The Scottish Highlands by Rail
Join us on one of our favourite rail journeys, as Troy Evans takes us through Scotland’s Highlands.
For a country so small, Scotland sure packs a punch, delivering more than its fair share of historical, natural, and cultural gems. For an overview of its charms, there’s no better way to travel than by rail. Bookended by a night in the capital, Edinburgh, our 7 Day Scotland by Steam trip is a journey that takes full advantage of the many miles of track blending seamlessly with idyllic rural landscapes.
It wouldn’t be a visit to the UK, however, without at least a couple of days spent in one of its most historic and festive cities. So, we’ve packed our itinerary with some of the cultural highlights of this vibrant capital. Edinburgh’s medieval past is immediately on display with its castles, cathedrals and monuments gracing the city’s streets and surrounds. At the bottom of the renowned Royal Mile, receive the royal treatment at Holyrood House, the Queen’s official residence while in Scotland. Channel your inner JK Rowling as you wander the grounds and church of Greyfriars Kirk; it’s said some of the tombstones in the graveyard were the inspiration for names of Harry Potter characters.
Blair Atholl to Queen's View
From Edinburgh, it’s an easy and relaxing rail journey towards the Scottish Highlands and Blair Atholl. Enjoy a touch of individuality in the distinctive rooms at the Atholl Arms Hotel. And since we’re in Scotland, we’d be lying if we said we hadn’t been tempted by the lure of Blair Atholl’s 12-year-old single malt whisky once or twice - this could be the perfect time for a taste. Venture outside for a visit to one of Scotland’s most famous landscapes. There’s some contention as to whether Queen’s View was named after Queen Victoria or an earlier ruler. What’s indisputable, though, is its stunning vista, which you’ll enjoy as you gaze along the banks of Loch Tummel. Trust us, you’ll want to make sure your camera’s fully charged for this one!
And just when you thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, the striking white walls of Blair Castle come into view. Its beautiful grounds are remarkably tranquil, though the castle’s entrance hall gives us a clue things were not always that peaceful – on the walls is an impressive display of weaponry, possibly used in past battles.
Fort William to Mallaig
Let’s be honest though, the real reason you’re here is for that feeling of freedom while being out in the country, accompanied by the soothing rhythms of a chugging, smoky steam train. Aboard the legendary Jacobite, the furnaces are stoked, and a procession of carriages ease their way out of Fort William, following the tracks to Mallaig. If you’ve got a keen eye, you may just spot a couple of the locations from the film Highlander. No other mode of transport is as capable of placing you right in the sprawling, pastoral landscapes of bonnie Scotland.
Blair Atholl to Aviemore
After a night’s rest, set out on the Strathspey Steam Railway, the majestic Cairngorms National Park beckoning you onward to Aviemore. Just a short distance from your final stop, discover the wide variety of wildlife – including some of the world’s endangered species – on a safari drive in the Highland Wildlife Park.
With your time in the Scottish Highlands at an end, head back to Edinburgh for one final night in the capital. Live it up, enjoying the freedom to do Edinburgh your way: take a stroll along its cobbled alleyways, climb the ancient volcano of Arthur’s Seat’s, explore centuries of history at Edinburgh Castle, or toast your journey with a drink at the Pitt Street Market. We trust your Scottish journey has been everything you hoped for.