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Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – All You Need to Know

I’m an expert because; I worked for over 10 years as a Tour Manager for Newmarket Holidays and have taken multiple Highland Railway Tours

Are you thinking of taking this Scottish Highlands Railway holiday with Newmarket Holidays?

Here’s my in depth review of this lovely holiday based on taking this trip many times as a Tour Manager.

I’ve included lots of videos and information so you know what you can enjoy on this holiday.

I can book this tour for you and also personalise it to suit your requirements!

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Can you travel Scottish Highlands by train?

Yes you can. There are several fantastic options. The most popular and famous is the West Highland line which runs from Inverness to Kyle. The Far North line runs from Inverness to Wick and Thurso. It is much quieter but really lovely. There is also the option to travel South to the Cairngorm mountains by rail too.

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Holiday Headlines

  • Regional flights from the UK to Edinburgh
  • Coach transfer from Edinburgh to the Carrbridge Hotel
  • 4 nights half board accommodation in family-owned Carrbridge Hotel, set beside the lovely Dulnain River in the Cairngorms National Park
  • Ride on the Kyle of Lochalsh railway line and return journey by coach, with a photo stop at gorgeous Eilean Donan castle and Loch Ness
  • Ride on the Fort William to Mallaig railway line, crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct, and return journey by coach
  • Ride on the Strathspey Steam Railway, visit to Aviemore, visit to CairnGorm Mountain and Alpaca Visit (reindeer from August 2024 hopefully!)
  • This is a fully escorted tour with a Tour Manager with you from arrival in Edinburgh to departure.

Here’s a little taste of what you can experience. 3 of the journeys you will travel on are in this short video (your journey on the Mallaig line is on a Scotrail train not a steam train)

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

2024 Flight Departures

AirportJuly 2024August 2024Sept 2024Oct 2024
Belfast112
Birmingham11
Bristol2244
London Gatwick2245
London Heathrow2234
London Luton2244
Manchester2133
Southampton2133
Stansted1
Scottish Highland Railway Tours 2024 Flights

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Tour Only Option

If you want to fly from a different airport, travel by train or make your own way I can book a Tour Only option for you and book any other flights or transport you need.

Just let me know what suits you best 😊

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

2025 Flight Departures

AirportAprMayJuneJulyAugSept Oct
Bristol7886287
London Gatwick3531254
London Heathrow7994397
London Luton7894397
Manchester4552253
Southampton3442143
Stansted3442143
Scottish Highland Railway Tours 2025 Flights

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

1. Day One – Arrival at Edinburgh Airport

All the flights I have checked arrive at Edinburgh Airport.

Many of them are Easyjet Flights arriving in the morning into Edinburgh. That might mean there is a short wait until everyone has arrived.

When you arrive at Edinburgh Airport you will come out of the baggage hall into the arrivals hall. There is a Costa Coffee here, alongwith a Marks and Spencers food hall and toilets.

Your Tour Manager will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall.

Once the group is assembled you will head out to the coach pick up point. The coach can’t park in the airport – it can only come in to pick up and drop off.

The travel time from Edinburgh to Carrbridge is 3 hours as it’s around 131 miles.

The route from Edinburgh Airport to the hotel will involve travelling over the Queensferry Crossing, which is the newest bridge over the Firth of Forth, famous for it’s railway bridge.

Once you reach Perth you will travel on the A9. This is the main road heading North to the Highlands and is a mix of single lane, overtaking lanes and dual carriageways.

There are some roadworks on this route as there are plans to make it dual carriageway all the way from Perth to Inverness.

Given the arrival time of the flights and the fact that the hotel check is likely to be around 3 pm you will probably make a stop for lunch on the way to Carrbridge.

Pitlochry is a popular lunch stop as there are plenty of places to eat and drink, alongwith shops and walks to enjoy. There is also plenty of coach parking and public toilets.

You may make an additional stop or two if necessary along the way if flights come in early.

Your Tour Manager will decide these based on timings, distance and flight times.

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

The Carrbridge Hotel

The Carrbridge Hotel is a large hotel set beside the Dulnain River and the beautiful bridge that dates from 1717.

The front part is older and dates from 1803 when it was previously a coaching inn. Over the years the hotel has been expanded out the back of the building. It can now accommodate over 200 guests.

One of the great things about the Carrbridge Hotel is that it is family-owned and has been for over 40 years.

Here’s a great video with Colin Watt, the Managing Director of the Carrbridge Hotel. It gives a great overview of the hotel and the surrounding area too.

Carrbridge Hotel Facilities

  • All rooms are en suite. Many have showers over the bath but there are some with walk in showers available. If you need this I can request it for you when booking.
  • WIFI is available throughout the hotel.
  • Tea and coffee facilities are in the room along with a telephone and TV.
  • All the bedrooms have blackout blinds – great for sleep when the sun is still bright at 10 pm here in the Highlands!
  • There are 2 lifts. Due to the nature of the hotel access to some rooms may involve a few steps. If you need a step-free bedroom I can request this for you.
  • Conservatory lounge area
  • Grill room restaurant and bar

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Little Tip From Me: Porterage is not included in your holiday price so please ensure you can transport your luggage to your room. Also, remember that the overhead racks on coaches are much smaller than airplane overhead lockers.

Given you are likely to be at the hotel in the middle of the afternoon there will be a chance to have a nap, a freshen up or, a walk around before your included dinner in the evening.

There are some lovely woodland walks in Glencharnoch Wood which is to the left-hand side over the river as you look out from the hotel.

There is also a pleasant walk through the village. Turn left out of the hotel and walk down to the Landmark Centre.

What’s Nearby

Carrbridge is a small village. Within easy reach of the hotel you have;

  • Spar Shop just across the river from the hotel
  • The Old Bakery Cafe
  • Carrbridge Kitchen Cafe

Old Pack Horse Bridge

This beautiful bridge dates from 1717. It looks lovely whatever the weather and it’s right outside the hotel entrance.

Here are 3 of my photos showing the Dulnain River in spate and in winter.

2. Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Day 2

Trip on the Kyle of Lochalsh Railway Line

IMPORTANT NOTE

Only one leg of the journey today is done by train. Whilst the itinerary says that the journey by rail is from Inverness to Kyle this may be reversed if there isn’t enough tickets available for the group.

If the itinerary is reversed you would take the coach to Kyle of Lochalsh and travel back to Inverness by train.

If your train journey is from Inverness then your day will start with a journey from the Carrbridge Hotel to Inverness railway station.

The travel time to Inverness is about 45 minutes.

There are approximately 4 departures from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh each day.

  • Departing Inverness 8.55am arriving Kyle 11.30am
  • Departing Inverness 10.56 arriving Kyle 13.35
  • Departing Inverness 13.35 arriving Kyle 16.15
  • Departing Inverness 17.54 arriving Kyle 20.49

Scotrail restricts the number of group bookings on a service, so the train you will travel on depends on how busy the service is. Hopefully, you will be travelling on the 10.56 as this is the best option in terms of timing for breakfast, lunch in Kyle of Lochalsh and returning to the hotel.

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Little Tip From Me: It may be worth checking the train times in advance if this is particularly important to you. Travelling on the 8.55 am service will mean an early breakfast at the hotel, particularly if at the Highlander Hotel. Travelling on the 13.35 from Inverness means a late evening return to the hotel and a late evening meal as a result.

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Inverness Train Station

There is a small WHSmith at the station, alongwith a Costa coffee.

There are also paid toilets available.

There is a cashpoint at the entrance to the station.

There are ticket barriers at Inverness station. Your Tour Manager will most likely have a ticket for the whole group.

This train service is made up of 2 carriages usually. There will be reserved seating for the group which will be a mix of seats i.e. forward and rear facing.

A group booking of around 40+ people will take up most of the Scotrail carriage.

Journey to Kyle of Lochalsh

The journey is 2 hours 39 minutes long.

There is usually a toilet on board the train.

There may be a refreshment trolley but this isn’t guaranteed. You can either check this yourself when you arrive at the station, or ask your Tour Manager to check if you prefer.

The train journey heads out to the West. After exiting Inverness the train heads out towards Dingwall and then turns to the West. It travels out into more open country.

The area around Achnasheen is a good spot for seeing deer as the fencing pushes the deer closer to the railway line.

Towards the latter part of the journey there is a good view across to the Isle of Skye. The last section of the railway is the most spectacular.

This video shows the journey from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and then back again to Dingwall (almost back to Inverness)

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Kyle of Lochalsh

On arrival in Kyle of Lochalsh you will have some free time before returning by coach to your hotel.

You cannot see the coach parking area from the train station. It is generally beside the pier in Kyle of Lochalsh. When walking into Kyle from the railway station you will see a set of traffic lights. If you turn left at the lights that should be where you meet your coach at the end of your visit, but check times and locations with your Tour Manager.

Kyle is a village. It’s name means narrows. In the past the town was where mines were loaded onto ships.

Before the Skye road bridge was built there was a ferry that crossed the water to the Isle of Skye.

Kyle railway station is set out on a small promontory. It is a 5-minute walk into the centre of the village. There you will find some shops, cafes and public toilets.

I like Hector’s Bothy. If you follow the sign from the main street left to the public toilets Hectors Bothy is just beside the car park.

There is also a Pizza takeaway and near the water is the Fisherman’s Kitchen which does seafood as well as fish and chips.

There is also a Co-operative food store. Just follow the main road away from the railway station with the road on your right-hand side. You have to cross at the lights and keep going straight on. The shop is on the hill on your left.

You could also take a walk about to the Skye bridge. There are spectacular views but beware it’s pretty steep in the middle and it can be very windy.

Returning to Your Hotel From Kyle of Lochalsh

The great thing about doing one leg of the journey to Kyle by train and the return by coach is that you get the best of the views, with different scenery for each journey.

The first part of the journey actually starts with a small trip over the Skye bridge to Kyleakin on the other side of the water.

Then you head back across to the bridge and along to Eilean Donan castle. The journey time from Kyle of Lochalsh to Eilean Donan is around 20 minutes.

You will make a photo stop at the castle. There is a takeaway food counter here, a gift shop and toilets.

Otters live here and are often spotted in the kelp beside the castle.

Here are a couple of my photos of this lovely castle.

From Eilan Donan it’s about 1.5 hours back to the long layby on the shore of Loch Ness where you can get a photo.

You will travel along the shore of Loch Ness from Invermoriston, giving you plenty of monster spotting opportunities.

After a photo stop, you will pass through Inverness back to Carrbridge.

The journey time from the photo stop to Carrbridge is around 1 hour depending on traffic.

Below is the route map from Kyle of Lochalsh to Carrbridge by coach.

Dinner is included at the Carrbridge Hotel this evening.

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3. Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Day 3

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Journey on the Strathspey Railway and the Cairngorm Mountain Visit

After breakfast, you will travel to the Strathspey Steam Railway.

The travel time from Carrbridge to Aviemore is around 20 minutes.

Given the itinerary says you will return to Aviemore after this visit it’s likely that you will start your railway journey at Aviemore and travel to either Boat of Garten or Broomhill.

Here are the train times from Aviemore;

Aviemore Departure10.1512.4515.00
Boat of Garten Arrival10.3313.0315.18
Boat of Garten Departure10.4313.1315.28
Broomhill Arrival11.0613.3615.51
Strathspey Railway Aviemore Departures

The most likely service you will travel on is the 10.15 am train from Aviemore to Broomhill. However, this depends on ticket availability and the the journey may operate in reverse.

The journey should be on a steam train but a diesel service might be used if there are any issues with the steam engine.

This video shows you the journey from Aviemore to Broomhill and back again (although you will only do one of the legs on the train with the other by coach)

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Aviemore

Aviemore is a busy tourist town set in the heart of the Caingorm National Park.

The area attracts many visitors coming to enjoy outdoor activities.

The main part of the town has a variety of shops, cafes and restaurants.

There are public toilets to the North of the railway station. There is a Tesco supermarket, a selection of cafes and restaurants. For a more substantial meal or a local beer try the Caingorm Hotel opposite the station.

To the North end of the town is Miele’s gelateria – they have an ever-changing selection of mighty fine flavours.

If you want to do some walking while in Aviemore you can head South from the railway station and cross the railway line and the River Spey. There are pleasant walks out into the woods in this direction.

You can read more about Aviemore and it’s facilities here.

After some free time, you will head South to visit Lochbuie Croft. There you will meet their Alapacas.

This visit is a temporary change to the itinerary while the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre is refurbished and reopens (due August 2024)

The travel time from Aviemore to Newtonmore is around 30-40 minutes.

Read more about Lochbuie Croft.

This video is actually a podcast interviewing Robert and Jenni about their lives and work on Lochuie.

After a visit to Lochbuie, you will travel back to Aviemore and then 10 miles out and up to the Cairngorm Mountain visitor centre.

On clear days there are great views from here.

There are a couple of cafes and a gift shop here too.

Because of the height you will be at on the mountain, it can often be much cooler here than in Aviemore.

Want to know what the view is like now? Check out the webcams.

Cairngorm Mountain website.

After your visit to the mountain you will travel back to the Carrbridge Hotel where dinner is included this evening.

scottish highlands railway holiday
4. Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Day 4

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Journey on the Fort William to Mallaig Railway

After breakfast, you will travel to Fort William for a journey to Mallaig.

The travel time from the Carrbridge Hotel to Fort William is approximately 2.25 -2.5 hours. This may involve travelling cross country.

There are very limited options for comfort stops on this journey.

If the coach travels cross country you will most likely stop at Spean Bridge. This is an Edinburgh Woollen Mill that can accommodate coaches. It has a shop, toilets and a cafe.

There is also a Spar shop next door.

The journey time from the Carrbridge Hotel to Spean Bridge is around 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic.

It’s around 30 minutes from Spean Bridge to Fort William.

Whilst the itinerary shows this day as a train journey from Fort William to Mallaig the train journey may operate in reverse.

The most likely journey for this tour is the train departing Fort William at 12.12 and arriving in Mallaig at 13.38.

There are approximately 4 departures from Fort William to Mallaig each day as follows;

  • Departing Fort William 8.30am arriving Mallaig 9.53am
  • Departing Fort William 12.12 arriving Mallaig 13.38
  • Departing Fort William 16.19 arriving Mallaig 17.43
  • Departing Fort William 22.11 arriving Mallaig 23.39

Fort William Station

Fort William is a small station. It does have toilets and it also has small cafe.

The station is located beside a Morrisons supermarket which can be handy if you want to pick up a newspaper or a snack before boarding the train.

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Journey from Fort William to Mallaig

The journey from Fort William to Mallaig is 1 hour 23 minutes. As with the previous journey, the group will be allocated a selection of seats including forward-facing, rear facing and table seats.

One of the issues that groups sometimes experience on this train is that the train travels from Glasgow. This can sometimes mean that there is someone already sitting in a seat that has been reserved from Fort William. Your Tour Manager and the train guard should be able to assist in the event of any problems.

The train will have a toilet on board but as the train has already travelled from Glasgow before reaching Fort William it usually isn’t in the best condition.

There generally isn’t a refreshment trolley on this part of the journey either.

The scenery along this route is lovely and of course, the train passes over the famous Harry Potter, actually called Glenfinnan Viaduct. There is usually an announcement as you approach and the train slows down due to the bend.

Later in the journey, you will have lovely views across the sea and out to the islands of Muck, Rum, Eigg and Canna.

As you approach Mallaig station you will see the coach park. It’s between the railway line and the sea.

Your coach will most likely be there and parked up, and the driver will be having a well earned rest.

Mallaig railway station is set to the South of the small village of Mallaig.

Mallaig is a small fishing town and it’s particularly famous for its kippers. There is a selection of cafes and shops to enjoy.

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Returning from Mallaig to the Hotel

As I mentioned before the great thing about taking one journey by train and one by coach is the different scenery.

On the return journey, you will most likely stop at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. There is a small shop, cafe and visitor centre here.

It’s a great spot to get a photo of the Glenfinnan Viaduct. There is a lovely monument, which you can actually climb up inside here too.

It’s a column that marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland in his bid to build support for the Jacobite Rebellion, which culminated in the famous Battle of Culloden.

It makes for a lovely and dramatic setting.

The travel time from Mallaig to Glenfinnan is around 45 minutes.

You may make another stop at Spean Bridge, most likely just a comfort stop, before you head back to the Carrbridge Hotel. The journey from Glenfinnan to Carrbridge is around 2 and a quarter hours so it’s a bit far to go without a stop.

Dinner is included at the Carrbridge Hotel on the last night of your stay.

5. Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Day 5

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday

Departure Day

Breakfast is included at the hotel today.

As porterage is not included you will need to bring your own luggage down to the coach.

The itinerary for today really depends on what time the flights are.

Groups generally have to get to check-in desks earlier than you would as an individual traveller, usually around 3 hours before even for a UK internal flight.

The travel time from Carrbridge to Edinburgh on a coach is around 3 hours, but there will likely be some allowance added on for traffic and roadworks.

If the group has several flights departing from Edinburgh the coach will get to Edinburgh Airport around 3 hours ahead of the first departure.

For example, if there are 3 flights – one leaving at 4pm, one leaving 5pm and one leaving at 6pm the coach will get to Edinburgh for around 1pm. That means later flights can have a bit of wait at the airport.

I can check flight times for any tour dates you are interested in so you know this information before you book your holiday.

The hotel check-out is likely to be around 10-11am. The hotel is very busy and they will probably have another group coming in that afternoon so they will need to the maximum amount of time for housekeeping.

There will be a comfort stop on the way to Edinburgh Airport and possibly a lunch stop depending on flight timings.

Once you get to Edinburgh Airport you are responsible for getting your luggage from the coach to the check-in desk.

Your Tour Manager will leave you at Edinburgh Airport.

Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Pricing

Prices start from £679 per person based on a double/twin shared room with flights from London Heathrow.

Get in touch via the enquiry form for a personalised quote based on your travel dates and requirements.

I can book different flights if you prefer, or book rail tickets, airport lounges, airport parking – whatever you need to make your perfect Scottish Highlands Railway package.

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Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Professional Traveller Summary

  • This tour is a great option if you are looking for everything organised for you.
  • The tour is long-standing and well-established in terms of the hotel and itinerary.
  • Travelling one way by train and one way by coach gives differing views and scenery.
  • If the trains used are as this itinerary i.e. departures from Fort William and Inverness late morning or middle of the day the program works really well.
  • There may be some waiting at airports involved inbound and outbound depending on departure arrangements.

Want a bit more information? Here’s the team at Newmarket Holidays talking about their experience of the Scottish Highland Railways tour and why you consider it.

Further Reading

If you have found this Scottish Highlands Railway Tour article useful you might also like;

Can you Do the Scottish Highlands by Train? – here’s how to do it independently

For more articles on my Scottish Highlands page

Other Articles

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