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A leisurely self-guided fortnight touring Highlands and islands, featuring spectacular rail journeys & authentic experiences beyond the train line.
This comprehensive and sustainable 14-night rail holiday is carefully designed to allow plenty of two night stopovers. Take in the dramatic beauty of the West Highlands including spiritual Iona, the rugged charm of Skye, the delights of Inverness, the prehistory of Orkney and the magnificent scenery of the Cairngorm mountains. Enjoy the nostalgia and romance of the Jacobite steam train as well as trips by boat and ferry – after all, even we can’t arrange a railway journey over the sea!
You’ll spend time in the company of expert local guides exploring the Isles of Mull and Iona, plus Skye and Orkney. On your rail journeys you’ll have the chance to interact with locals going about their daily lives – a great chance to get right under the skin of the areas you’re visiting. The places you’ll stay have all been carefully selected by McKinlay Kidd to ensure a hospitable welcome and comfortable rest.
This meticulously planned journey is the ultimate leisurely and stress-free way to experience the Highlands and islands of Scotland. You really do have the best of both worlds: your own independent trip but with the support throughout of our local knowledge and years of expertise.
You could spend a month juggling maps, timetables and guidebooks without coming anywhere near the company’s expertise and astute choice of stopovers, hotels and guest houses…It has been a truly grand “grand tour”. Stephen McClarence, The Times, December 2016.
Begin your grand tour of Scotland from Glasgow (with a connection also possible from Edinburgh). Travel north on the world-famous West Highland Line by Loch Lomond then westwards to the coast at Oban. Look out for the enchanting ruins of Kilchurn Castle standing jaggedly proud by the shores of Loch Awe as your train glides past.
Your first base is a comfortable and welcoming guest house overlooking Oban Bay. Perhaps complete your first day with a relaxing seafood dinner in one of the town’s fine restaurants – we’ll assist with recommendations.
Today you join a group trip by ferry and coach, whisked across the Sound of Mull then onwards to Fionnphort, with spiritual Iona lying just across the water. Next, it’s a 45-minute boat trip out to Staffa, famed for the geological wonder of Fingal’s Cave. From mid-April until the end of July you’ll also have the chance to seek out comical puffins which nest on Staffa. Returning to beautiful Iona, you will visit the Abbey and discover the history of Saint Columba. Finally, journey back via Mull to Oban.
Hop back on board the train to continue your journey along the West Highland Line, branching north and across the wilderness of Rannoch Moor skirting Glen Coe. Your next base is near Fort William in the village of Spean Bridge. Your two night stop is in a long-standing McKinlay Kidd favourite small hotel with views towards Ben Nevis and wonderful home-cooked food – dinner here is included on both nights.
A day at leisure to soak up the Highland atmosphere in this tranquil spot. Stay local, with a gentle stroll to the Commando Monument or venture a little further afield – perhaps ascending the Aonach Mor gondola into the Nevis mountain range or venturing to the southern shores of Loch Ness.
This morning, we’ll transfer you to nearby Fort William to join the Jacobite Steam Train. Enjoy a journey in first-class comfort of yesteryear on the final section of the West Highland Line over the Glenfinnan Viaduct to Mallaig. A true holiday highlight!
Then travel on by ferry for the romantic journey “over the sea to Skye”, arriving on the southern peninsula of Sleat. Here you will be met by local taxi, for the hour-long trip to Portree, the island’s capital. Your accommodation for the next two nights is another family-run guest house, traditional in style and boasting a well-preserved Victorian interior.
Explore the highlights of Skye on a full day’s tour in a small, guided group, which can include the impressive natural rock formations of the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing, the man-made wonders of Dunvegan Castle and the enchanting Fairy Glen.
** Please be aware that a reasonable level of fitness and mobility is required for this Tour due to a 1 mile walk in each direction to the Fairy Pools**
Say a fond farewell to Skye, returning to the mainland via the bridge and on to picturesque Plockton, setting for both the film “The Wickerman” and TV series “Hamish McBeth”. Rather unexpectedly palm trees line the shore! Here you may wish to join a late afternoon seal-spotting boat trip from the harbour. The seafront hotel for this single night stopover includes a welcoming, traditional bar and restaurant boasting plenty of fresh, local produce.
After breakfast and a morning stroll, continue by rail along the Kyle Line, taking in yet more dramatic scenery en route to Inverness. Here, spend two nights in a charming guest house just a short walk from the centre of the Highland capital.
At leisure to explore Inverness -perhaps wander around the shops, meander by the river, or join a boat trip on Loch Ness and indulge in some monster-spotting! We’ll provide you with plenty of suggestions and can assist with advance bookings if required.
Continue by rail to the very end of the Far North Line at Thurso, skirting the coast of the Moray Firth, then across the wilderness of the Sutherland Flow Country. Another warm welcome awaits at a homely and immaculately-maintained B&B in the town.
Join a small group tour to the Orkney Islands to discover some of the UNESCO World Heritage Site wonders of this northerly island group, from the 5,000-year-old stone age village of Skara Brae to the ceremonial Ring of Brodgar and the towering stones of Stenness. Magnificent in a very different way is the ornate Italian Chapel, built in a Nissen Hut by Italian prisoners of war. This tour will give you an insight into both the ancient and more recent history and current culture of these captivating islands. Return late afternoon for a second night in Thurso.
Soak in more of the wonderful scenery on the return train trip to Inverness, changing here to head further south to Kingussie, on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park. Your accommodation is a delightful restaurant with rooms, and therefore includes dinner this evening – perfect for sampling the delicious menu.
Continue south by train from Kingussie to Pitlochry, with a short transfer to an award-winning guest house for a final two days of Highland relaxation. Located in the heart of Pitlochry, you’re within walking distance of all the local attractions, shops, restaurants, Pitlochry Festival Theatre and The Dam & Salmon Ladder. It’s only a short bus or taxi ride to Blair Castle or The House of Bruar – the perfect spot for last-minute gift shopping.
Depart on a final train journey to Edinburgh to complete your grand tour of Scotland. (Just ask if you would like to add on a few nights’ stay in the capital.)
This holiday is part of our ever-growing collection of public transport based trips, enabling you to reach destinations around Scotland 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. That’s why we have selected locally-owned small accommodation and local guides for this holiday.
This car-free tour, based largely on the railway lines which traverse the Scottish Highlands, starts from Glasgow, then heads along the West Highland Line, with stops in Oban and Spean Bridge. Next by ferry to Skye, back to the mainland at Kyle, then via Plockton and Inverness to the far north coast and Thurso for a day-trip to Orkney, before returning South, through the Cairngorm National Park and a final stopover in Perthshire before ending in Edinburgh.
You can also start the tour in Edinburgh, rather than Glasgow. We will be happy to arrange overnight stays in either or both cities for you if desired.
£2750 per person for April & October, £2850 per person from May to September.
All prices based on two adults sharing a double or twin room for 14 nights, and includes 11 nights bed & breakfast, and three nights dinner, bed & breakfast in our hand-picked selection of three and four star small hotels and guest houses. The holiday also includes:
The supplement for a single traveller is £900, based on single occupancy of double/twin rooms.
We would also be delighted to assist with hotel reservations in Glasgow and Edinburgh from our selection of centrally located hotel options.
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.
Should you wish to travel at a different time of year or have specific requests, take a look at our full range of train holidays in Scotland or ask us to tailor-make a rail tour just for you.
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.
Last month I was in Orkney for the first time. I have never been that far north before. I flew from Glasgow to Kirkwall, the main town, instead of tak...
We have never had a holiday where everything is covered in such detail - we could not fault the service.Anthony & Elizabeth, Nottingham, England
All of the places you recommended were beautiful and interesting.Diane & Julian, Surrey
The memories we have are unforgettable.Alexander & Olesya, Massachusetts, USA
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