Edinburgh, the Highlands & Islands
Majestic lochs and glens lie in wait as we cross Edinburgh and the Highlands, making visits to historic castles and the Isle of Mull. We travel through the West Highlands and Cairngorms on a fabulous vacation which climaxes with a 'Scottish Evening' on Edinburgh's stately Royal Mile.
Your 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. Why not stroll down Royal Mile, or visit the imposing and beautiful Castle?
Today we travel to Glasgow, before changing trains for a journey on one of the world's most spectacular scenic railroad 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 our hotel.
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, the 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 whisky tasting at our hotel.
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 overcome a total height difference of 64 feet. It 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, we visit Glencoe, one of Scotland's most iconic glens, used as the backdrop of many films, most recently the Mary Queen of Scots movie.
This morning we join the Jacobite Steam Train† for a journey to Mallaig, along the final leg of the wonderful West Highland Line, arguably the most scenic route 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, one of the most iconic engineering works found throughout the British railroad network.
As we head towards Mallaig, we drop down to the sea's edge and the landscape opens up for us to get our first view of the rugged 'Small Isles' - Rum, Eigg and Muck - which hang tantalisingly close offshore. 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 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 railroad journeys in Europe, the Kyle Line. The route takes us across Scotland from east coast to west, crossing the Caledonian Canal 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 seaside towns. The train travels at a low speed, giving you time to soak up the views. During the final part of the journey we pass the picturesque white-washed 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 and 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 tribes. 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, traveling south through the Cairngorms, via Aviemore, Pitlochry and Kingussie, to arrive back in Edinburgh where we spend the night. We enjoy a farewell dinner as part of a 'Scottish Evening'. For this, we are regaled by a traditional piper and enjoy all manner of fascinating Scottish stories and snippets of local history. We also sample a menu of traditional Scottish dishes. After breakfast on the morning of Day 9, the tour concludes. You are free to begin your journey home or enjoy more time sightseeing independently.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
Please note on some dates we use different hotels in various locations - please call for details.
We recommend that for this tour you arrange flights to and from Edinburgh Airport, which is approximately 8 miles from your base in Edinburgh.
It is your responsibility to check and fulfil the passport, visa, health and immigration requirements applicable to your itinerary. We do not accept any responsibility if you cannot travel, or incur any other loss because you have not complied with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities. You agree to reimburse us in relation to any fines or other losses which we incur as a result of your failure to comply with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities.
You may check in at the first hotel on your itinerary anytime after 14:00; your Tour Manager will be available between 16:00 and 18:00. However, if you are arriving later, you can meet your Tour Manager before dinner from 19:00.
An escorted experience
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
of travelers would recommend this tour
based on 99 verified reviews
Everybody I dealt with at Great Rails was very knowledgeable and organized. Our experience was exactly as expected.
Extremely well organized, hotels were fantastic, our guide went above and beyond. She was informative, always had a smile on her face
Tour director was good. Accommodations and meals very good.
A very good vacation overall, but let down badly on the Jacobite train trip with our group allocated a sub-standard carriage which appeared to have been dragged out of the renovation shed and stuck on the end of the train.
It was very good....well organized...and enjoyable.
There were several changes in the itinerary. One resulted in a credit back. The other sadly resulted in a coach trip rather than a rail trip. A little more free time.
IT WAS A GOOD EXPERIENCE.
The Great Rail Journey of Scotland the Highlands and Islands was a great tour of the country. It was a great value for money spent, the hotels were very comfy and clean, the meals were very good and presented well, luggage was transported and seats were reserved on the trains.
Everything was excellent apart from one (very important) aspect of the Palace Hotel in Inverness. The bathroom and toilet was ridiculous. Too narrow; dangerous to use the toilet (positioning of heated towel rail), difficult to step into the bath for a shower (too high), no extractor in the room, therefor steam build up was very bad.
The Guide was excellent and very knowledgeable
To stand in the majestic Pass of Glencoe looking at the Three Sisters Mountains with the Hidden Valley behind is a truly awe inspiring experience. Beautiful as the glen is in sunshine it is best seen in light mist and a little rain. Then you will appreciate why it is also called "The Weeping Glen". Learn about it's sad history and the events leading up to the infamous massacre in 1692. There are also other wonderful sights on this truly magnificent tour.
Explore the highlands of Scotland