The north of Scotland is blessed with some wonderfully scenic railway lines. The challenge of building railways through some of the most difficult terrain in the British Isles was taken up by the great engineers of the Victorian age.
Their legacy is in the sweeping curves and majestic viaducts of the single-track lines which cross wild moors and lonely glens and continue to provide important links to the north and west Highlands.
Using scheduled diesel train services, we will travel northwards to Wick, following the coast as far as Helmsdale before sweeping inland through the wild and empty country of Sutherland and Caithness, and westwards to Kyle of Lochalsh, by Strath Bran and Strath Carron to the shores of Loch Alsh. We have the added attraction of steam haulage for our two other journeys.
The ‘Jacobite’ ensures that the haunting sound of a steam whistle continues to echo around Glenfinnan, as the train crosses ‘Concrete Bob’ McAlpine’s magnificent viaduct on its way from Fort William to Mallaig. At Aviemore we take the train to Boat of Garten on the preserved Strathspey Line, which provides an authentic taste of the Golden Age of rail travel in the Highlands.
NC500: Please note that this itinerary features part of the North Coast 500, the highly scenic coastal route which begins and ends in Inverness.
What You’ll Love
- Iconic views over Loch Shiel from the Glenfinnan Viaduct
- Classic Steam journey through the Cairngorms
- Breathtaking views of the Cuillin mountain range on Skye
- The palm trees of Plockton
- Scenic banks of the Beauly FirthAccommodation
- Services of a professional tour manager
- Comfortable coach travel throughout
- Meals – as per the itinerary
Single Supplements apply. Subject to availability.
Depart from your chosen pick up point and travel by coach to Aviemore and the Strathspey Railway. We will board the maroon-liveried coaches which will evoke memories of train journeys in the 1950s and 60s and the train will be hauled by a lovingly restored steam locomotive from the collection which is housed in the engine shed adjacent to the station here.
The line crosses heather covered moorland with the Cairngorm Mountains beyond, scenes which have changed little in the last hundred years. The train stops at Boat of Garten, a village created by the former railway companies that served the area and Broomhill, which doubled as ‘Glenbogle’ in the popular BBC TV series, Monarch of the Glen. The train will then return to Aviemore, from where we continue our journey by coach to our accommodation in the Inverness area.
Today following breakfast we transfer to Inverness where we board the morning scheduled diesel train service to Wick. The line takes us along the shores of the Cromarty and Dornoch Firths, looping round by Lairg and back to the coast, passing the former junction with the Dornoch branch at The Mound.
From Golspie the line follows the spectacular coastline as far as Helmsdale, where it turns inland, pausing at remote stations such as Forsinard and Altnabreac, before reaching Georgemas Junction, the most northerly railway junction in Britain. The driver changes ends here to take the train to Thurso before we continue to the terminus at Wick. On arrival here we will re-join our coach and return to our hotel by the more direct but equally scenic coastal route.
After a leisurely breakfast today we will return to the station at Inverness, this time heading west to Kyle of Lochalsh on the scheduled diesel train service. Our route takes us through Strath Bran and the isolated little station at Achnasheen, on into Strath Carron to the head of Loch Carron, passing Stromeferry, the one-time terminus of the line, before we reach the current terminus at Kyle of Lochalsh.
We have time here to stretch our legs and enjoy the stunning views across to the Isle of Skye before continuing on by coach to the 13th-century castle, Eilean Donan. This must be one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, with its impossibly romantic setting on Loch Duich. The beginnings of Eilean Donan Castle reach back into the early mists of time – evidence of a pictish fort was found in vitrified rock uncovered during excavations, some of which has been kept for visitors to see. We return by coach to our hotel.
After an early breakfast we check out of the hotel and travel via Loch Laggan to Fort William, where we join ‘The Jacobite’ steam train and experience one of the most memorable and spectacular railway journeys in the world – to Mallaig on the famous ‘Road to the Isles’. ‘The Jacobite’ combines the romance of the steam era with the opportunity to drink in the stunning views of this wild and historic part of Scotland.
From the slopes of Ben Nevis the line runs through rugged mountains, past sea and inland lochs and onto the shores of the Atlantic at Mallaig. The route takes you over the massive Glenfinnan viaduct overlooking Loch Sheil, where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745. After some free time in Mallaig we rejoin the train and return to Fort William. Thereafter we continue by coach to our original departure points where we expect to arrive late evening.