Top 5 rail tours in Scotland

Reaching out from the buzz of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness, Scotland’s railway lines carry you gently across desolate moorland to tiny fishing villages and island ferry ports, past historic battlegrounds and along wildlife-filled coastlines. Car free and carefree, you’ll stop for the freshest seafood, the most beautiful castle-top views and, it goes without saying, a wee dram of whisky, of course. Sounds good? All aboard for our best rail vacations in Scotland.

1. West Highland Line

Anyone who says romance is dead hasn’t crossed Rannoch Moor by rail, watching the mountain-backed, heather-filled wilderness glide past, punctuated by desolate stations to nowhere. The West Highland Line, rightly touted as one of the world’s most scenic railways, links Edinburgh and Glasgow with Oban, Mallaig and the far reaches of the West Highlands and islands. The highlight? Gently chuff-chuffing under steam over the Glenfinnan Viaduct aboard the historic Jacobite Express.
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2. Island hopping

The end of the line is just the beginning. Or so say our Scotland railway and island-hopping escapes. From Oban, step off the train and onto a ferry to explore spiritual Iona, first settled by Irish monks and now a tranquil haven of prayer, wildlife and white sand beaches. Pop over to Mull for some seriously good birdwatching, then hop on another train to Mallaig for local seafood, whisky and game on the glorious Isle of Skye.

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Travel Team
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3. Kyle Line

Finishing with some of the most magnificent views across to the Isle of Skye, the Kyle Line wanders in a wide arc from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. Along the way, the looming Torridon Hills dominate your view north into Wester Ross – one of Scotland’s wildest regions – where a private tour among the rhododendrons of the Attadale Gardens, tucked into the Loch Carron shoreline, is not to be missed.

4. Far North Line

Stretching from Inverness to the very windswept northern tip of Scotland, the wild and remote Far North Line transports you into a land full of legends, Vikings and Neolithic standing stones. It’s also the railway gateway to Orkney, where the storytelling intensifies, shaped by the ever-changing weather, abundant wildlife and a uniquely mixed Norse, Celtic and Scottish heritage.

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5. Scotland & more

Once aboard your train the world – well that which is connected by rail – is your oyster. Scotland and the rest of the UK’s vast expanses of glorious nothing are, by global standards, relatively compact and well-connected. So why not consider combining the Highlands with the high life in London, or wildlife watching on Mull with medieval masterpieces in York? An epic overland adventure that is all gloriously car free.
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Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: 96tommy] [West Highland line: Richard Szwejkowski] [Attadale Gardens: Richard Szwejkowski] [York: Robin Canfield]