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Edinburgh, the Highlands and Islands

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4.4 stars(18 reviews)
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Discover the West Highlands and Cairngorms on this fabulous round trip rail tour of Scotland.

You are viewing the 2023 itinerary. Select your departure year
20232024
9 days From $2,595 per person
Travel among a group of like-minded travelers led by a professional tour manager
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2023 Tour code: GR-SHSA-23

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 whisky. 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.

 

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

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.

Includes
  • Dinner
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.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
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.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
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.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5 - The 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.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
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.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
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. This evening, a local storyteller weaves their magic as they tell us time-honored stories of Scottish myths and legends. Overnight Inverness.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8 - Inverness to Edinburgh

We leave Inverness, traveling south through the Cairngorms, via Aviemore, Pitlochry and Kingussie, to arrive back in Edinburgh for one final night where we enjoy a farewell dinner. Overnight Edinburgh.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
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.

Includes
  • Breakfast

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Additional departures are available, please speak with a rail specialist for details.

Departure times

Departure times vary based on selected rail vacation. This information will be provided in your final documents. For more information please speak with your rail specialist.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular vacation with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Ballachulish Hotel, Ballachulish

Ballachulish Hotel, Ballachulish

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The Isles of Glencoe Hotel, Ballachulish

The Isles of Glencoe Hotel, Ballachulish

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Nevis Bank Inn

Nevis Bank Inn, Fort William

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Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa, Inverness

Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa, Inverness

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Glenspean Lodge Hotel

Glenspean Lodge Hotel, Roybridge

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Trains

Jacobite Steam Train
The Kyle Line
Scotrail
West Highland Line

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Reviews

4.4 stars4.4 / 5 · 18 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (12)
  2. 4 stars
    (3)
  3. 3 stars
    (2)
  4. 2 stars
    (0)
  5. 1 star
    (1)

Terry Smith

4 stars

Submitted 14/Nov

Scotland is a magical country with so much history. I completely enjoyed two of our guest speakers, but the speaker in Ft William was just awful. The Glenspean Lodge was outstanding, with excellent service and spectacular food in a quaint surrounding. Colin kept us well-informed of upcoming schedules, and each day was filled with the sights and sounds of Scotland. Only one day ran terribly late with multiple ferry rides. If only Great Rails could control the weather in November. I would recommend this trip.

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X Vacations By Rail GRJ

3 stars

Submitted 7/Nov

The tour manager was my reason for not rating this tour higher. I’ve been to Scotland often in the past 35 years. Never experienced a tour manager this unengaged with group.

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X Vacations By Rail GRJ

5 stars

Submitted 7/Nov

Wonderful trip. Everything was smooth and well managed. Great time.

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Marie-Claude Rossi

5 stars

Submitted 4/Nov

This trip exceeded my expectations! Great, informed leader, small group, well organized, Oh, and the Highlands are beautiful - beyond words. I would take another trip with vacation by rails.

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X Vacations By Rail GRJ

5 stars

Submitted 29/Oct

This was such an amazing trip! Our tour manager, Ian, took great care of everyone. The scenery and history were both fascinating and so wonderful.

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Charles Frick

4 stars

Submitted 24/Oct

Did not appreciate the upcharge for going alone, did not eat more at meals, used only 1 bed took up one seat on trains &busses. Some of the days on bus were very tiresome, but train rides were good.

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