Edinburgh, the Highlands & Islands
Save up to £75pp when booking on or before 31/10/2018.
Save up to £75pp when booking on or before 31/10/2018.
Majestic lochs and glens lie in wait as we cross Edinburgh and the Highlands and visit historic castles and the Isle of Mull. We travel through the West Highlands and Cairngorms on this fabulous round trip climaxing with a 'Scottish Evening' on Edinburgh's stately Royal Mile.
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 greets you at the hotel and the remainder of your day is free to explore Scotland's fascinating capital.
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 on board, 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 our journey as we approach Fort William. On arrival we transfer to the nearby village of Ballachulish.
On Day 3, we travel by coach 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 picturepostcard 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 Whiskey tasting at our hotel or the local distillery (departure dependent).
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'.
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, and also 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 tantalisingly 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.
†On early departures the Jacobite Steam Train does not operate and we make this excursion using Scotrail's scheduled service.
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.
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 whitewashed 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.
Afterwards 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. From here, we return by coach to Inverness, giving us time to experience the truly awe-inspiring Loch Ness from an alternative perspective.
We leave Inverness, travelling 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.
After breakfast on the morning of Day 9, the tour concludes, and your Tour Manager bids you farewell. You are free to begin your journey home or enjoy more time sightseeing independently.
*On some dates we use a different hotel in Edinburgh
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 35 verified reviews
This holiday was almost perfect, the size of the party was rather on the big side again, but this was offset by having lots of Australians and a few Americans with us which was a great bonus as it was so easy to make friends There was one or two things which the whole group agreed with ie the trip to Duart castle could have done in less time and we could have done a coach tour of the beautiful island, also the last afternoon could have been different in Edinburgh - possibly a visit to the castle or Culloden bearing in mind the number of Aussies on the trip who do not have a long history and were very interested in the history of the “old country “. If Great Rail are going to continue with their partnership with the Australians and Americans they will have to consider the above.
Well organized and terrific leader.
Had a good time. Loved Scotland.
Evening meals were not as good as previously experienced particularly the last evening,which was poor. Evening entertainment was excellent
Everything was well organized, hotels were great, tour director was amazing. But we didn't get much narration on the bus rides which would have been nice. I like learning about the history of where I visit along with current information. I left Scotland and I don't know much about the people there or how many even. I would have preferred eating dinner a little earlier than 7:30. Getting back to the room at 10pm with a full stomach made it hard to sleep.
Everything went like clock work, everyone was on time. All excursions were well run and interesting.
There were things I didn't expect and things I did. I should have realized the food choices would be limiting because of what I call "group food." I realize it's hard to feed 30+ folks and make them all happy. The second hotel we stayed at is in need of a serious, much-needed upgrade. And cleaning. The stairs looked like they hadn't been vacuumed in months. I loved that we were able to see so much in such a short time.
Excellent tour guide - Margaret Creed; focused, knowledgeable, interested, helpful. She was there all the time but not intrusive. A pleasure to meet her.
Excellent tour leader (Sandra Aitken), friendly, considerate and professional. Arrangements for travel, hotels and tours all went smoothly and it was totally relaxing - as usual with GRJ holidays! All the places we visited were beautiful and interesting . For our two friends that came with us it was their first Great Rail Journey holiday and they are already talking about booking one for 2019, which says it all!
Overall, the trip was good, well organized and covered the areas advertised. We saw a lot of Scotland. I was sometimes disappointed in quality of food. I did not enjoy the entertainment on last night with bagpipe volume level. Hurt my ears. Some of the entertainment after dinner was not very good...bagpipe music, dancing, tastings following dinner.
Explore the highlands of Scotland