Explore the beauty of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland as you traverse these Celtic countries by rail.
About the Tour
Three of the British Isles' most scenic countries combine on a vacation that showcases the best of these Celtic beauties. Beginning in Scotland, explore the majestic Highlands and its most incredible cities before traveling to both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, two nations of incredible culture and tradition.
- Rail travel on ScotRail and Irish Rail
- Scenic rail journeys on the Jacobite Steam Train, Kyle Line and West Highland Line
- Hotel accommodations for 12 nights
- 21 meals, including a farewell dinner at the famous Merry Ploughboys Pub
- Tour of Glen Ord Distillery and a whisky tasting
- Visit to Eilean Donan Castle
- Excursions to the Giant's Causeway and the Cliffs of Moher
- Free time at Hillsborough Castle
- Scenic drive around the Ring of Kerry and ride on the Jaunting Cars
- Celtic Steps Show
- Ferry crossing from Cairnryan to Belfast
- Transportation by deluxe motorcoach
- Services of a professional tour escort and knowledgeable local guides for touring
Day 1 - Edinburgh
We begin our epic Celtic adventure in Edinburgh at the 4-Star Kimpton Charlotte Square hotel, where you meet the rest of your group and Tour Manager. This evening, we enjoy a Scottish themed dinner. Overnight Edinburgh. (D)
Days 2-3 – Inverness & the Kyle Line
Today, we transfer to the station, where we take the train from Edinburgh to Inverness. On arrival, we visit the Glen Ord Distillery for a tour and a whiskey tasting.
Day 3 sees us journey up to Kyle of Lochalsh on the Kyle Line, where we visit Eilean Donan Castle. After some free time to enjoy the castle, we return to our hotel via scenic Loch Ness. Overnight Inverness. (Day 2 - B, D; Day 3 - B)
Days 4-5 – The West Highland Line to Glasgow
After breakfast, we transfer by coach to Mallaig, stopping off en-route at the Glenfinnan Visitor Center. There is some free time in Mallaig before we board the Jacobite Steam Train and travel to Fort William. Overnight Fort William.
On Day 5, we rejoin the West Highland Line, journeying from Fort William to Glasgow. Overnight Glasgow. (Day 4 - B, D; Day 5 - B)
Days 6-7 – Belfast and Cork
We travel to Cairnryan to join the ferry over to Belfast, where we immediately embark on a guided coach tour of the city. After the tour, we check into our hotel.
Our excursion on Day 7 is to the Giant's Causeway, stopping off at Carrickfergus Castle for some free time en-route. We also enjoy free time for lunch in Ballycastle. Our time at the Giant's Causeway is at leisure to explore before we return to our hotel. Overnight Belfast. (Day 6 - B, D; Day 7 - B)
Days 8-9 – The castles of Ireland
Today we visit Hillsborough Castle, the official residence for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and where the Queen resides while visiting Northern Ireland. After time to enjoy the castle, we coach to Dublin Heuston train station for the train to Cork. Overnight Cork.
On Day 9, we explore Ireland's most famous castle, Blarney Castle. We also watch the Celtic Steps show this evening. Overnight Killarney. (Day 8 - B, D; Day 9 - B, D)
Days 10-11 – Ireland’s natural beauty
We take a full-day coach trip around the stunning Ring of Kerry today, with time at leisure for lunch. We also visit the Kerry Bog Village Museum and enjoy a ride on the Jaunting Cars. Overnight Killarney.
On Day 11 we transfer to Tarbet, crossing to Killimer by ferry. Here, we visit the Cliffs of Moher. We then travel to the Burren Center to learn more about the local history of the area. Overnight Galway. (Day 10 - B, D; Day 11 - B, D)
Days 12-13 – Dublin and homeward bound
After a morning at leisure, we travel by rail to Dublin, where there is some free time to discover the city. This evening, we enjoy dinner at the famous Merry Ploughboys Pub. Overnight Dublin.
After breakfast on Day 13 you are free to make your way to the airport for your flight back home. (Day 12 - B, D; Day 13 - B)
Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel, Edinburgh
The Kimpton Charlotte Square is a 4-Star hotel in Edinburgh, overlooking some of the most beautiful private garden squares. The hotel is situated at the heart of the city's New Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The rooms are furnished with tuckboxes, robes, and yoga mats to ensure maximum comfort for all guests. The hotel has a spa service (payable locally), an indoor pool, fitness center, fixed wine hour in the evenings, and dry cleaning and laundry services (payable locally).
Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness
Occupying a row of converted Victorian houses along the River Ness, this cosy hotel is a 5-minute walk from Inverness Castle and a 14-minute walk from Inverness rail station. The Glen Mhor Hotel is the ideal venue to take in all the City of Inverness has to offer, but far enough out to ensure a peaceful and relaxing stay. Warm, casual rooms feature flat-screen TVs with premium channels, tea and coffeemaking equipment and free Wi-Fi. The bistro-style restaurant serves French fare, and there are facilities for meetings and events.
Cruachan Hotel, Fort William (or similar)
The Cruachan Hotel in Fort William is a 3-Star hotel overlooking Loch Linnhe and the Morven Hills beyond. The hotel has a terrace offering panoramic views of the loch and surrounding landscapes, while each en suite room has a bedside lamp, hairdryer, Wi-Fi access, tea & coffee making facilities, a spacious desk area, and an iron and ironing board (on request). The in-house restaurant serves diverse cuisine, and the bar offers a variety of drinks that can be enjoyed alongside the tranquil views.
Hallmark Hotel, Glasgow
Located near the Gallery of Modern Art, and the SSE Hydro arena,this upscale hotel features accommodations including traditional rooms, suites and apartments. All have tea and coffeemaking facilities, air conditioning, free WiFi and flat-screen TVs. Dining options consist of a brasserie with a varied menu and full bar, and several banquet rooms. There's a fitness centre and a spa offering beauty treatments, plus an indoor pool, sauna and steam room. Other amenities include event facilities and free parking.
Holiday Inn Belfast City Center, Belfast
Located close to the city center and a railroad station, is our hotel, the 4-Star Holiday Inn Belfast City Center. This excellent hotel is the perfect base from which to conduct our explorations, and comes with a restaurant, a bar, a coffee shop, and a well-equipped fitness center. The rooms are decorated in light colors, and come with en-suite bathrooms throughout. Other amenities in the rooms include a television, a hairdryer, complimentary toiletries, a minifridge, tea & coffee-making facilities, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Clayton Hotel Silver Springs, Cork
On a hill surrounded by landscaped greenery, this low-key hotel is located near the 18th-century English Market and the 16th-century Blackrock Castle. Bright, relaxed rooms offer free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and tea and coffeemakers; some feature river or city views. With panoramic views over the River Lee, Clayton Hotel Silver Springs offers you the choice of relaxing in the lounge bar or dining in the restaurant, where you can enjoy contemporary & Irish cuisine. Other amenities include a playground and a garden.
Maldron Hotel (South Mall), Cork
Overlooking the River Lee and ideally located in the heart of the city, Maldron Hotel South Mall Cork is situated in the heart of Cork’s shopping and entertainment district with some of the finest eateries and attractions on our doorstep. The hotel boasts 163 modern spacious fully air-conditioned bedrooms. All rooms are equipped with USB charge points, Chromecast TV’s, Rainfall showers and tea/coffee making facilities. With a wide range of dining options, the Grain & Grill Bar & Restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, serving a delicious selection of Maldron signature dishes with a local twist. Vitality Breakfast offers a range of delicious hot & cold options served to your table. Enjoy a bespoke coffee from Red Bean Roastery Café open daily overlooking South Mall. The Café offers a selection of delicious freshly prepared breakfast items, salads, sandwiches and sweet treat for dine-in or grab & go.
Castelrosse Hotel Kerry, Killarney (or similar)
On the shores of the Lakes of Killarney, this casual resort offering hotel rooms, lodges and cottages is 3 km from Killarney town. Straightforward rooms and suites in the hotel include flat-screen TVs, desks, and tea and coffeemaking facilities; upgrades add lake and mountain views. Modern lodges and cottages have full kitchens and outdoor patios. There's a casual pub and an Irish restaurant. Other amenities include a 9-hole golf course, an indoor pool, a spa, and tennis courts. Horseback riding and trekking are also offered, as well as bike and boat rental (fee).
Oranmore Lodge Hotel, Galway (or similar)
The 4-Star Oranmore Lodge hotel was originally a manor house built in 1850 and has now been fully renovated. It is located a few minutes' walk from Oranmore village. Amenities at Oranmore Lodge include Wi-Fi, flat-screen televisions and tea & coffee making facilities. The on-site leisure center includes a fitness room, heated indoor pool and hot tub for guests. Guests may also enjoy spa treatments (payable locally).
Clayton Hotel Cardiff Lane, Dublin
Set just across the River Liffey from the Convention Centre Dublin and the International Financial Services Centre, this modern hotel is 7 minutes' walk from Luas light rail and 14 minutes' walk from 3Arena. Relaxed rooms feature warm decor and light wood furnishings. All come with free Wi-Fi, TVs, and tea and coffeemaking facilities, plus desks and balconies; upgraded rooms have sitting areas. Room service is offered 24/7. A leisure club offers fitness facilities, a heated pool and a sauna, and beauty treatments are available for a fee. There's also a contemporary restaurant, a chic cocktail bar and a weekday lunch deli counter.
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.
*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.
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 the 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 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 destination, the busy fishing town of Mallaig.
*Please note some departures could be standard Scotrail service
Many of our journeys in Ireland are on board Irish Railroads' new Intercity trains. These smart, modern trains are comfortable and air conditioned. Other journeys are on board Irish Railroads' regional services. The Intercity trains include on board Wi-Fi and power points, and on these trains we travel through the stunning Irish scenery. Irish railroads operate on a very unique track gauge of 5 foot 3 inches - the only other place in the world where this particular gauge can be found is in Australia.
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