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Edinburgh, the Highlands and Islands

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Discover the West Highlands and Cairngorms on this fabulous round trip rail tour of Scotland.

You are viewing the 2021 itinerary. Select your departure year
20212022
9 days From $2,095 per person

2021 Tour code: GR-SHSA-21

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.

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. Overnight Inverness.

Includes
  • Breakfast
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.

*Select departures may use an alternate hotel in 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

The Isles of Glencoe Hotel, Ballachulish

The Isles of Glencoe Hotel, Ballachulish

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Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, Edinburgh

Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, Edinburgh

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Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa, Inverness

Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa, Inverness

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Trains

Jacobite Steam Train
The Kyle Line
Scotrail
West Highland Line

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Reviews

5.0 stars5.0 / 5 · 5 reviews

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LORRAINE

5 stars

Submitted 14 Oct 2019

Tour was very well run, organized, and included a variety of daily activities, including free time. The tour leader was so experienced, had a wealth of information. Was courteous and patient and seemed to be enjoying himself along with us. I highly recommend traveling with Vacations by Rail.

Collected by Vacations By Rail

LYNDA

5 stars

Submitted 13 Jun 2019

The tour was well planned out. The hotels were nice, the food was good, the tour guide Grant was knowledgeable as was Dave the bus driver. As a history minor, I really enjoyed the Scottish past woven in to what we were seeing. The other participants were enjoyable also.

Collected by Vacations By Rail

Patricia

5 stars

Submitted 09 Nov 2018

Great tour! Loved the country side.

Collected by Vacations By Rail

Samuel A, Atlanta, GA

5 stars

Submitted 18 Feb 2018

Nice itinerary and seamless travel.

Collected by Vacations By Rail

Clare R, Otautau, NZ

5 stars

Submitted 15 Nov 2017

Great host and wonderful people on the tour. Ballahullish Hotel had great service and baggage transfers were much appreciated. The Inverness Hotel had a great location. Both hotels in Edinburgh were very good. The final dinner was excellent with the bagpipes. Thanks for the great tour

Collected by Vacations By Rail

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