The Ultimate Train Itinerary in Scotland, Travel by Rail Through the Scottish Highlands

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The Ultimate Train Itinerary in Scotland, Travel by Rail Through the Scottish Highlands

Renting a car and driving around the scenic roads of the Scottish Highlands is often seen as the way to explore Scotland. However there's something somewhat magical and romantic about train travel, watching the scenery unfold outside your window from the comfort of a train seat, without the need for navigating windy mountain roads. Or worrying about how to pass the car opposite on one of Scotland's many one-lane roads.

Fortunately Scotland is actually well-linked by an extensive railway network, the hardest part is forming an plan, which we've helped you out with the perfect train itinerary to exploring Scotland's beautiful scenery.

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The Ultimate Train Itinerary in Scotland, Travel by Rail Through the Scottish Highlands

Despite its far-northerly location, Edinburgh is well linked by rail and can be reached easily by most major cities in the UK. Otherwise it can sometimes be cheaper and easier to fly to Edinburgh to start your rail journey, especially if you're coming from London or another major capital in Europe.

We've started our itinerary at Edinburgh for this incredible adventure around Scotland, mainly due to the Scottish capital's easier access, however you can just as easily do the trip in reverse and start from Glasgow. Taking just one or two of the following train journeys is easily doable too.

Train from Edinburgh to Inverness

Cairngorm Mountains Scotland

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Starting your journey with a bang, the route from Edinburgh to the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands skirts around the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, one of Scotland's most beautiful and scenic parks.

Potential stops from Edinburgh to Inverness

Pitlochry is a beautiful town about two hours by train from Edinburgh on the way to Inverness and makes for a lovely stop to explore.

If you're interested in scotch whisky, consider stopping for an afternoon at Dalwhinnie, one of the few distilleries that is easily reachable by train and is one of the best distillery tours you can take in Scotland. It's about a 10-minute walk from Dalwhinnie Station to the distillery. Be sure to book a tour in advance to avoid disappointment.

Avid railway fanatics may want to get off at Aviemore to take the Strathspey Steam Railway.

Train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh (The Kyle Line)

Kyle Line train in Scotland from Inverness to Kyle scenery

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Cutting through the heart of the Scottish Highlands, the Kyle Line travels from Inverness on the east coast, to Kyle of Lochalsh on the west (or vice versa). The route takes about two and a half hours and as you'd expect from a train traversing the highland region, has some intense scenic vistas from your window. In particular as you pass by the Torridon Hills and the looming peak of Ben Wyvis, with plenty of lakes and forests along the way. To end the journey with a high note the scenery from Kyle of Lochalsh towards the beautiful Isle of Skye is out of this world and a view no one visiting Scotland should miss out on.

Consider stopping at the picturesque town of Plockton en route to Inverness, this small coastal village is often touted as one of the most beautiful towns in the highlands.

Bus and Ferry from Kyle of Lochalsh to Mallaig (via the Isle of Skye)

Kyle of Lochalsh in the Scottish Highlands

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Unfortunately there's no easy rail route between Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig, meaning you'll need to take a combination of bus and ferry. This extra effort is necessary however, as the train from Mallaig is often touted as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. It even won an award for the ‘Most Scenic Railway Line in the World’.

For this leg you'll need to take a bus from the Kyle of Lochalsh towards Broadford, changing buses at Armadale Rd End and taking the bus to Armadale Ferry Terminal. From there it's a pleasant 30 minute ferry to the picturesque coastal town of Mallaig.

If you've got some days to spare in between however, it's highly recommended to take some time to explore the Isle of Skye. It's one of Scotland's most famous areas, renowned for having some of the best scenery in the world. If you're able to drive, renting a car to explore the island is highly recommended, while there are bus routes that loop around the Isle of Skype, it can be a pain working out the timings and some famous places are hard to reach by public transport.

You can also rent a car in Kyle of Lochalsh and drop it off before taking the ferry out of Skye at Armadale , making the journey to Mallaig much easier and possible to explore Skye without worrying about bus times.

Mallaig to Glasgow (West Highland Railway)

Glenfinnan Viaduct, The Jacobite steam train, Hogwarts Express, Scottish Highlands

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Saving the best till last, traveling along the West Highland Railway from Mallaig to Glasgow is a once in a lifetime experience that should never be missed.

The section from Mallaig to Fort William is world famous due to the view of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the iconic bridge often seen in the Harry Potter movies. However it's not the only scenic view you'll get. In fact pretty much the whole journey is full of picture-perfect views out of your window.

The best side for views from the train is on the right hand side when traveling southbound to Glasgow and left hand side if you're going the other way.

Consider stopping en route at Bridge of Orchy, just before entering the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, the scenery around here is incredibly beautiful and warrants walking around.

If you're planning to book a return journey from Edinburgh, trains from Glasgow to Edinburgh and vice versa are frequent and usually cheap.

Tips for Booking Trains in the UK

Train tickets can get incredibly expensive in the UK, but usually only if you're booking on the day or the previous day. Make sure to book your train tickets online as soon as you've finalized your travel dates. For example an advance ticket from London to Edinburgh usually costs a reasonable £35, however buy at the platform on the day of departure and prices can cost well over £100 and sometimes almost £200.

Consider also buying a rail pass, it's more flexible as you can just hop on trains whenever and doesn't matter so much if you miss a train. While the cost might not be so much cheaper, the convenience is worth it.

If you have a little flexibility for your departure station, check some of the nearby stations, sometimes the train fare is drastically lower for other stations nearby.




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