Castles, Gardens, Skye & Glencoe Guided Rail Tour
Best Time To Go14-May-2023 - Fully Booked
4-Jun-2023 - Open for booking
25-Jun-2023 - Open for booking
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Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, visit grand castles and creative gardens. Tour the Isle of Skye. Take the West Highland Line to the Great Glen.
This week-long small group rail tour is a fantastic exploration of Scotland’s glens, islands and history. In the company of our expert local tour leader, discover the rise and fall of Jacobites, visit locations made famous by Queen Victoria and experience the finery and warmth of a highland welcome. Journey by train through mountain and over moor, traverse from coast to coast by rail and watch the contrasts of glen and sea pass by the window. Enjoy visits to dramatic castles and an exclusive owner-led tour at a hidden-gem garden.
From ancient Edinburgh to the Misty Isle of Skye, famous locations to unknown wonders, this will be a journey of discovery and beauty.
With a maximum of 14 passengers per group, you can be sure of highly personal service from your knowledgeable, local tour leader on this carefully-designed McKinlay Kidd small group rail tour. Early booking is strongly advised as places are strictly limited.
Do not hesitate to let us know if we can assist with tailor-made arrangements for you pre or post this scheduled tour.
Arrive in Scotland’s capital and settle into your centrally located accommodation. Twisting alleys and cobbled streets speak of the past, pipers play beneath sandstone monuments and Edinburgh Castle sits high in this city of historical wonder. Maybe arrive a day or two early and make the most of your time here – let us know if we can assist with arrangements for you.
The evocative Old Town of Edinburgh is the ancient heart of the city – take the afternoon to walk in the footsteps of famous kings and queens, visit collections of art from through the ages or take a tour of homes and dungeons not changed in half a millennium.
This evening, meet your fellow travellers and tour leader for a welcome meal. Let the tour leader set the scene for the week to follow before getting a good night’s rest just a short distance from your morning train.
Your Accommodation in Edinburgh
Your comfortable and welcoming hotel is inspired by Edinburgh’s rich history, a place where modern design blends with the traditional to create a relaxed atmosphere. A short walk from both the castle and parliament building, it’s right in the heart of Scotland’s capital.
Set off from Waverley Station on the train to Blair Atholl. Pass over the iconic Forth Bridge, a 19th century feat of engineering made by seven million rivets and four thousand men. To the west, the two road bridges stitch North and South Queensferry together; to the east, North Sea oilrigs hang on the horizon like clothes pegs. Look out for the rabble of seals on Inchgarvie Island below. The train passes by ancient towns and villages as civilisation thins around the track and we enter the Highlands.
Disembark at Blair Atholl station and take the short walk to Blair Castle. Set in nine acres of walled garden with haunting follies and life sized statues of demi gods, this grand place is sure to be a highlight of the trip. Hear stories spanning generations and learn of Europe’s only private army. Next hop on a private minibus to Pitlochry and spend the afternoon exploring this attractive town. Take a walk over the Tummel Suspension Bridge then look out for salmon climbing through Pitlochry dam – or maybe stop at the Explorers Garden, a collection of exotic plants contextualised by the adventurers who discovered them.
End the day with a visit to the scene of a vicious battle and hear how a night in the local pub raised an army to take on the government.
Your Accommodation in Pitlochry
This Victorian ex-doctor’s residence has been skilfully upgraded to create a most agreeable guest house. The glass sided dining room juts in to the garden, where you might be lucky enough to see red squirrels play around the mature monkey puzzle tree. Inside, comfortable and cosy en-suite bedrooms ensure another great night’s rest before the adventures continue.
Dinner is at leisure this evening – your guide will happily provide recommendations.
Embark on a train journey through the Cairngorms and onto Inverness. Layers of alpine forest appear among the blue and purple mountains. The tracks cross over River Findhorn before reaching the Highland city. Change trains in Inverness and head out on the Kyle Line from east to west coast.
Coniferous trees tumble into the Black Water river until forests thin and disappear. Heather and bog fill the expanse beneath big skies, pleated streams drain water from peat and heath. The windswept browns of the North Highlands turn green as the train saunters towards the west. Pass under cliffs and through tunnels before stopping at Loch Carron.
Step off the train and into Attadale Gardens. Known as a painter’s garden, each section is set out to give a plethora of scents and colours. Spend the afternoon in the company of the owner and learn of the garden’s rich history; walk through the natural wonders and enjoy an exclusive lunch in the country house.
From here it’s a short transfer to Plockton and your accommodation for the next two days.
Your Accommodation in Plockton
With views over the sea loch Carron, this family run hotel is a lovely place to stay. Locally sourced ingredients make the food special – much of the seafood is landed on the pier only a short walk away. Dinner is included on your first evening here. The harbour side hotel is traditionally built and gives a great Scottish seaside experience. Spend the evening exploring the village and discover its connections to the silver screen or choose from the fine range of malt whiskies available in the bar.
Hop on board a private mini-bus and head over the bridge to Skye. In the company of an expert local guide visit the changing scenes of this famous island. Pinnacles and mountain peaks rise through passing clouds, brighten in the sunlight then retreat. Natural phenomena and volcanic absurdities have scarred the land with scenic wonders. Local traditions remain strong; crofts and farms raise crops and livestock, crafts and artisanal products are available in most shops. Learn of the changing life on the island, the histories, the families, the feuds.
Reach the top of windswept plateaus, walk past waterfalls that cascade down rocky staircases. Moments pass and shimmer as the island’s weather delights, clouds drag over the mountains then out to sea as if horse drawn. With each corner turned the changing beauties tell the story of the island’s violent creation. Dinosaurs then animals have survived on this rock from the moment it cooled. Discover the oral tradition of Scotland, stories passed down from generation to generation – taste flavours taken from the wild then capture images to keep forever.
Travel south through Skye and hear of mountain races started in rural bars and learn of the beer that fuels them. If the tide is right and the ferry timetable allows, visit Armadale Castle & Gardens to glimpse an Elysian staircase surrounded by crumbling glories. Next, it’s all aboard the ferry to Mallaig. Sit top deck and look in any direction for views of awe and drama, listen for the Grey Dog of Meoble and learn of a local monster to rival Nessie. On arrival, take a couple of hours to explore the seaside town before boarding the train.
Built to open up Scotland’s remote West Coast, The West Highland Line has had trains travelling on it since 1901. As you leave Mallaig, watch the Atlantic Ocean wash between the Inner Hebrides; Eigg Island rises to the west like a dolphin breaching the waves, rocky promontories outstretch from the mainland and slip beneath the salty water. Rising by coast and through hills, skies reflect in mountain lochs and tunnels cut through impassable cliffs. The whitewashed loneliness of Polnish Chapel shines amongst the rocks and bracken – a desultory monument to the abandoned townships it used to serve.
Your guide will be on hand to point out features of the journey including the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and to tell stories of the area’s importance in wars spanning from the 1700s through to World War II.
A brief stop at Fort William in the shadow of Ben Nevis, then the train continues south, commencing the punishing climb to Corrour. The track levels before dropping down to Rannoch Moor. Heather-clad bog and patchwork lochans spread through the window, wilderness and natural beauty surround – this unique habitat is home to species of life not found anywhere else in Scotland.
Scything through what is arguably the UK’s finest scenery, the train winds its lonely way to Bridge of Orchy. Here, you’ll be met by coach and transferred the short distance to your hotel in the very belly of Glencoe.
Your Accommodation in Glencoe
In a quite staggering location at the heart of stunning Glencoe, the last hotel on your tour will deliver a stay to remember. Really, it’s all about this jaw-dropping location, but there’s a warm wilderness welcome, too, with visitors from all over the world arriving here to enjoy this unique setting.
The landscape is reflected in the hotel’s interior, with an abundance of timber and natural tones in the reception and public areas.
Rooms are unpretentious and comfortable, while the glass-sided bar and restaurant with views right down the valley delivers a genuine wow moment the first time you see it. Dining here in the evening, whatever the weather, is something of an event.
A private mini-coach will pick you up from your accommodation and transport you to the depths of the Highlands. This will be a day filled with stories set to the surrounding landscape. First venture north through the glen itself, stopping to hear stories of the sometimes bloody history. Round the southern shores of Loch Linnhe, stop at Castle Stalker for a photograph, tales of invading Vikings and the technical advancement that banished them from Scottish waters.
Next it’s on to one of Scotland’s most bizarre sites. Almost lost between the trees, this church is a magic combination of artistry, idiosyncrasy and passion. A shin bone from a ruler, architectural features stolen from the past, undiscovered stained glass masterpieces – your guide will be on hand to unravel the mysteries of the strange kirk of Loch Awe.
Return via the northern end of Glencoe. Falling water from alpine valleys fill deep veined cliffs; entering the glen is like passing through the doors of a great cathedral. Learn of Scotland’s darkest moments while standing in one of its most beautiful locations – walk by flowing water and through forest to Signal Rock, a symbol of massacre and sacrifice.
End the day with a final meal together amidst the glen, then toast a week of newfound friends and adventure.
The trip concludes with the final section of the West Highland Line. Return by coach to Bridge of Orchy and board the southbound service.
Pass by the banks of Loch Lomond and experience the vastness of the Trossachs before Highland fades into Lowland and Glasgow grows around you. Share a moment with your fellow travellers and tour leader as your trip through the Highlands and Islands draws to a close.
Say fond farewells before continuing on with your travel plans. Why not spend a couple of days in Glasgow and experience the vibrant atmosphere of Scotland’s biggest city, or add on a self-guided four day whisky tour of Islay? Do let us know if we can help with your onward arrangements.
This tour begins in Edinburgh and then moves onwards into the Scottish Highlands for stays in Pitlochry, Plockton and Glencoe, with train travel along the Kyle and West Highland Lines. You will cover the final section of the West Highland Line on your final journey south to Glasgow, where this tour concludes.
The price of £1,975 per person based on two sharing a twin or double room includes:
*Single occupancy pricing available on request
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 25% 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.
The guides were fun, flexible and knowledgeable…the group size was just right. I appreciated the free time we had to explore on our own.Roberta, Massachusetts, USA
It's hard to choose a favourite memory…there was something special at each location.Barbara & Louis, Connecticut, USA
Our guide was personable, knowledgeable, attentive to everyone...more than just an excellent guide, he is a truly nice guy.Allan, Victoria, Canada
|Departure Date||Starts From||Nights||£ per person (2 sharing)||£ per person (single)|
|Sunday 14 May 2023||Edinburgh||6||£ 1975 - Fully booked||£ On request - Fully booked|
|Sunday 4 Jun 2023||Edinburgh||6||£ 1975||£ On request - Fully booked|
|Sunday 25 Jun 2023||Edinburgh||6||£ 1975||£ On request - Fully booked|
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.