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AITO Tour Operator of The Year 2016 - Gold AwardThe Telegraph Travel Awards Winner 2017

Grand Tour of Scotland by Train

A leisurely fortnight touring the Highlands and some islands, largely by train.

This comprehensive 14-night holiday is carefully designed to allow plenty of two night stopovers, and takes in the dramatic beauty of the West Highlands, the rugged charm of Skye, the delights of Inverness, the prehistory of Orkney and the magnificent scenery of the Cairngorm mountains. It includes the romance of the Jacobite steam train as well as several boat trips – after all, even we can’t arrange a railway journey over the sea!

The boat trips enable you to reach the remote Knoydart peninsula or the Isle of Rum, Skye and Orkney, where you’ll also have a day’s exploring. This meticulously planned journey is the ultimate leisurely and stress-free way to experience the Highlands and islands of Scotland.

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 housesIt has been a truly grand “grand tour”.  Stephen McClarence, The Times, December 2016.

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

Apr - Oct

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Day One

The holiday starts from Glasgow (with a connection also possible from Edinburgh) and travels north on the world-famous West Highland Line , by Loch Lomond and across Rannoch Moor, to your first base near Fort William in the village of Spean Bridge.  Your first two night stop is in a welcoming family-run small hotel with views towards Ben Nevis and wonderful home-cooked food – dinner here is included.

Day Two

A first day at leisure, with options to walk on the nearby trails, take a bus and boat trip to Loch Ness or ride the cable car up Aonach Mor.

Day Three

This morning you will head to nearby Fort William and join the Jacobite Steam Train, which will carry you in the first class comfort of yesteryear on the final section of the West Highland Line over the Glenfinnan Viaduct to Mallaig.  A short transfer will bring you to your next accommodation, a long-established, family owned restaurant-with-rooms in the village of Arisaig, by the glistening water of Loch nan Ceall.

Day Four

Depart from Arisaig for a wonderful day trip to the Knoydart peninsula, one of the UK’s remotest spots, accessible only by boat or on foot. You will have the chance to spend time ashore, to explore the village of Inverie and perhaps take a longer walk on one of the easy-to-access marked routes in this wild and spectacular location, before returning to the mainland at the end of the afternoon.

Day Five

You will travel today by ferry on 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, more traditional in style and boasting a well-preserved Victorian interior.

Day Six

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.

Day Seven

Say a fond farewell to Skye, returning to the mainland via the bridge, before taking a short train journey to picturesque Plockton, setting for both the film “The Wickerman” and TV series “Hamish McBeth”, and complete with rather unexpected palm trees lining the shore!  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.

Day Eight

After breakfast and a morning stroll, continue by rail along the North Highland Line, taking in yet more dramatic scenery en route to Inverness.  Here you will spend two nights in a charming guest house just a short walk from the centre of the Highland capital.

Day Nine

At leisure to explore Inverness – you may choose to wander around the shops, meander by the river, or perhaps join a boat trip on Loch Ness and indulge in some monster-spotting!

Day Ten

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.

Day Eleven

Join a small group tour to the Orkney Islands to discover some of the 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.  Your 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.

Day Twelve

Soak in more of the wonderful scenery on your 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 – allowing you to sample the delicious menu.

Days Thirteen / Fourteen

Continue south by train from Kingussie to Pitlochry, with a short transfer to an award-winning guest house for a final two days of relaxation. Located in the heart of Pitlochry, this award-winning guest houses is within walking distance of all the local attractions, shops, restaurants, Pitlochry Festival Theatre and The Dam & Salmon Ladder, and only a short bus or taxi ride away from Blair Castle and The House of Bruar. This guest house has been beautifully transformed into a 14 bedroom luxury, boutique bed & breakfast, providing a unique blend of the traditional with the luxury of contemporary design.

Day Fifteen

Depart on your final train journey to Edinburgh to complete your grand tour of Scotland. (Just ask if you would like to add on a few night’s stay in the capital.)


Sustainable Travel

This holiday is part of our ever-growing collection of public transport based holidays, 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, which is why we have used locally-owned small accommodation and a local guides on this holiday.


Map Grand-Round-Scotland-by-Train_299x205px

This car-free tour, based largely on the railway lines which traverse the Scottish Highlands, starts from Glasgow, then heads up the West Highland Line, with stops at Spean Bridge and Arisaig. 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 night 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.


£2245 per person for April, £2295 per person for October and £2445 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 3 nights dinner, bed & breakfast in our hand-picked selection of 3 and 4 star small hotels and guesthouses. The holiday also includes:

  • Train travel in standard class on the West Highland Line between Glasgow and Fort William, the North Highland Line between Kyle of Lochalsh and Inverness, return travel on the Far North Line between Inverness and Thurso, and between Inverness, Pitlochry and Edinburgh.
  • First class single journey on the Jacobite Express steam train, from Fort William to Mallaig (out of season, this trip will be onboard Scotrail’s service).
  • Transfers to and from the train at all locations, except for Glasgow, Edinburgh & Inverness.
  • Ferry travel to Skye and Orkney.
  • A day trip by boat to the Knoydart peninsula.
  • A day tour of the Isle of Skye in a small group.
  • A day tour in a small group to Orkney from Thurso.

The supplement for a single traveller is £650, 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.

The McKinlay Kidd Guarantee

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.

Exploring ancient civilisations in Orkney

Exploring ancient civilisations in Orkney

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...


Check availability for Grand Tour of Scotland by Train

This holiday can be arranged from April until October. In 2020, the Jacobite Steam train will run from the 13th April until the 23rd October. Outside these dates the same route can be booked, but a standard train service operates.

To check the latest availability for this holiday complete the form below or call us. We will respond to your availability check within one working day if at all possible. Please bear with us on this - we work with a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses, and other independent businesses, ensuring that you have the chance to explore off the beaten track and really get under the skin of the destination.

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