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Winner Best Specialist Tour OperatorAITO Tour Operator of The Year 2023 - Gold Award20th year anniversary

Small Group Guided Rail Tours

Our exclusive small group tours weave the best of history and vistas into grand journeys by rail and sea, accompanied throughout by your expert guide.

With nearly 20 years’ experience taking care of travellers heading off on their own to enjoy the pleasures of our award-winning train holidays and island hops, we have now pulled together some of their finest elements to create an exclusive collection of guided small group trips. So if you wish, you can sit back and gather wonderful Caledonian and Hibernian memories carried effortlessly along in the company of a small group of like-minded travellers, escorted by a highly knowledgeable and engaging tour leader. The group size is limited to just between 14 to 18 travellers depending on which tour taken, so you can be sure of personal attention throughout. This also means that our tours feature accommodation that is characterful, welcoming and specially-selected by McKinlay Kidd to meet our demanding standards.

For these guided small group tours, we have focused on iconic elements of ScotlandIreland, and England in terms of both breath-taking landscapes and a rich history often played out in incredible settings – remote coastal headlands, magical islands, characterful historic towns or mysterious lochs and bogs. To weave together the thoughtfully curated itineraries of these small group trips, we have included the finest rail journeys – familiar and less so – before whisking guests in relaxed style to wondrous places beyond the end of the line. McKinlay Kidd has long been guided by a simple principle: We uncover. You discover. These fully-escorted small group tours fulfil that promise in fresh and intriguing ways every day of your trip.

Your tour leader will always be on hand to regale you with fascinating stories during train journeys and day tours, assist with advice for how best to spend your free time on the trip and simply to ensure you know where to meet and when.


Scotland offers some of the world’s great train journeys, beginning with the West Highland Line at the heart of three trips: Castles, Gardens, Skye and Glencoe tour,  Skye, Jacobite & Loch Ness  and West Highlands & Iona tour.

Since Victorian times, the iron horse has borne savvy travellers from the vibrant, sophisticated Lowland metropolis of Glasgow into some of Scotland’s most dramatic and distinctive vistas. On the journey to Fort William, marvel at a litany of lochs, wooded hills and river-foamed gorges, plus the untrammelled Zen-like wilderness of Rannoch Moor, where cars have never ventured.

Travelling onward to Mallaig, there is the added movie stardust of the atmospheric puffer of the Jacobite Express that bears wizards across the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, while also passing through the natural ‘sets’ for Highlander and Local Hero.

But there are secret rail gems too, like the Kyle Line linking the Highland ‘capital’ Inverness to Scotland’s West Coast- a shoreline-hugging Victorian engineering triumph where you can scan for eagles and seals from your carriage seat! On our Castles, Gardens, Skye and Glencoe tour, you will venture beyond the end of the train line to enjoy an exclusive tour and lunch at Attadale Gardens – known as ‘the painter’s garden’ – in the company of the owner, to discover magnificent scents and colours in one of Scotland’s most remote locations.

The Far North Line, meanwhile, is the railroad less travelled on our North Highlands & Orkney tour, sweeping from Inverness to Caithness past salmon rivers, unspoilt coast and gentle hills in the undiscovered Flow Country. Little surpasses the thrilling clackety-clack of crossing the Forth Bridge – the Victorian engineering marvel which spans the Firth of Forth and guides your train towards Scotland’s capital, final destination for several of the tours.

The Irish countryside in all its drama is cut open by rail journeys heading out from Dublin all the way to the Wild Atlantic Way in the far west, gateway to the charms of Galway, geological wonders of County Clare and fantastic traditional “craic” too. Or experience the stories and legends of Northern Ireland, including the fabled Causeway Coast.

You can also enjoy spectacular train journeys, evocative locations and some of the country’s most elegant architecture on our Bath, Devon and Cornwall small group tour.


Superb castles dot the landscape of Scotland, their stones resonant with 1000 years of passion, conflict and reflection. On the North Highlands & Orkney Tour, savour French chateau style by a Highland bay at elegant Dunrobin Castle. This trip brings you not just to Britain’s genuine most northerly mainland spots, but also to see the oldest human structures in Britain, from humbling houses older than the Pyramids to magnificent standing stones older than Stonehenge.

While castles provide grand repositories of Scottish histories, our new small group guided tours also open up stories embedded in the lands and seas around – perhaps nowhere more powerfully than the islands of Scotland.  The jagged peaks of Skye, for example, dominate an island with memories from Bonnie Prince Charlie to Victorian mountaineers (and an amazing Gurkha). A visit to spiritual Iona – and further to the wilder island of Staffa – will stay with you for a lifetime due to the sheer contrast of experience they provide.

The Highlands too are a rich tapestry of Scottish history. Hear tales of Vikings, Kings and battles amidst some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery along the West Coast in Glencoe, or visit Kilmartin to observe hundreds of ancient monuments as you learn of millennia of history alongside an expert local guide. Regardless of which you choose, you will hear stories that will stay with you for a lifetime on our small group guided rail tours, learning the secrets of Scotland’s past from your tour leader throughout your journey.

Book Now for 2024

Places on each scheduled departure are limited, with a maximum of 14 to 18 on each tour, so do check dates and availability and reserve your place(s) soon via the individual tour pages or give us a call on 0141 260 9260.

We also offer a carefully selected range of guided small group island tours for Scotland, England and the Channel Islands, for immersive experiences in places without a rail network.

Alternatively, if you have your own small group of six to 24, we can arrange a bespoke escorted journey to meet your exact requirements – please get in touch.

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We also offer a variety of independent, self-guided holidays across Scotland, Ireland, England & Wales.

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