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

Slowly Through the North Highlands by Train

Explore the areas around Scotland’s wildest, most beautiful railway lines, enjoyed at an unhurried pace.

Very few places, in our opinion, come close to matching the Scottish Highlands’ blend of tranquillity, majesty and unforgettable scenery, and one of our favourite ways to experience all this is via some of the world’s most scenic railway journeys. As ever, we’ve chosen appealing accommodation and days out with friendly local expert guides to help make this a most relaxing way to see this exquisite part of the country.

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

April - October

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Day One – West from Inverness on the Kyle Line

Your journey begins with one of our favourite railway journeys, from Inverness to Plockton on the magnificent Kyle of Lochalsh Line. The 63-mile route cuts through breath-taking scenery, visiting romantically named – and mostly unmanned – stations such as Strathcarron, Achnashellach and Lochluichart on the way to the jewel-like village of Plockton, once famous as the location for the BBC’s Hamish MacBeth.

Your hotel in Plockton

Long-run by the same family, your hotel in Plockton is a popular social hub for the village, as well as a welcoming place for tourists from all over the world. Set right on the main street, with palm trees across the way swaying on the gentle Gulf Stream breeze, you’ll feel an immediate sense of calm the moment you arrive. The delightful bar buzzes with chat and laughter, a cosy spot in which to take a pre-dinner aperitif, before settling in at your table in the restaurant, where a fine menu of the best local seafood and produce awaits. The comfortable rooms, many with views of Loch Carron and the Applecross peninsula, are simply adorned, with earthy tones and local fabrics helping emphasise the serenity of the surroundings.

Day Two – A Private Tour of the Isle of Skye

Enjoy a hearty breakfast of local produce this morning, after which you’ll be collected by our specially chosen local guide and whisked away for a wonderful private day out. First, you might like to see nearby Eilean Donan Castle, surely one of the world’s most photographed, before traversing the Skye Bridge and making your way on to this most famous island. Contrary to recent coverage, it’s still very easy to find spots on Skye where you’ll barely meet another soul, and today you have the opportunity to see the island in the company of a guide only too happy to venture away from any crowds and make this a magical part of your holiday.

Day Three – North-east to Royal Dornoch

This morning you’ll be dropped at Plockton Station to enjoy the return journey on the Kyle Line, seeing the landscape from the opposite and quite different perspective. Changing at Dingwall, you’ll take your first trip on the atmospheric Far North Line to the unmanned station at Tain, Here, you’ll be met by private driver and transferred to your accommodation for two nights by the town of Royal Dornoch.

Your Guest House by Dornoch

Right in the centre of Dornoch, this impressive Victorian property – a former bank – is owned and run by the very friendliest family. Sky-high ceilings and tall picture windows, typical of the era, make for an airy and bright atmosphere to the traditionally furnished ensuite rooms, while the extensive Scottish breakfast sets you up for a bracing morning stroll on the beach.

Day Five – Head North and Visit Wonderful Dunrobin Castle

After breakfast, your host will transfer you the short distance to Dunrobin Castle, the spectacular stately home overlooking the Dornoch Firth, one of Scotland’s oldest continuously inhabited houses, dating back to the 14th century. Take your time to discover the rich, fascinating and at times turbulent history, during which the castle enjoyed spells as private fortress, military hospital and boys’ boarding school.

Once your visit is over, continue by train from the dedicated station and make your way north via some of the UK’s remotest stations, on your way to Thurso in Caithness. Upon arrival at Thurso, you’ll be met by a local taxi and transferred the short distance to your accommodation.

Your Guest House in Thurso

Long one of our favourite family owned properties, your accommodation in Thurso is a comfortable and welcoming base, presided over by a lady passionate about the area. Just a few minutes’ stroll will find you at the (often wonderfully windswept) beach and the ancient town centre, with one or two appealing bars and restaurants also easily reached on foot.

Day Six – A Private Guided Tour of Caithness and the North Coast

Another of our specially chosen local guides will collect you this morning and take you on a great day out to experience this very special corner of Scotland. Some of the country’s most spectacular sights are within very short driving of Thurso, such as the UK mainland’s northernmost point at Dunnet Head, the intimidating Duncansby Stacks and the scarcely believable Whaligoe Steps, leading all the way down to an ancient herring wharf. Alongside these, you might like to experience the expansive beaches at Melvich and Bettyhill, or some of the hidden coves and hamlets dotted along this wild coast.

Day Seven – Return South to the Highland Capital

Board the train this morning for the return journey on the Far North Line to Inverness, again having the opportunity to take in some of Scotland’s wildest vistas from the opposite perspective. Upon arrival at Inverness, it’s a short taxi-ride to your accommodation close to the centre of the city.

Your Accommodation in Inverness

Once home to celebrated local poet and novelist Neil M. Gunn, your guest house in Inverness is a Victorian property set within a stone’s throw of the centre of town. Secluded behind mature hedges, with a colourful garden behind, the house features a relaxing guest lounge, where visitors are encouraged to take the weight off their feet, perhaps enjoying a drink before heading out to dinner. Unfussy, comfortable rooms are furnished in simple style, while your ebullient host serves home-cooked breakfast in the bright dining room, sunlight flooding through the large bay windows.

Day Eight – A Relaxing Cruise on Haunting Loch Ness

Take a short taxi-ride this morning to the shores of Loch Ness, the UK mainland’s largest body of fresh water, for a small-group cruise aboard a beautifully equipped vessel. Informative audio guiding tells the story of this most mysterious loch, while the on-board sonar constantly sweeps the water, hoping to catch a glimpse of its most famous ‘resident’. The cruise meanders around the striking sight of Castle Urquhart, so make sure you have your camera at the ready!

At cruises end, you will be transferred back to Inverness centre for a final night in the Highlands.

Day Nine – Onwards Journey Home 

Today your relaxing exploration of the Northern Highlands by train comes to a close as you depart from Inverness. We would be happy to organise onward travel if you wish.

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 local guides on this holiday.


Slowly through the North Highlands

This holiday includes time in Inverness, Plockton, Skye, Dornoch and Thurso.


£1220 per person in April & October, £1275 per person from May to September.

Prices based on two people sharing a double / twin room ensuite for eight nights on a bed and breakfast basis. The holiday includes private guided tours from Plockton and Thurso, as well as a cruise on Loch Ness. All train travel and transfers as detailed are also included.

The single supplement for this holiday is £715, based on sole occupancy of double rooms.

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.

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.

Check availability for Slowly Through the North Highlands by Train

This holiday can be arranged from April to October.

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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