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Quick train trip to Highlands

We have a few days (3) to see the Highlands by train starting from Edinburgh ending in Glasgow - a loop would work. Can anyone suggest scenic train routes and timely way(s) to do this? Don't need to go out to Skye. Seems like many train options but different companies, specials etc. can be confusing. Appreciate any advice - thanks.

Posted by
5576 posts

The problem is that the trains don't do a highland loop. :) Here's the network map. You can see where they get tantalizingly close--Kyle of Lochalsh one point of access to Skye and Mallaig another point of access. You can connect the two by bus. But I think if you did this trip you would spend your whole time on the train. If that's what you want, then go for it--just bear in mind the wee time on the bus on Skye.

Basically, you have the western line and then you have the lines that go east and up the middle. One suggestion would be to take the train up the middle, but don't rush it. Potential places to stop include:

  • Dunkeld / Birnam: Here you can see the cathedral and the lovely square in Dunkeld, go for a walk in Birnam Wood. See the wee little Beatrice Potter garden, have lunch at the Taybank.
  • Pitlochry: Spend the night here if something interesting is on at the Festival Theatre. Visit the Explorer's Garden. Tour a distillery.
  • Blair Castle--great castle to visit.
  • Newton More--Visit the Highland Folk Museum
  • Aviemore--take a ride on the Strathspey Steam Railway and see the Cairngorms.
  • Inverness--visit Culloden and Clava Cairns, Cawdor Castle, Fort George, tour to Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness.
  • Train trip to Kyle of Lochalsh or Plockton and back--this is a day trip, but it is one of the music beautiful train rides.

Then just take the train straight back to Edinburgh. You can relive all the wonderful places you visited and the view will be different on the return.

Someone else will have other suggestions.


Posted by
10265 posts

I did this in May but the opposite way.

Day 1: Started in Glasgow, took the train to Fort William. (The train continues on to Mallaig.)

Day 2: Bus from Fort William to Inverness.

Day 3: Train from Inverness to Edinburgh.

There is no train between Fort William and Inverness but there is a good bus system. However, all three of these modes of transport are very scenic. You could easily do this the opposite way starting in Edinburgh.

Posted by
2 posts

Many thanks Pam and Frank for your info - very helpful!!! Still working on the train part of the trip but considering day tours also - won't have to worry about having bags with us, etc. Have you done these and what do you think? If so any recommendations? Thanks again!

Posted by
5576 posts

I've often done day tours. I've not done the long ones up to the Highlands and back in one day--to much bus for me. However, I've done other types. You could take the train to Inverness and then do day tours from there of the Highlands. You would have better reach and less city traffic driving.

Think about what you want to experience. Scenery? Culture? History? Whisky? Music? Pubs? That might shape what you do.


Posted by
10265 posts

My first plan was to take day tours. But when I saw what time they left in the morning,--I'm not a morning person--and much of the time was taken up at stops in which I had no interest, I decided to do this on my own. I

I enjoy sitting on a train looking at scenery. The bus between Fort William and Inverness was also nice since it was not crowded, stopped in small villages, and hugged the shoreline of Loch Ness. It only took two hours so I still had plenty of time to explore in Inverness.

My trip was a last minute rearrangement of schedule so I didn't have a lot of time. However, I enjoyed the Highlands so much, I'll probably return for a longer visit. In fact, I enjoyed all of Scotland and want to explore more.

My two train journeys were booked via Scotrail and the bus trip was with Citylink.

Posted by
506 posts


Try Johnathon McDonald, who is the owner /guide for The Hebridean Explorer; gave him 5 stars on Trip Advisor. We used him for two day trip starting in Inverness and ending up Fort William; but you can get a one day trip. We are going to use him again for our next trip to Scotland.