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A packed 10-night self-guided tour of dramatic views, history and serenity, alongside care-free train travel and legendary highland hospitality.
From the country’s ancient capital of Stirling and its fabulous castle, to the centre of Highland life and majestic Loch Ness, the fairy-tale Isle of Skye and a Jacobite Express steam-train journey through atmospheric Glenfinnan to Ben Nevis, this is a wonderful discovery of the beauty of Scotland. With many years’ train-touring experience behind us, as well as valued testimony from our guests, we’ve taken all that knowledge and distilled it into this carefully crafted and appealingly varied ten-night self-guided holiday by rail.
Approaching from either Glasgow or Edinburgh, the compact and ancient city of Stirling couldn’t be easier to access by short train journey. Once here, it’s an easy taxi ride to your accommodation.
On a green and leafy square of elegant sandstone residences, your accommodation in Stirling is a fine quality guest house whose owners have lavished attention on its every detail. Classically huge Victorian windows look out over the peaceful square and each of the cosy rooms is decorated with an expert touch. Guests are invited to enjoy a drink in the impressive lounge, while lunch and dinner are served in the bright and stylish orangery.
Easily explored on foot, the centre of Stirling is a pleasant short stroll from your accommodation, the main attraction here being its wonderfully imposing castle, in our opinion one of Scotland’s best. Spend the morning here on the ramparts – the view from which is genuinely breathtaking and discovering the Royal Palace, the Great Hall and Chapel Royal. Later, perhaps take a walk or catch a bus across the River Forth to the National Wallace Monument where the spritely will surely skip up its 200 stairs for more superb views of the surrounding countryside.
North today on a classic Scottish train journey as you spear through Highland Perthshire and across the Cairngorms to the Highland Capital of Inverness. Once here, your accommodation is a few minutes from the station by taxi. You’ll arrive early enough to drop your bags and make your way out to begin your discovery of this easily traversed city.
Enjoy a hearty Highland breakfast before setting off on a short bus ride from the centre of town to the shores of mighty Loch Ness. Here, board a loch dwelling vessel for a gentle cruise on the serene surface of the largest body of fresh water in the British Isles, taking in the story of its history and wildlife and the vision of romantic Castle Urquhart; sightings of the monster not guaranteed, but open minds welcome!
Another fine Scottish rail journey this morning as you set off westwards along the Kyle Line, crossing some of mainland Scotland’s wildest terrain via some of the UK’s remotest stations on the way to the beautiful loch-side village of Plockton.
Right on the main street overlooking the sheltered water of Loch Carron, your accommodation in Plockton is very near the centre of community life here. Local pub, restaurant and hotel rolled in to one, the family owners and staff know just how to welcome guests, with bedrooms offering a peaceful haven after a day’s travel and exploration.
After an afternoon strolling the edge of the loch and taking in the galleries and independent shops along the winding streets of Plockton, repair to the bar for a dram before dinner from the ever-changing menu of locally sourced delights.
Time for a change of pace today; after breakfast, you’ll be met by a local driver/ guide, who’ll take you for a terrific day out, over the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Despite its reputation as one of Scotland’s most popular destinations, in our experience it couldn’t be easier to find yourself virtually alone as you get under the skin of this most captivating island. Your guide will help bring the place to life, with stories of its history and culture, while giving you the opportunity to take in its most overwhelming scenery before dropping you at the door of your accommodation.
A ten minute walk from the centre of island ‘capital’ Portree, your accommodation here is a fascinating Victorian property, owned and run as a comfortable guest house by members of the family responsible for its construction almost 200 years ago. Set in its own private grounds, the house is filled with family pieces, antique furniture, striking art and taxidermy, and the owners have an innate skill in making guests feel immediately at home.
A distinct holiday highlight awaits today; take your time over breakfast before a short walk to the colourful harbourside at Portree. Here, board the sailing boat skippered by your accommodation’s host for the gentlest of trips on Loch Portree, giving you the chance to see the most stunning views of the island of Raasay and back towards Skye.
A day at leisure to explore Portree’s ancient streets and surroundings; we’ll provide all the information you need to make the most of your time here.
Time to head back to the mainland this morning. You’ll be met after breakfast by a taxi and transferred south on to the Sleat peninsula to the ferry port at Armadale. Boarding the ferry here, it’s a short crossing to the busy fishing port of Mallaig. Take an hour or two to discover how life unfolds here, before another holiday highlight, steaming to Fort William, across the legendary Glenfinnan Viaduct, aboard the Jacobite Express Steam Train. Operating now for several decades, the train has seen much-renewed interest since its starring role in the Harry Potter films and continues to provide an unforgettable experience.
At Fort William, you’ll be met by a taxi and transferred to your accommodation in the village of Spean Bridge.
Nestled in peaceful countryside amidst superb Highland vistas, your accommodation in Spean Bridge is a small, family owned hotel, whose welcome and atmosphere is among the very best. Tea and home-baking on arrival sets guests immediately at ease, glowing embers of log fires creating an overwhelming feeling of calm. Relax in the lounge with a favourite tipple and book from the well-stocked shelves before enjoying a tempting dinner prepared by your friendly hosts.
A day at leisure to take in this most ravishing corner of Highland Scotland. Perhaps you’ll choose to stay close to base; take a packed lunch and enjoy the superb walking all around your hotel. Or catch the train for the 10 minute journey to Fort William in the shadow of the UK’s highest peak, Ben Nevis. Again, we’ll provide all the tips you need to make the most of your time.
Some may say we’ve saved the best till last; after breakfast, you’ll be transferred to Spean Bridge station to catch the train taking the West Highland Line to Glasgow. We can think of few finer ways to end your rail holiday than on this staggeringly beautiful journey past the mountain peaks of Glencoe and across the expansive wilderness of Rannoch Moor before skirting the shores of Loch Lomond. Your journey finishes in Glasgow, or just let us know if you wish to continue on to Edinburgh – but a short 45 minutes’ further by train.
This holiday is part of our ever growing collection of public transport based holidays, enabling you to reach destinations around Scotland – in this case, including the Isle of Skye – without the need to drive. We feel strongly that true sustainability also means promoting and helping to maintain a way of life in areas where the economic benefit of tourism can make a genuine difference to the local community, which is why we have used locally owned small accommodation and a local guide on this holiday.
This route starts from either Edinburgh or Glasgow and travels up to Stirling, then heads further north to Inverness before travelling west along the Kyle Line to Plockton. You then cross to the Isle of Skye before returning to the mainland and taking the world-famous West Highland Line to Fort William, for your final base in Spean Bridge, then take another portion of the West Highland Line to Glasgow.
£1995 per person for April & October and £2075 per person for May through September.
Price is based on two adults sharing a double or twin ensuite room for 10 nights on a bed-and-breakfast basis, with dinner provided on your final two nights in Spean Bridge. Also included is:
Short taxi trips from Stirling and Inverness stations to your accommodation and back are not included as they are not pre-bookable, but plentiful local taxi are available at the rank.
The supplement for a single traveller is £625 per holiday, based on single occupancy of double/twin rooms.
We would also be delighted to assist with hotel reservations in Edinburgh and Glasgow from our selection of centrally located, high quality hotel and aparthotel options as well as with any inbound and onward travel you may require.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
As porterage is not included in this largely self-guided holiday, and assistance at train stations is somewhat sporadic, we recommend packing just one manageable suitcase per person.
All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
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This holiday can be arranged from April to October. In 2023, the Jacobite Steam train will run from the 3rd April until the 27th October. Outside these dates the same route can be booked, but a standard train service operates.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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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.
“Somewhere along the Scottish coast An emerald island lies So I will steer my sailing boat Unto the Isle of Skye” [Andrew Peterson] I take a glanc...
It was well organised and having toured parts of Scotland by car, it was a much different style of holiday - relaxed & enjoyable.Malcolm & Vera, Somerset, England
Wonderful accommodations with great food and really nice hosts. Beautiful scenery along the train rides.Carol & Brian, Victoria, Canada
The main train trips had such beautiful scenery - they seemed to be over far too quickly!Jean, Cheltenham, UK
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