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This exclusive small group tour has been carefully designed to curate the best of the West Highlands and Iona, helping you reach far-flung corners and uncover fascinating history, culture and local stories, travelling predominantly by rail including a fabulous trip on the Jacobite steam train.
Do not hesitate to let us know if we can assist with your arrangements pre or post this scheduled tour.
Day one – meet and greet in Glasgow
Arrive in Glasgow at your leisure and take the day to explore the city. Walk through the corridors of Kelvingrove Museum or climb to the top of The Lighthouse and watch Glasgow pulse below. Maybe come a day or two early and experience more of the city – from era defining architecture to its world famous atmosphere, there’s so much to see and do. Get in touch if you’d like help making the most of your time here – we’re full of ideas and recommendations.
Meet your fellow travellers and tour guide this evening for a welcome dinner held in the heart of the city. As the week ahead is introduced, hear of saints and pirates, vicious battles and prehistoric discoveries.
Your accommodation in Glasgow
Dine & rest in this central location just a short walk from your morning train. Enjoy a peaceful evening with views over the city in this four star hotel. A seasonal menu and free mini-bar make this the perfect place to start your Scottish adventure.
Day two – The West Highland Line & Secrets of Kilmartin
Begin your journey along The West Highland Line. Tall buildings become suburbs become open stretches of water and land. Watch out the window as the River Clyde spreads into the firth. The skeletons of dismantled cranes and piers haunt the river bank, fishing boats sit high out the water, ghosts of the city’s industrial past.
The rail track starts to climb and lowland becomes highland. Mountain peaks flash between gaps in the trees then vanish behind a blur of green. Loch Long stretches below then tapers into the Loin waters; the train continues to rise till Loch Lomond appears and the might of mountain and water combines. Less than an hour into the journey and Scotland has transformed.
The train splits at Crianlarich – the rear section disappears into moorland and heather, your carriage instead moves westward towards the coast. Catch a glimpse of Kilchurn Castle through the window – a 15th century ruin on the banks of Loch Awe – then watch as waterfalls drop over rock faces in threads of white and black.
Follow the waters of Loch Etive as they pass under the grey ribs of Connel Bridge and out to sea. Loch banks become coastline, heather and grasses become brown kelp and beach. The train slows as Oban Bay comes into view – fishing boats and ferries pass in and out of this pretty seaside town.
Alight here from the train then continue by minibus into Kilmartin Glen. Standing stones stick out from farmers’ fields like broken teeth; chambered cairns fill the landscape. There are over 350 ancient monuments within a six mile radius of Kilmartin village. We’ll take you on a walking tour into Prehistory in the company of an expert local guide. Learn how thousands of years of the human story are immortalised in this special place.
End the day with a visit to a hillfort of importance. Your guide will be on hand to point out Pictish carvings and tell the story of the Kingdom of Dalriada. The view alone is moving.
Your accommodation in Kilmelford
Watch the sunset over Asknish Bay as you dine in the hotel’s cosy restaurant. Enjoy Scottish fare created with fresh local ingredients – your meal’s provenance part of the experience. Comfortable rooms in this loch side hotel look out to sea and the Slate Islands. The owners’ attention to detail makes this a special stop on your journey through the West Coast.
Day three – The Atlantic Garden & Journey to Iona
Just a short walk from your hotel, spend the morning wandering through Arduaine Gardens accompanied by the head gardener. Discover how a hundred years of labour can turn rugged coastline into lush forests and blankets of flowers. Warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, the grounds are a surprise of colours and scents.
Next return to Oban and board the Calmac ferry to The Isle of Mull. Bask in the sea air on top deck and take in the ocean views. Maybe have lunch in the floating café and enjoy a malt whisky or local craft beer.
Take a coach tour, private to the group, through the south of the island and stop at a castle, home to Clan Maclean for generations – a major refurbishment in 1911 has returned the crumbling ruins to their former glory. Hear tales of Celtic sea monsters and the Cirein-cròin as you pass the waters in which they were born. End the day with the short ferry ride from Fionnphort to Iona and check-in to your accommodation for the next two nights.
Your accommodation on Iona
Conveniently situated at the end of the pier near the village centre, this delightfully cosy and welcoming hotel combines traditional Hebridean charm with a touch of sophistication. The first hotel to open on the island, it dates back to the 1860s.
Dinner for the next two nights is a real flavour of island hospitality. Ingredients grown in the hotel’s garden, and organic produce sourced from local crofts, combine to make traditional delights. Perfect after days spent exploring this special island.
Day four – The Remarkable Island & Christian Treasures
Today your group will embark on a boat tour to Staffa Island.
There are certain places on Earth so unique, that to visit them is to experience another world. Staffa is an island of basalt pillars grown into geometric wonders; caves like cathedrals reach into the heart of the island and black rocks step out of the sea. Spend an hour wandering through green meadows atop the skerry, and if the weather is right, gaze upon the geological beauty of Fingal’s Cave. We’ll also keep a look out for puffins, dolphins and minke whales.
A visit to this place of cooled lava, pressure and millennia, will stay with you forever.
Back on Iona, embark on a walking tour with your guide. Iona has been a beacon of Christian worship since St Columba’s arrival in AD 563. Walk through the Abbey, built in the 13th century and still an active place of worship; stand on Tòrr an Aba where Columba conducted his writing. Next visit the grave of Scotland’s most misrepresented king, then learn of Europe’s greatest medieval treasure and its connection to this slip of land three miles long.
Day five – Journey into the Highland Heart
Head back to Oban and board the train to Crianlarich. Watch Scotland’s beauty pass by the window and tuck into a packed lunch provided by your guide. From here, you will board the train to continue along the West Highland Line to Spean Bridge.
Green valleys open into harsh expanses of rock and heather. Train tracks curve along mountain sides and over bridges, cross sweeping viaducts and drift by lonely stations. The train departs from the road at Achallader and heads over open moor into the heart of The Highlands. Jagged lochs fill the scars left by passing glaciers and eagles hang high above on rising heat; this part of Scotland has barely changed in a thousand years, the railway one of the few disturbances.
Pass by the highest mainline stop in the United Kingdom, then descend through the valley between Stob Coire Easain and Chno Deary mountains. Each bend in the track reveals a new panorama – Scotland’s landscape has the contrasts of a continent.
Arrive at The Great Glen and check-in to your group’s accommodation for the next two nights. Once settled, take a guided walk and hear of the uprising begun with a bullet and the bagpipes not but a quarter mile from your hotel.
Your accommodation in The Great Glen
This small family run hotel is a pleasure to visit. After a warm welcome, take a moment to relax in your charming and spacious room. Settle in the cosy alcoves and read of local history or sit out in the garden and look to Scotland’s highest mountain range.
Each table has a view in the open plan restaurant, and organic ingredients are used to conjure a feast suitable for all diets and palates. The hotel’s location is perfect for relaxing, or there are several great walks and paths right on the doorstep.
Day six – Princes & Jacobites
Take a morning coach tour of the West Coast. Stop at the Glenfinnan monument to hear stories of an ill-fated prince, then travel on to Mallaig. Spend some time exploring this harbour town at your leisure; choose from one of the local restaurants and cafes for lunch or sit by the shore and watch the fishing boats land their catch.
Regroup with the tour and prepare for your journey on The Jacobite steam train; listen to the fires burn within and watch white puffs escape from the engine’s exhaust. Grab a photo, then hop aboard for what is sure to be a highlight of the trip. The train passes coastline and sea loch before rising into the mountains on this special railway. Hear the story of the horse that’s held up a railway for a hundred years, before reaching the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This iconic piece of railway engineering is known throughout the world – watch from the carriage window as the engine crosses first, a performance that has bewitched onlookers for a century.
Day seven – The Final Line
Today you will take your final trip on The West Highland Line. Retrace your steps on this beautiful journey, each vista and glen seen anew. Spend the day in the company of newfound friends and maybe hear one last story from your guide. Arrive back in Glasgow with much greater knowledge of Scotland’s rich culture and history.
Say fond farewells before continuing on with your travel plans. Maybe take a couple of days to journey east and visit the nation’s capital Edinburgh, or add on a trip to another corner of the British Isles. Do let us know if we can help with your onward arrangements.
This trip begins in Glasgow before travelling by train to the West Coast just south of Oban. Two nights are then spent on the Isle of Iona, before a hop back across to the mainland to Spean Bridge. This tour concludes with a return train to Glasgow.
The price includes:
All accommodation is carefully-selected and researched by us, predominantly featuring small, family-owned hotels – contact us for more detailed information. We will do our best to accommodate room preferences subject to availability at individual properties.
This tour will operate with a minimum of four and maximum of 14 passengers on each departure date.
Simply complete the form below to reserve your place(s). We will hold your place(s) for 48 hours to provide time for you to pay the deposit of 10% per person.
All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.
We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.
|Departure Date||Starts From||Nights||£ per person (2 sharing)||£ per person (single)|
|Sunday 31 May 2020||Glasgow||6||£ 1875||£ 2385|
|Sunday 5 Jul 2020||Glasgow||6||£ 1875||£ 2385|
To reserve your place(s) on this tour, please call us or complete the form below, making sure to select your departure date from the dropdown menu and advise of any special requirements. We will hold your place(s) for 48 hours and contact you with details of how to confirm your booking by payment of the per person deposit.
Please note: All form fields are required unless otherwise stated optional.