The very best of northern Scotland lies ahead on this international adventure, which uses the water-side city of Inverness as homebase for spectacular mainline and steam railway adventures around the island.
About the Tour
The varied landscape of northern Scotland and astounding history of the region draws tourists from all around the world each year; however, those that choose to explore the country using this 5-day tour are in for a treat. Based out of Inverness, this tour begins with free time to get acquainted with the country. Soak in the pub culture, see the sites or enjoy the contrast of the storied city against the lovely waters of the River Ness. It is on the third day that the adventure begins, as travelers make their way along famed rail lines such as the Jacobite Steam Train, the West Highland Line, the Kyle Line, the Highland Railroad, and the Strathspey Steam Railroad. While the railways and trains themselves are incredible, it is the stops and views along the way that make this journey magnificent. Enjoy things such as crossing the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan Viaduct (famed for its feature in the Harry Potter films), a tour of the Eilean Donan Castle and a journey through Cairngorm National Park, amongst other stops and excursions. With so much to do and see during this brief journey, travelers have a true chance to immerse themselves in the wonder that is Scotland.
Your vacation start or end can be tailored to meet your travel needs.
- Standard Class rail travel throughout
- Standard Class rail on heritage excursions
- 4 nights' hotel accommodation
- 8 meals including 4 breakfasts and 4 dinners including 1 farewell meal in Inverness
- Standard Class Rail on Heritage Excursions
- Journey on the Jacobite Steam Train
- Discover stunning Scottish scenery as you travel on the Kyle Line
- Excursion to the Eilean Donan Castle
- Enjoy a magical excursion on the Strathspey Steam Railroad
- Visit to the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Center
- The services of a professional UK Tour Manager from start to finish
Day 1 - Inverness
Our tour begins in Inverness at the Palace Hotel & Spa, which overlooks the River Ness in the center of the city. Perhaps familiarize yourself with the city on a riverside stroll before meeting for this evening's meal. This delightful city is considered to be the capital of the Highlands, and it is crowned by the stunning Inverness Castle.
The history of Inverness dates back well over 2,500 years, and one of the most famous residents, King Mac Bethad Mac Findláich may seem familiar as he is the inspiration for one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, Macbeth. Overnight Inverness. (D)
Day 2 - Jacobite Steam Train
Today we transfer to Fort William, where we join the Jacobite Steam Train* for the return journey to Mallaig, traveling on the magnificent West Highland Line, which is arguably the most scenic railroad journey in the UK. During the journey, the train steams past Ben Nevis, then climbs into the mountains surrounding Glenfinnan, where we cross the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan Viaduct. After time for lunch we return along the West Highland Line to Fort William, from where we continue by coach to Inverness, stopping briefly at the Commando's Memorial and Fort Augustus along the way. Overnight Inverness. (B, D)
*The Jacobite Steam Train does not operate until mid- May. Earlier departures are booked onto Scotrail.
Day 3 - The Kyle Line & Eilean Donan Castle
Today we enjoy an excursion to beautiful Eilean Donan Castle, on the tiny island in Loch Duich. Eilean Donan is undoubtedly one of the most striking castles in Scotland. Perched atop a tiny island at the confluence of Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh, this iconic castle has been filmed and photographed numerous times over the years, most famously being featured in the classic film Highlander. Enjoy some time at leisure, perhaps absorbing the magnificent surroundings or taking a short walk by one of the lochs that feed the watery surroundings. After our visit, We return to Inverness on the Kyle Line, one of Scotland's most scenic railroads, skirting alongside lochs and through wild mountain landscapes. We arrive at our hotel ahead of dinner this evening. Overnight Inverness. (B, D)
Day 4 - Strathspey Steam Railway
Our excursion today is on the tracks of the historic Highland Railroad. Traveling to Aviemore by rail, we join the nostalgic Strathspey Steam Railroad. From Aviemore through to Broomhill, the train passes moorlands, woods and by the River Spey. Through the large windows of the excellently restored carriages, take in the stunning sights of the Cairngorm National Park. From rolling hills blanketed by purple heather, to the craggy top of Cairngorm Mountain, to mysterious depths of the thick pine forests, pass through some of the most delightful stations in Scotland on this short but rather spectacular journey. The final station on the line, Broomhill, could also be recognisable thanks to its use in the television series 'Monarch of the Glen', where it is used as the station for 'Glenbogle'.
Finally, we travel by coach to Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Center. The atmospheric battlefield was the site of the 1746 Battle of Culloden - the last major battle fought on British soil. In a bid to reclaim the British throne, the Jacobite rising of 1745 faced British troops in what would turn out to be their final confrontation. The tragic battle lasted less than an hour and resulted in around 1,500 deaths, the majority of which were Jacobites. We have the chance to visit the moving battlefield site as well as the fascinating Culloden Visitor Center, which features interactive exhibitions and Jacobite artefacts including weapons and clothing. After some time here we return to our hotel by coach, where we enjoy a final farewell meal together; the perfect opportunity to share stories and reminisce on your adventures. Overnight Inverness. (B, D)
Day 5 - Farewell From the Highlands
Your Tour Manager bids you farewell from Inverness and you are free to travel home independently. (B)
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.
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 railroad 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 railroad 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.
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 railroad 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.
Strathspey Steam Railroad
We enjoy an impressive journey on the Strathspey Steam Railroad, taking a 20-mile round trip through Scotland's magnificent Highland scenery. The former mainline route begins at Aviemore railroad station, which also hosts modern trains on the National Rail network. Leaving the station yard, the train navigates a level crossing and continues against the breathtaking backdrop of the Cairngorms National Park. With the gushing River Spey running alongside the line, the heritage locomotive continues under the shadow of high mountains and dense sloping woodland to the station at Boat of Garten.
This immaculately preserved station features its full range of original buildings dating back to 1904, making it popular with rail enthusiasts. On leaving the station, the next leg of our journey takes us through some beautiful landscapes, including the charming rural farmland scenery straddling the meandering River Spey. In summer, there are many vivid colors in the fields; a multitude of greens and even the purples of heather and gorse lining the trackside. After climbing through the valley, we arrive at Broomhill station - the line's current terminus and a double for 'Glenbogle' station in the TV series 'Monarch of the Glen'.
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