From Inverness, the gateway to our Highland adventure, we discover the very best of northern Scotland. Soak up breathtaking scenery, step back in time at historic castles and battlefields, and enjoy wonderfully scenic journeys by both mainline and steam railways.
Our tour begins in Inverness at the Palace Hotel & Spa, which overlooks the River Ness in the centre of the city. Perhaps familiarise yourself with the city on a riverside stroll before meeting for this evening's meal. This delightful city is considered to be the capital of the Highlands, and it is crowned by the stunning Inverness Castle.
The history of Inverness dates back well over 2,500 years, and one of the most famous residents, King Mac Bethad Mac Findláich may seem familiar as he is the inspiration for one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, MacBeth.
Today we transfer to Fort William, where we join the Jacobite Steam Train* for the return journey to Mallaig, along what is arguably the most scenic railway journey in the UK. It is easy to see why this journey is so beloved by those who travel on it, as it is the perfect way to view the incomparable beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
During the journey the train steams past Ben Nevis, then climbs into the mountains surrounding Glenfinnan, where we cross the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct. This iconic section of the journey has been shown throughout the world via the media of film and television, including 'Monarch of the Glen' and the 'Harry Potter' film series.
The line also passes by the stunning Loch Eil, a glittering blue loch overseen by the chiefs of Clan Cameron. After time for lunch we return to Fort William, from where we continue by coach to Inverness. En route, we make short stops at Commando Memorial, a monument dedicated to those who served as Commando's in World War II, and Fort Augustus, a small but rather striking village through which runs the famed Caledonian Canal.
*The Jacobite Steam Train does not operate until mid-May. Earlier departures travel on Scotrail's scheduled service.
Today we visit Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most striking castles in Scotland. Perched atop a tiny island at the confluence of Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh, this iconic castle was featured in the film 'Highlander'. Originally built in the 13th century, it was destroyed during the Jacobite rebellions and restored 200 years later. Enjoy some time here, perhaps absorbing the magnificent surroundings or taking a walk by one of the lochs. We return to Inverness on the Kyle Line, one of Scotland's most scenic railways, skirting alongside lochs and through wild mountain landscapes. We arrive at our hotel ahead of a free evening. Perhaps use this opportunity to enjoy dinner at one of the city's pubs or restaurants; sampling Scotland's national dish, haggis.
Our excursion today takes us along the tracks of the historic Highland Railway. Travelling to Aviemore by rail, we join the nostalgic Strathspey Steam Railway, through the large windows of the restored carriages, we take in the stunning sights of Cairngorm National Park as we wind alongside the River Spey; from rolling hills blanketed by purple heather and the craggy top of Cairngorm Mountain, to the mysterious depths of the thick pine forests and wooded glens that line the tracks. Finally, we travel by coach to Culloden Battlefield. The atmospheric battlefield was the site of the 1746 Battle of Culloden - the last major battle fought on British soil. We have the chance to visit the battlefield site as well as the Visitor Centre, which features interactive exhibitions and Jacobite artefacts. We return to our hotel by coach, where we enjoy a final farewell meal together
Your Tour Manager bids you farewell from Inverness and you are free to travel home independently.
All prices are per person and assume full occupancy of the room.
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Experience the wonder of steam, on udisputedly one of the great railway journeys of the world - The Jacobite Steam Train. Commencing it's journey in view of the imposing Ben Nevis, The Jacobite Steam Train journeys through stunning scenery between Fort William and Mallaig; taking in beautiful villages, Lochs Morar & Nevis and crossing the majestic Glenfinnan Viaduct, of Harry Potter fame.
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.
Please note: some of our tours travel on this route in reverse from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness or travel just part of this route. See individual tour for details.
Providing the entirety of mainland Scotland with transport links, Abello Scotrail is a fantastic commuter service that means even the farthest reaches of this wild and wonderful country is easily accessible. Running since 1983 under a variety of operators, this service has numerous lines, including one that stretches from the tip, Thurso, down to Edinburgh.
The lines on the Scotrail service are some of the most scenic in the world. The Kyle Line, the West Highland Line, and the Hadrian's Wall line are all services by Scotrail trains. The West Highland Line, stretching between Glasgow to Mallaig, stopping off at Fort William and with an offshoot line to Oban, is arguably the most famous of this line. There are numerous stunning sights to look out for on this route - from the breathtaking wilds of the highlands, to the peaks of the craggy mountains, to the iconic 21-spans of the beautiful Glennfinnan Viaduct.
Another famed line that we utilise on the Scotrail network includes the Kyle of Lochalsh line, running 63 miles between Dingwall and Kyle of Lochalsh. With spectacular views of the Isle of Skye as you come towards the pretty Kyle of Lochalsh, this particular line is certainly a glorious introduction to both of the Highlands of Scotland and the Hebrides. Other particularly beautiful places that the network explores include the Cairngorm National Park, on the Inverness to Edinburgh line, which passes through magnificent and verdant pine forests, as well as nearby the iconic Cairngorm Mountain.
The stock that traverses the lines are comfortable and modern, with spacious carriages and seating, as well as large windows through which to see the passing beauty of the Scottish countryside. New trains will be coming soon in the next few years, with more services, power sockets, Wi-Fi, and improved accessibility.
We enjoy an impressive journey on the Strathspey Steam Railway, taking a 20-mile round trip through Scotland's magnificent Highland scenery. The former mainline route begins at Aviemore railway station, which also hosts modern trains on the National Rail network.
Leaving the station yard, the train navigates a level crossing and continues against the breathtaking backdrop of the Cairngorms National Park. With the gushing River Spey running alongside the line, the heritage locomotive continues under the shadow of high mountains and dense sloping woodland to the station at Boat of Garten.
This immaculately preserved station features its full range of original buildings dating back to 1904, making it popular with rail enthusiasts. On leaving the station, the next leg of our journey takes us through some beautiful landscapes, including the charming rural farmland scenery straddling the meandering River Spey. In summer, there are many vivid colours in the fields; a multitude of greens and even the purples of heather and gorse lining the trackside. After climbing through the valley, we arrive at Broomhill station - the line's current terminus and a double for 'Glenbogle' station in the TV series 'Monarch of the Glen'.
The welcoming 3-Star Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa is set on the banks of the River Ness, just a short walk away from the city centre. Built over 100 years ago, the hotel is equipped with an indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, gym and beauty centre as well as a restaurant, brasserie, lounge and bar. Each immaculate guest room comes with an LCD television, free Wi-Fi, a telephone, hairdryer and tea & coffee making facilities.
We offer a selection of upgrades and 'add-ons' designed to help you make the most of your holiday - and make it even easier!
We can book UK rail tickets from your local station to and from Inverness. Please call us to discuss your requirements.