Travel some of the world’s most scenic rail journeys with routes taking you all over Scotland.
From the Highlands to the Borders and everything in between.
In a nutshell
There are six scenic rail journeys to choose from — each one will show you a different side to Scotland. Here’s the quick view of what goes where:
- Borders Railway – spectacular views on Scotland’s newest domestic railway line, from Edinburgh to Tweedbank
- Far North Line – from Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, north to Thurso and Wick
- Stranraer Line – amazing scenery along the west coast, from Glasgow to Stranraer
- Carlisle Line – head south on a historic route from Glasgow to Carlisle
- Kyle Line – coast to coast over the highlands from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, passing mountains, lochs and forests
- West Highland Line – world famous. Glasgow to Mallaig, across the Glenfinnan Viaduct and with views over to Rum and Eigg.
Where to go and what to do
With so many routes to choose from, you might struggle to decide where you should go. We’ve picked out some of the best attractions on each journey.
Take a trip on railway history, and venture deep into the Borders where you’ll find plenty to surprise and delight. Best of all, the whole line, from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, only takes an hour so it’s perfect for a day trip. Some of the key stops?
Secure your headlamp and head down the mines with a guided tour of the Pithead at National Mining Museum Scotland in Newtongrange.
Then leaf through the life and times of one of Scotland’s greatest writers. Near Tweedbank you can visit Abbotsford House, home of Sir Walter Scott. This stunning building sits on the banks of the River Tweed and houses a permanent exhibition telling the fascinating story of his life and cultural legacy.
Far North Line
Head into the real wilderness of the Highlands with this four-and-a-half hour trip from Inverness to Thurso and Wick. You’ll pass lochs, woods, castles, peat bogs, and more. There are a few places worth stopping off at too.
In the summer months, the train calls at Dunrobin Castle. That’s right; a castle with its own train station. It’s one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses and dates to the early 1300s. Not that you could tell, the building resembles a fairy-tale French chateau. Take a chance to explore the manicured gardens and book a ticket for the falconry display.
Hop off at Alness station to learn about the creation of one of Scotland’s biggest international exports. Just a short walk away, on the banks of the Cromarty Firth, is Dalmore distillery. You can book a tour to explore the warehouses which have stood since 1839 and find out about the craft which goes in to every drop of Dalmore whisky.
The journey from Glasgow to Stranraer takes around two and a half hours. Not the longest journey, but there’s plenty to see – from the window you’ll appreciate lochs, mountains, a bird sanctuary, and much more. Then get out and stretch your legs at some great spots.
Keen historians will want to stop in Irvine for the Scottish Maritime Museum – full of interactive displays on the history of shipping in Scotland. Golfers may prefer the seaside town of Troon for a round at Royal Troon – a course that regularly hosts the Open Championship. Non-golfers can stroll on the idyllic beach and beyond with several quiet coastal paths to be explored.
Looking for some culture? Try the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayr, where you’ll find the most important collection of Burns original work and other items.
There’s lots of history to be uncovered on the two-and-a-half-hour route to Carlisle while you enjoy the views of rolling farmlands.
Dumfries is a key stop. While there you can grab a bite and a drink at the Globe Inn – established in 1610 and a favourite haunt of Robert Burns during the later years of his life. You can also visit Robert Burns House — it’s free entry and home to many interesting artefacts from his life.
Gretna Green is famous as one of the world’s marriage capitals –thanks to a centuries old tradition which drove couples over the border to marry. A visit to the famous Blacksmiths Shop where most of the marriages took place is a must – and you can hear the story of how this small village came to be a romance capital.
The journey from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh takes just over two and a half hours. This one is all about the incredible views. Sit back and enjoy as forests, lochs and mountains roll past the window.
Stop for a magical stroll around Attadale Gardens – just a few minutes’ walk from Attadale station. These spectacular gardens are full of delights – water gardens, winding woodland paths, the sunken garden. And there are breath-taking views over to the Isle of Skye on a clear day.
Plockton is also a great stop – the picturesque village nestles on the bay of Loch Carron, surrounded by hills. It’s the kind of setting which deserves to be explored on foot with a walk along the water’s edge and even out to the small island when the tide is low.
West Highland Line
The full line goes from Glasgow to Mallaig and takes five and a half hours. A long trip maybe, but it’s worth it – the West Highland Line is considered one of the best rail journeys in the world.
What does it hold? Well there’s the Glenfinnan Viaduct – made famous by the Harry potter films. You’ll pass over that. Scottish scenery often makes it to the big screen – you might spot locations from Trainspotting and Local Hero at Corrour and Morar.
You could also stop at Arisaig; an idyllic peninsula which is ideal for long walks and offers incredible views over to the isles of Rum and Eigg.
Enjoyed something on one of the Great Scenic Rail Journeys?
Head to our blog for even more ideas of what you could find on the Great Scenic Rail Journeys.