Five rail journeys you need to experience

Last updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2023

Hop on board a train in Scotland and you’re highly likely to pass by some gorgeous scenery.

As with anywhere, some routes are nicer than others, but when you take a trip on one of our great scenic lines, you’re riding along some of the most outstanding routes in the world. You’ll no doubt have seen these journeys on tv, travelled along by the likes of Michael Portillo and Julie Walters, or appearing on the World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys. It’s well worth booking yourself a train ticket to experience it for yourself.

Here are five rail journeys you should take at least once in your life.

West Highland Majesty: Fort William – Mallaig

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Voted the most beautiful rail journey in the world, gaze in wonder as you pass over the Caledonian Canal and Neptune’s Staircase (a remarkable series of canal locks), the Glenfinnan Viaduct (where you can stop and visit the small museum in the station or the nearby monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie), and glide past the silver sands of Morar before arriving in Mallaig to enjoy views across to the jagged peaks of Skye. Catch the ferry to the Small Isles or to Skye and enjoy the incredible sights of the island. Our Highland Explorer carriage runs on the West Highland Line so there's plenty of space for you to take you bike along for the journey too.

Time: 1hr 30mins

Mountains and Glens: Inverness - Kyle of Lochalsh (Kyle Line)

View of Skye from a train on the Kyle Line

Quite simply one of the most stunning rail journeys in the world. Travel coast to coast across Scotland, through mountains, glens and forests on your way to Kyle of Lochalsh. Stop off at the picturesque village of Plockton (home of TV’s Hamish Macbeth), tour the mystical Isle of Skye or visit nearby Eilean Donan Castle.

Time: 2hrs 30mins

Scottish Grand Tour

Mallaig fishing port

Credit: VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins

This classic tour of Scotland has been popular since Victorian times and is perfect if you’re looking to explore a lot of the country in a short amount of time. Depart from Glasgow or Edinburgh and travel on some of the most beautiful and dramatic railway lines in the World - the West Highland Line, Kyle Line and Highland Main Line. From Glasgow, head north on the West Highland Line along the banks of Loch Lomond and over Rannoch Moor. From Fort William pass over the Glenfinnan Viaduct - made famous by Harry Potter – before arriving in the small fishing and ferry port of Mallaig. From here, you can take the CalMac ferry to Armadale on the southern end of the Isle of Skye and take some time to travel around the island or head straight on to Kyle of Lochalsh over the Skye Bridge. Rejoin the train and take the Kyle Line to Inverness and then south again on the Highland Main Line back to Edinburgh or Glasgow, via Perth.

Time: 2 – 3 days

Forth Bridge & Fife: Edinburgh – St Andrews & Dundee

Forth Bridge

Cameras at the ready! Around 15 minutes after departing Edinburgh Waverley you will start your crossing of the UNESCO World Heritage Forth Bridge before skirting the scenic Fife coast along the Firth of Forth. You’ll then head inland, across the rich farmlands of Fife to Leuchars station. The station is five miles from the ancient University town of St Andrews – the home of golf. Stay on the train to Dundee and you will also cross the Tay Bridge before arriving in the heart of the city. It’s worth visiting the V&A Museum here.

Time: 1hr 20 mins

Borders Railway & Sir Walter Scott

Abbotsford House in the Scottish Borders

Take a ride on Scotland’s newest railway line, opened in 2015, to the heart of Scott’s country. Departing from Edinburgh Waverley, in the shadow of the Scott Monument and named after his most famous novels, follow the line all the way to Tweedbank and make the short connection on foot or by bus to Abbotsford House – his unique and unforgettable home.

Time: 60 mins

Experience the beauty of Scotland by rail

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