5 Great Rail Journeys to celebrate the best of Scotland

Visit Scotland's 2019 theme, year of coast and waters by rail 

With all eyes on the nation of tartan, haggis and whisky this coming St Andrew's Day (30th November), Great Rail Journeys share 5 of its best rail adventures ideal for inclusion in a planned Scotland round-up. In 'rail-line' with Visit Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters theme for 2019, these tours include train journeys hugging Scotland's dramatic coastlines and following the loch edges; awarding some of the most rewarding rail experiences in the world. 

 

1)      St Andrews and Royal Deeside

The town of St Andrews is named after Scotland’s patron saint himself and has been the site of an important church since at least the 8th Century. It is now better known as the ‘home of golf’ and it regularly hosts The Open Championship, the oldest of golf’s four major tournaments. It is also home to Scotland’s oldest university, St Andrews University, which was attended by Prince William and is regarded by many as Britain’s third best after Oxford and Cambridge. 

Passengers with Great Rail Journeys can visit the town as part of the St Andrews and Royal Deeside tour. This includes a guided tour of St Andrews including the charming old town, historic cathedral and prestigious university. The holiday also includes stops at Edinburgh, Stirling Castle and Aberdeen, with a trip along the Royal Deeside Railway and a visit to the famous Balmoral Castle, plus whisky tasting at the Royal Loch Nagar Distillery. great rail journeys

Tour information: https://www.greatrail.com/tours/st-andrews-and-royal-deeside/#ADB19 6 days from £995 per person

Highlight: Royal Deeside Railway

The Royal Deeside Railway Company was formed in 1996, with the aim of re-opening a section of the former branch line from Aberdeen to Ballater, which was closed in 1966 by British Rail.After years of work from the dedicated volunteers, rail services were able to commence in 2010.

 

2)      Scottish Islands and Lochs 

Scotland is famous for its lochs, or lakes, and in particular Loch Ness, which holds a prominent position in Scottish folklore as the home of the fabled Loch Ness Monster.  While Loch Ness is the second largest lake in Scotland by area after Loch Lomond, its tremendous depth means it is the largest by volume in the entire British Isles. Loch Ness lies approximately 23 miles southwest of Inverness, the northernmost city in Britain. Inverness has considerable historic and cultural significance, made all the more famous by Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

This tour visits both Loch Ness and Inverness as part of Great Rail Journeys’ Scottish Islands and Lochs Cruise. Beginning in Edinburgh, the journey boards the MV Lord of the Glens ship at Inverness and sails across the beauteous Loch Ness. The excursion heads to Benavie and includes a train journey on the West Highland Line to Glenfinnan. The ship then heads through the engineering marvel that is Neptune’s Staircase and out towards Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. The final three stops are Craignure, Duart Castle and Oban, where there is whisky tasting and a trip to McCraig’s Tower. 

Tour information: https://www.greatrail.com/tours/scottish-islands-and-lochs-cruise/#LGR19 8 days from £1,645 per person

Highlight: 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. 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. 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 wooden 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.

3)      Castles and Wildlife of Scotland

The historic landscape of Scotland is replete with castles, and while the larger cities such as Edinburgh offer the bigger and more famous examples, for an authentic experience visitors should head to the north of the country. Not only will you find iconic castles such as the Eilean Donan Castle, which featured in the film Highlander, and the stately Dunrobin Castle, seat of the Earl of Sutherland, but there is also some spectacular wildlife. Red squirrels and Scottish wild cats roam the Allerdale Wilderness Reserve, while dolphins can be spotted along the Moray Firth.

An ideal tour for small groups, Castles and Wildlife of Scotland by Great Rail Journeys provides the perfect blend of history and nature. The tour includes a stay at Tulloch Castle as well as visits to Eilean Donan Castle and Dunrobin Castle, plus time to explore the Allerdale Wilderness Reserve. Rail highlights are the journey both ways on the Caledonian Sleeper Train, which can be boarded in London, Crewe or Preston, and the included excursion along the magnificently scenic Kyle Line between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh.

Tour information: https://www.greatrail.com/tours/castles-and-wildlife-of-scotland/#CSS19 7 days from £1,495

Highlight: The Kyle Line

The Kyle Line takes us on one of the most scenic rail journeys in the British Isles, travelling 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.

 

4)      The Outer Hebrides and Highlands

Some of Britain’s most attractive islands are to be found in Scotland and the Outer Hebrides on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean are a fine example of peace, tranquility and natural beauty. With plenty of museums and monuments, the Outer Hebrides have preserved Gaelic culture from crofting to ceilidhs and their friendly locals provide a warm sense of community. 

great rail journeysHighlights of Great Rail Journeys’ tour of The Outer Hebrides and Highlands include a full day excursion of the Isle of Lewis, which features a trip to the Callanish Stones which were erected in the late Neolithic period almost 5,000 years ago, and a visit to South Uist and the birthplace of Flora McDonald, a Jacobite heroine who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape the government army in 1746. The tour also takes in Glasgow, Fort William and Inverness, and comes with an unforgettable train ride on the West Highland Line. This includes a journey across Robert McAlpine’s famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, as featured in the Harry Potter films, as well as passing Scotland’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.

Tour information: https://www.greatrail.com/tours/the-outer-hebrides/#OHS19 8 days from £1,295 per person

 

 

Highlight: 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. 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. 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 wooden 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.

 

5)      The Grand Tour of Scotland

For the full Scottish experience, from its majestic cities to its magnificent and diverse castles via a plethora of stunning landscapes, take The Grand Tour of Scotland with Great Rail Journeys. The tour takes in Scotland’s awe-inspiring capital Edinburgh, with a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia, as well as stops at Fort William, the Isle of Skye, Loch Ness, St Andrews and Dundee. Train highlights on this holiday include a trip on a Jacobite Steam Train and a ride along the West Highland Line, widely regarded as one of the most scenic and enjoyable train journeys in the world.

Edinburgh Castle offers glorious views over one of Britain’s prettiest cities as well as being home to the Scottish crown jewels, while Stirling Castle was the site of many famous coronations of Scottish monarchs including Mary, Queen of Scots. On the Isle of Skye lies Dunvegan Castle, the oldest continually inhabited castle in Scotland and seat of the MacLeod clan, and Armadale Castle and Gardens with its 20,000 acre estate, home to roe deer and golden eagles. Witness the delightful Eilean Donan Castle, which sits on a tiny island in the middle of Loch Duich, while the final castle on the tour is Glamis Castle in Angus, the childhood home of the Queen Mother. 

Tour information: https://www.greatrail.com/tours/grand-tour-of-scotland/#SHP19 10 days from £2,495 per person

Highlight: Jacobite Steam Train

The Jacobite Steam Train travels 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. Behginning in the town of Fort William, spectacularly situated with Ben Nevis as its backdrop the route continues 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 short distance to our final destination, the busy fishing town of Mallaig.

 

 

Event Date: 
Friday, November 23, 2018
Categories: 
November 23, 2018

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