland, taking us through some of the most stunning scenery in the world. On these trains, we see some of the most famous sights in Scotland, including Loch Lomond. For customers taking the service to Fort William and Mallaig, we will travel over the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct, an incredible feat of railway engineering that has been most famously featured in the 'Harry Potter' films. Other customers may be going west, to Oban, where you will pass the Falls of Lora and the atmospheric Kilchurn Castle on your journey.
Tour Dates & Prices
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Hotels & Accommodations are subject to change based on availability. Additional departures are available, please speak with a rail specialist for details.