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

Classic Highlands, Castles & Whisky Guided Rail Tour

Savour Scottish castles and distilleries on a week-long small group tour including stunning rail journeys through magnificent Highland landscapes.

By combining superb Highlands scenery with a panoply of contrasting castles and whisky beacons, this new small group guided tour captures Scotland’s essence in landscape, liquid and stone. You’ll travel in relaxed style – strolling here, sitting back for wonderful train trips there. The whole classic Scottish adventure takes place amid picture-perfect vistas – sturdy mountains, river-laced woods, and a coast of storied castles and little fishing villages. Your tour concludes with an overnight in the heart of awe-inspiring Edinburgh.

With a maximum of 15 passengers per group, you can be sure of highly personal service from your knowledgeable, local tour leader on a McKinlay Kidd small group rail tour. Early booking is strongly advised as places are strictly limited.

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Day one – Meet and greet in Glasgow

Make your own way to Glasgow. Perhaps come early to delve some of the ancient marvels in Scotland’s largest city, such as the medieval Cathedral with its extravagantly far-from-grave Necropolis, or the 15th century Provand’s Lordship house. Meet and greet your tour leader for an early evening drink, introductions and dinner.

Your accommodation in Glasgow

With spacious rooms and a rooftop restaurant this upscale hotel is perfectly located a stone’s throw from Buchanan Street shops, elegant George Square and the Gallery of Modern Art. With Queen Street station next door, catching your morning train is, as the locals would say, nae bother!

Day two – A Stirling start

Stroll to Queen Street for the short rail journey to Stirling – a path traced by monarchs and nobles to one of Britain’s finest castles. This example of Renaissance grandeur on a high city crag offers plenty to explore, with epic fortifications enlivened by sculpture-dotted gardens strode by monarchs including Charles I and Mary, Queen of Scots.

After lunch at your leisure, rejoin the group at Stirling station for the onward trip to nearby Pitlochry. (No need to worry about luggage – we’ll arrange to have this transferred for you from Stirling.)

On arrival, take a walk around this enticing Highlands gateway betwixt the ‘speckled mountain’ Ben Vrackie and River Tummel. With a name derived from the Gaelic for ‘Place of the Sentinel Stone’, Pitlochry boasts a retinue of  ancient monoliths – the most famous is the Dunfallandy Stone, a 1200-year-old carved Pictish stone a mile along the river from the acclaimed Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Be sure to check out the latter for possible after-dinner entertainment tonight or tomorrow – we can help with advance ticket reservations.

 Your accommodation in Pitlochry

Your haven for two nights is a handsome B&B carved from an early 18th century former surgeon’s house nestled in woods a few minutes’ walk from the town centre. Thoughtfully updated with mod cons, it’s perfectly located for local sights and places to eat.

Day three – whisky, history – or both!

Today, enjoy a quintessentially Scottish morning stroll to a fine distillery by the pure-flowing  Kinnaird Burn. Blair Athol’s whisky underpins the world-famous Bell’s brand, but there’s plentiful history too at a distillery founded in 1798. You’ll then have the afternoon free to explore some more.

If one historic distillery by a babbling burn whets your appetite for another, then you can take a taxi a couple of country lane miles to Edradour. Built in 1825, Scotland’s smallest traditional distillery is also a last bastion of artisan single malts at a ‘farm’ distillery. It’s a bold whisky producer, though – aficionados may wish to taste Edradour’s wine cask expressions such as an intriguing Tokaji Wood Finish.

For history with elan, hail a taxi or local bus to the exquisite 13th century Blair Castle, five miles north of Pitlochry. The ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl – and ancestral home of Clan Murray – sits in a sylvan woodland estate, with 30 opulent rooms (from medieval to Georgian) imprinted with memories of past generations starring Queen Victoria, nobles, adventurers and tycoons.

Day four – whisky, with a dash of Shakespeare

This morning, you’ll venture deeper into hills and history beginning with an onward train journey through marvellous scenery to Aviemore, then touring a castle with resonant literary associations and a triumphantly reborn distillery.

The castle is Cawdor – setting for Shakespeare’s vivid drama of witchcraft and treachery, Macbeth. Sadly, his villainous Macbeth was never thane (master) here, as the unfairly maligned real-life Scottish ruler died long before this fortress took form around a 15th century tower house. But the Bard got the setting spot on: ‘This Castle hath a pleasant seat; the air Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself Unto our gentle senses.’

You’ll also visit the re-opened 19th century Benromach distillery to savour whisky combining Romach Hills spring water and local peat with handmade care. Sniff the air to scent the ‘Angel’s Share’ of evaporating spirit, then discover a classic Speyside dram amid mash tuns, spirit safes and gleaming copper stills.

Your accommodation in Aberlour 

Your base for two nights is a grand late Victorian mansion overlooking the Spey Valley. Historic baronial style is allied to contemporary country house panache, while the hotel restaurant celebrates local produce including Spey salmon, game – and, of course, whisky! A group dinner is included on one evening here.

Day five – more Speyside splendour

A hearty Highland breakfast sets you up for a stroll from your hotel to the Aberlour Distillery, rebuilt by 19th century master distillery designer Charles Doig by the River Lour after an earlier distillery burned down. Using soft mountain stream water from nearby Ben Rinnes, Aberlour’s sherry-casked whiskies are renowned for voluptuous but subtle depth and complexity.

After lunch, you’ll embark on a guided Speyside tour taking in the memorable Speyside Cooperage, where wood craftsmen use ancient skills – and artfully-controlled fire – to turn bourbon and sherry barrels from Kentucky and Spain into perfect receptacles to mellow local malts through years of gentle ageing.

You’ll also visit Ballindalloch Castle, dubbed the ‘Pearl of the North’ as one of the finest examples of the Scottish Baronial architectural style. Family home of the Macpherson-Grants since 1546, it boasts 1770s extensions added by General James Grant before before he headed off to play a lead role in the American Wars of Independence. As well as picturesque river-laced gardens, the house boasts a fine collection of 17th century Spanish painting – along with several ghosts!

Day six – A grand clifftop castle

Today, you’ll mark your final day in the Highlands with a visit to perhaps the most dramatically-located castle in Scotland.

Dating to the 14th century, Dunnottar Castle commands soaring beach-fringed cliffs two miles from the historic harbour town of Stonehaven. Wander through its remaining 15th and 16th century ruins and immerse yourself in the stories that cling to these stones, including the concealment of the Scottish crown jewels from Oliver Cromwell’s invading armies.

Take lunch at your leisure in Stonehaven, potter the ‘Auld Toon’ of this Iron Age fishing village – or just relax on the quay and watch the boating bustle before rejoining the group for a mid-afternoon train journey to Edinburgh.

Heading south you can compare the famous Forth Rail Bridge crossing with the near three-mile bridge over the Tay Estuary which offers the bonus of brilliant views of the V&A’s stunning new waterside gallery in Dundee. Other grand sights en route include the medieval seaside town of Montrose and the 12th century Abbey in Arbroath.

Your accommodation in Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s ‘New Town’ is a handsome 17th century enclave, and your hotel here is a glorious amalgamation of three chandelier-lit Georgian houses oozing period style and modern comfort.

 This evening, you will enjoy a taste of the capital at the farewell group dinner, hosted by your tour leader, who will no doubt regale you with local stories and insights aplenty.

 Day seven – A capital finale

After breakfast, it’s time to bid good-bye to your travelling companions.

Maybe linger a while longer in the capital to explore the nooks and crannies of Edinburgh’s Old Town, including one more famous castle. Then head home with wonderful memories – and perhaps some Highlands whisky too!


The tour begins in Glasgow then onward via Stirling to Pitlochry for two nights and Speyside for two nights, finishing with one night in Edinburgh.


The price includes:

  • Six nights in hand-picked four-star-standard accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis.
  • Welcome dinner in Glasgow and farewell dinner in Edinburgh. Dinner on one night in Speyside. Light lunch on days four and five.
  • Rail travel from Glasgow to Pitlochry via Stirling, from Pitlochry to Aviemore and from Stonehaven to Edinburgh.
  • Luggage transfer from Stirling to Pitlochry.
  • Entry to Stirling Castle.
  • Tour and tasting at Blair Athol Distillery. Free time in and around Pitlochry.
  • Tour/ transfer from Aviemore to Speyside including visit to Cawdor Castle and tour and tasting at Benromach Distillery.
  • Tour and Tasting at Aberlour Distillery.
  • Half day tour of Speyside including a visit to the Speyside Cooperage and Ballindalloch Castle & Gardens.
  • Transfer to Stonehaven and entry to Dunnottar Castle.
  • The services of McKinlay Kidd’s tour leader, accompanying the group and providing expert guiding and assistance throughout.
  • Transfers as described.

From time to time we may need to make minor changes to the itinerary, such as the specific distilleries visited, but will always replace with alternatives of equivalent or higher standard.

Not included:

  • Meals other than those described above
  • Transport and entry to Blair Castle (optional visit)
  • Drinks
  • Gratuities and tips

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 15 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 10% per person.

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.

Reserve your place(s) for Classic Highlands, Castles & Whisky Guided Rail Tour

Departure Dates & Current Availability
Departure DateStarts FromNights£ per person (2 sharing)£ per person (single)
Sunday 8 Sep 2019Glasgow6£ 1795£ 2170

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.

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