Scotland railway holidays guide


2 MINUTE SUMMARY

Think of our Scotland railway holidays guide like a playlist. The Fishermanís Blues by the Waterboys captures the beauty of the Kyle Line going from coast to coast through the northern heartland. Listen to Lou Reedís Perfect Day on the West Highland Line and replace any memories you have from its use in the iconic movie Trainspotting with some healthier Highland highs. Hold back the tears listening to famous Scottish band The Proclaimersí Sunshine on Leith as you pull out of Waverley Station in Edinburgh. Or the capitalís singer songwriter KT Tunstallís Other Side of the World will feel just about right as you head to the countryís tip on the Far North Line. And for those of you who love the idea of sitting back and being transported through Scotlandís natural wonders, you have to have a sentimental moment listening to ĎLove is all aroundí. Even if it is wet, wet, wet.

Is a Scottish railway holiday for you?


RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL RECOMMENDS

Do go on a Scotland railway holiday ifÖ


Ö you really want to sit back and enjoy Scotlandís scenery, without arguing over maps or worrying about GPS. Look out for deer, remote cottages or castles, waterfalls and hikers taking on the hills.

Ö you are usually the designated driver. Sit back and let someone else drive you for days on end.

Ö you want fine local hotels, great food and all within ease of access of a station. And all organised for you.

Ö you enjoy a wee dram. No breathalysers on the West Highland Line, although Scottish trains donít allow alcohol between 9pm-10am.

Donít go on a Scotland railway holiday ifÖ


Ö you want the Royal Scotsman. These are real train journeys for real people. We like to think more in terms of grand views and a grand welcome, rather than a grand a day.

Ö you like to hold the timetable reins. Scotrail is the boss on this holiday and they have strict timetables.

Ö packing light is a challenge for you. You need to be able to get your own bags on and off trains quickly and easily.

Ö you want sunshine. You know what the Scots say? A rainy day in Scotland is just whisky in the making.

What we rate & what we don't


RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL'S BEST & WORST

Underrated

Sail Rail Off season travel Accessible travel The Kyle Line

Sail Rail

There are great connections with islands via Scotlandís rail network, and as these are tailor made holidays, your tour operator will be delighted to organise onward travel to islands such as Skye from Mallaig station, or the Orkney or Shetland archipelagos from Thurso. Or various other options of course, with Oban being a good rail station to connect with the Inner Hebrides for example.

Off season travel

Autumn in particular is stunning, with leaves turning across the forested Highlands, seafood is particularly brilliant at this time, and the game season is on. Trains are quieter and nothing beats a roaring fire with a hot toddy in a top Scottish guesthouse. Spring has a celebratory feel here too after a long winter, although if you can take the West Highland Line when the snow falls, you will have won the golden ticket.

Accessible travel

Scotrail, the company that runs the majority of train journeys in Scotland has an impressive Accessible Travel policy. Same goes for the Caledonian Sleeper. Combined with the fact that Scotland railway holidays are tailor made, your tour operator will do their utmost to ensure all your needs are catered for not only during travel but at the accommodations you stay at en route.

The Kyle Line

This is the coast to coast Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness line and one of Scotlandís most underrated train journeys. At 120km and taking 2.5 hours one way, it is worth just doing a return day trip, or take a transfer to Isle of Skye from Kyle of Lochalsh. Beauties along this train line such as Lough Carron, Beauly Firth and copious gorgeous glens are worthy of an epic movie soundtrack in the background.

Rated

West Highland Line Exploring Skye Pitlochry London-Scotland sleeper

West Highland Line

Starts in Glasgow, terminates in Mallaig on the west coast and gateway to Isle of Skye and Small Isles. This is no small journey however. Take at least four days to hop on and off this colossal Caledonian journey through the likes of Rannoch Moor, Ben Nevis, and many other bens. Glenfinnan Viaduct is a veritable coup of engineering, and going over it on the Jacobite steam train in summer is an added bonus.

Exploring Skye

Hop across the causeway to the iconic Isle of Skye from Mallaig or transfer from Kyle of Lochalsh. But it does get busy in summer, so ask your tour operator to book a local guide to help you get off the beaten track. Hikers seek out the Old Man of Storr or Loch Coruisk, swimmers be prepared for the magic of the faerie pools and birding fans; Skyeís the limit.

Pitlochry

We do rate it, although perhaps not in the height of summer when coachloads in search of clans and tartans zoom in and zoom out. Get in at sunrise off the Caledonian sleeper train, however, and you will have it to yourself, or just stay at a charming Scottish guesthouse and head out to the likes of Killicrankie Gorge and many other local trails. The Wild Space gallery is eco art and literature.

London-Scotland sleeper

The atmosphere in the famous Caledonian Sleeper train bar, at 10 oíclock at night, is one of those charming travel experiences. Some taking a deep breath as they leave London and their workloads behind, others visitors getting excited about their trip up north. Youíll meet hikers comparing routes, cyclists comparing Lycra, and other whisky drinking adventurers. But nothing beats waking up in the middle of the Highlands. One to set your alarm for.

Overrated

Train booking websites Transport links Moaning about midges Food

Train booking websites

Scottish online train booking systems are sent to try even the most patient travellers. This is where the train gods step in. The expert rail travel operators who know how early to book, which ones get booked up quickly, how to grab a bargain berth if you decide to take the sleeper train and basically how not to go down the timetable trauma route.

Transport links

Tourism in Scotland is still very geared up to tourists arriving by car, with websites giving you copious GPS instructions on how to get there, even though the railway station may just be nearby. However, your tour operator will give you detailed instructions on how to reach your accommodation or site of interest, and organise a taxi transfer if necessary.

Moaning about midges

They are Scotlandís most unwelcome visitor between May and October, especially on the west coast. They arenít on your train, of course, but when you take a night or two on the west coast, in particular, you may need to take care. But donít panic, they arenít everywhere. Mostly by the waterís edge, at dusk and if there is little wind. Do pack a midge net, however, if evening strolls are your thing.

Food

In general, it is always good to stock up on snacks before you board a train in Scotland. This country has some of the best local food you could wish for, and yet train companies donít seem to have woken up and smelled the coffee on that front yet. Suss out good local delis or markets before you travel, or ask your hotel for a picnic breakfast to go.

Hello.
If you'd like to chat about Scotland or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team.
01273 823 700
Photo credits: [Top box: Rucksack Magazine] [Sail Rail: Ronnie Macdonald] [Off season travel: Paul-Louis Prove] [Accessible travel: Ed Webster] [The Kyle Line - Beauly Firth: djmacpherson] [West Highland Line: kevin rothwell] [Exploring Skye: john mscporran] [Pitlochry: Nilfanion] [London-Scotland sleeper: David Harris] [Train booking websites: ] [Transport links: Phillip Capper] [Moaning about midges: S. Rae] [Food: Mark Snaith]
Written by Catherine Mack
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