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 and East towards Aberdeen.
Are you interested in a Scottish Highlands Railways holiday?
Check out this in-depth review of one of the most popular Scottish Highlands Railways holidays. This tour has run for many years so is well-established.
Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Holiday Headlines
- Regional flights from the UK to Edinburgh
- 4 nights half board accommodation in a Highland hotel
- Ride on the Kyle of Lochalsh railway line and return journey by coach
- 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 and Highland Folk Museum
- This is a fully escorted tour with a Tour Manager with you from arrival in Edinburgh to departure.
Check out this detailed day by day review to help you decide if this is the perfect Scottish Highland Railway Holiday for you.
1. Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Day One
Arrival at Inverness/Edinburgh Airport
For most of the departures I checked the airport used was Inverness. This is much closer to both hotels and much more convenient as a result.
There are various regional flights available for each departure date for this tour. For ease of comparison, I have chosen the departure date of 10th June 2022.
These are the flight times that are given for each regional departure on the 10th of June.
- Belfast – This flight departs Belfast 11.55 and arrives in Inverness 12.55. * This is a Loganair flight.
- Birmingham – This flight departs Birmingham at 16.05 and arrives Inverness 17.25. * This is a Loganair flight.
- Bristol – This flight departs Bristol at 14.40 and arrives Inverness 16.05. This is an Easyjet flight.
- London Gatwick – This flight departs London Gatwick at 12.25 and arrives Inverness 14.10. This is an Easyjet flight.
- London Heathrow – This flight departs London Heathrow at 13.05 and arrives Inverness at 14.45. * This is a British Airways flight.
- London Luton – This flight departs London Luton at 9.40 and arrives Inverness at 11.10. This is an Easyjet flight.
- Manchester – This flight departs Manchester at 19.55 and arrives Inverness at 21.10. * This is a Loganair flight.
* Loganair and British Airways flights operating on these routes are smaller than the Easyjet Airbus planes. As such there is reduced overhead locker space.
So for this tour date there are flights arriving at the following times;
11.10, 12.55, 14.10, 14.45, 16,05, 17.25 and 21.10
The booking details state that there may be a wait of up to an hour at the airport due to other flights arriving. For most of the departure dates there are several regional flight options so a wait is likely. However, it is difficult to see how the flight times above can be combined into one transfer.
It may be worth checking the arrangements regarding arrival and departure if you want more clarity on these days. Will you be taken to the hotel if you arrive on the earlier flights, or will you be taken for lunch and then return to the airport to collect the remaining guests? If you are travelling on the flight that arrives at 21.10 then you will not arrive in time for dinner at either of the hotels. Does this mean you will receive a cold plate perhaps on arrival?
The Tour Manager will be waiting for you at the airport and will direct you to the coach and then advise the plans for the journey, comfort stops etc.
Inverness Airport is a small airport. It is usually quite quick in terms of reclaiming luggage. Luggage is generally reclaimed in the arrivals hall in the public part of the airport.
There are toilets just as you enter the airport, and more toilets at the end of the airport near the cafe. There is a WHSmith, a Scottish gift shop, a coffee shop and a cafe with views over the runway. This is all on the ground floor.
Tour Only Option
There is an option to make your own way to the airport. Once booked you will be advised of the time to meet the Tour Manager at whichever airport is being used so you can join the coach and travel with the rest of the group.
Journey to the Hotel from Inverness Airport
The travel time from Inverness airport to the Highlander Hotel in Newtonmore is approximately 1.25 hours. The distance is 52 miles.
The travel time from Inverness airport to the Carrbridge Hotel is around 45 minutes. It is 30 miles.
Journey to Hotels from Edinburgh Airport
The travel time from Edinburgh airport to the Highlander Hotel in Newtonmore is approximately 2.25 hours. The distance is 109 miles. Depending on the departure time there may be a stop en route for refreshments or a comfort stop.
The travel time from Edinburgh Airport to the Carrbridge Hotel is around 2.75 hours. This distance is 130 miles. Depending on the departure time there may be a stop en route for refreshments or a comfort stop.
The route from Edinburgh Airport 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.
Arriving at Your Hotel
As with most tours it will take some time to check into your hotel. The tour doesn’t include porterage which means you are responsible for taking your luggage to your room once it has been unloaded from the coach.
Your Tour Manager will advise you of meal times and departure times for the following day.
The Highlander Hotel
The Highlander Hotel is a very busy hotel. In the summer it is busy with tour groups and in the winter it is popular with skiers.
There are 83 rooms at the Highlander hotel. They are located in an accommodation building. There are a mix of twin, double and single rooms. The accommodation building is two storey and doesn’t have a lift.
In some parts of this building the walls are quite thin.
Rooms are simply furnished and styled. All rooms have tea and coffee making facilities, hairdryers and walk in showers alongwith free WIFI.
All meals are served in the main reception building. This has a large meeting room, a bar and a large restaurant which can accommodate 160 guests at a time. This often means there are several groups dining together.
The Highlander Hotel is set to the North of the the village of Newtonmore. This may be familiar if you were a fan of the TV series Monarch of the Glen.
Newtonmore is a small village set in the Cairngorms National Park.
Almost opposite the hotel is the Highland Folk Museum. This fantastic museum has a collection of preserved buildings from across the Highlands including an old school. It is free to visit the museum and there is a cafe on site as well.
The village of Newtonmore has a Co-operative convenience store, a couple of cafes and gift shops. There are also plenty of walks around the area including the Wildcat Trail.
Read the Tripadvisor reviews of the Highlander Hotel
The Carrbridge Hotel
The Carrbridge Hotel is a large hotel located in the village of Carrbridge.
The front part of the hotel is the oldest part, with more modern additions housing bedrooms to the rear of the property. The hotel is large enough for several coach groups at one time. Meals are served in the conservatory bar or the function room depending on the number of people dining at the same time.
There is bar area with open fire, a conservatory area that seats 100 and a large function room.
There are two lifts but for some rooms there may be some steps involved.
The hotel is located beside the Dulnain river. Directly opposite the hotel is a gorgeous stone bridge. It’s a very popular photo stop for visitors to the area. The bridge dates from 1717.
Carrbridge is a small village and there are a couple of small shops and cafes within walking distance. There are also community woodlands and plenty of walks within easy reach. At the Southern most point of the village is the Landmark Forest Adventure theme park. This is a very popular tourist attraction.
Read the Tripadvisor reviews of the Carrbridge Hotel
2. Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Day 2
Trip on the Kyle of Lochalsh Railway Line
After breakfast you will travel to Inverness to catch the train for journey to Kyle of Lochalsh.
If you are staying at the Highlander Hotel the travel time to Inverness is 1.25 hours
If you are staying at the Carrbridge Hotel 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 onthe 10.56 as this is the best option in terms of timing for breakfast, lunch in Kyle and returning to the hotel.
It may be worth checking the train times in advance if this is particularly important to you. Travelling on the 8.55am 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.
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.
Journey to Kyle of Lochalsh
The journey is 2 hours 39 minutes long. There should be 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.
Tickets booked by groups are allocated randomly so there will be a mix of forward facing, rear facing and table seats in the allocation. If the group is large, ie a full coach of 47-49 people then it pretty much takes up a whole Scotrail carriage.
If you are unable to travel facing backwards it might be worth mentioning this to your Tour Manager who will try and assist. Hopefully there will be other travellers who are happy to travel facing either direction.
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.
Kyle of Lochalsh
On arrival in Kyle of Lochalsh you will have some free time before returning by coach to your hotel.
Kyle is a village. It’s name means narrows. In the past it was used to load mines onto ships. Before the Skye road bridge there was a ferry that crossed the water to the Isle of Skye.
Kyle railway station is set out on a small promotory. It is a 5 minute walk into the centre of the village. There you will find some shops, cafes and public toilets.
Returning to Your Hotel From Kyle of Lochalsh
As the train pulls into Kyle of Lochalsh as you look to the sea you should see the coach park just before the train pulls into the station. This is probably where you will need to walk to and rejoin the coach before travelling back to your hotel. Your Tour Manager will advise the meeting times.
The journey time from Kyle of Lochalsh to the Highlander Hotel is around 2.5 hours if travelling cross country. There is likely to be a comfort stop along the way.
If arriving in Kyle at 13.35 and leaving at 2.45pm this would give an arrival time back at the Highlander Hotel of 5.15pm without any comfort stops en route.
The journey time from Kyle of Lochalsh to the Carrbridge Hotel is 2.25 – 2.5 hours depending on the route chosen.
3. Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Day 3
Journey on the Strathspey Railway and Visit to the Highland Folk Museum
After breakfast you will travel to Boat of Garten for a journey on the Strathspey Steam Railway to Aviemore.
The journey time to Boat of Garten from the Highlander Hotel is around 30 minutes. Boat of Garten is to the North of Newtonmore.
The journey time to Boat of Garten from Carrbridge is around 15 minutes.
Journey on the Strathspey Steam Railway
Your journey will take you along part of the Strathspey Steam Railway from Boat of Garten South to Aviemore. The most likely departure is 11.54, arriving in Aviemore at 12.12.
Read more about Strathspey Steam Railway
Arrival in Aviemore
The Strathspey Steam Railway runs alongside the main North/South railway in Aviemore. To reach Aviemore there is a metal footbridge which crosses the railway lines.
The railway station is located just to the South of Aviemore itself. Aviemore is the main town in the Cairngorm National Park. It has good selection of cafes, restaurants and shops to explore as well as plenty of activities nearby too.
You can read more about Aviemore and it’s facilities here.
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 might 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.
Afternoon Visit to the Highland Folk Museum
After time for lunch in Aviemore there is a visit to the Highland Folk Museum. This museum has 35 buildings from all over the Highlands to explore. There is also a cafe, gift shop and toilets on site as well.
Read more about the Highland Folk Museum.
The travel time from Aviemore to the Highland Folk Museum is 30 minutes. If you are staying at the Highlander Hotel the Folk Museum is practically opposite the hotel so you can easily return to hotel whenever you have finished your visit.
If you are staying at the Carrbirdge Hotel the Highland Folk Museum is 30 minutes to the South of Aviemore, whereas your hotel is 15 minutes North of Aviemore. There is an option for a free afternoon if you don’t wish to visit the Highland Folk Museum – this may involve a separate transfer given the timings and distances.
The Highland Folk Museum really is worth a visit.
After your visit to the Highland Folk Museum you will return to the hotel.
4. Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Day 4
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 Highlander Hotel to Fort William is approximately 2.25 hours. This may involve travelling cross country.
The travel time from the Carrbridge Hotel to Fort William is approximately 2.25 -2.5 hours. This may involve travelling cross country. This means there are very limited options for comfort stops on this route.
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
As mentioned above Scotrail restricts the number of groups booked on a particular service. This may affect the train available to travel on. In terms of timing the 12.12 from Fort William is the best train in terms of arriving for lunch and returning to the hotel in the evening.
As previously advised if the train times are important then it might be worth checking this in advance.
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.
Journey to Fort William
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 which will include 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 heads West from Mallaig and towards the end of the journey you will have spectacular views of some nearby islands.
As you approach Mallaig station you will see the coach park. It’s between the railway line and the sea.
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 it’s kippers. There is a selection of cafes and shops to enjoy.
Returning from Mallaig to the Hotel
If you are staying at the Highlander Hotel it is 93 miles from Mallaig back to Newtonmore going cross country. The travel time is around 2.25 to 2.5 hours. There may be a comfort stop along the way.
If you have arrived in Mallaig at 13.38 and left at 14.45 then your arrival time back at the Highlander Hotel would be 5.15pm if the journey took 2.5 hours and there was no stop en route.
If you are staying at the Carrbridge Hotel the travel time is around 2.75 hours going cross country. If you left Mallaig at 14.45 then your arrival time back at the Carrbridge Hotel would be 5.30pm if the journey took 2.75 hours and there was no stop en route.
5. Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Day 5
Breakfast is included at the hotel today.
Given both hotels are busy with tour groups check out time is likely to be around 11am.
Journey to Inverness Airport
The journey back to Inverness airport from the Carrbridge hotel is around 45 minutes.
The journey back to Inverness airport from the Highlander hotel is around 1 hour 15 minutes.
Journey to Edinburgh Airport
The journey back down to Edinburgh airport is 2.25 hours from the Highlander Hotel and 2.75 hours from the Carrbridge Hotel. It is likely that there will be a stop along the way for lunch.
Return Flight Times
Here are the return flight times for this tour.
- Belfast – Departs on the 14th of June at 10.35 and arrives Belfast 11.35. This is a Loganair flight.
- Birmingham – Departs on the 14th of June at 14.10 and arrives Birmingham 15.35.
- Bristol – Departs the 14th of June at 12.40 and arrives Bristol at 14.00. This is an Easyjet flight.
- London Gatwick – Departs the 14th of June at 14.55 and arrives London Gatwick 16.25. This is an Easyjet flight.
- London Heathrow – Departs on the 14th of June at 11.10 and arives London Heathrow at 12.45. This is a British Airways flight.
- London Luton – Departs on the 14th of June at 15.55 and arrives London Luton 17.20. This is an Easyjet flight.
- Manchester – Departs on the 14th of June at 17.55 and arrives 19.55. This is a Loganair flight.
So the return flight times for this tour date are as follows;
10.35, 11.10, 12.40, 14.10, 15.55 and 17.55
It is again difficult to think of a single departure time that would suit given the timings of the return flights. This may mean two different departure times depending on the flights or it could mean going to the airport to drop off the first passengers and then some free time before returning back to the airport.
It may be worth checking the departure arrangements for the return flights. The booking conditions do say there could be up to a 3 hour wait at the airport before your flight departs. Inverness is a very small airport so this is quite a long wait to have there.
Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Dates and Prices
Tour Only Option
This is the cheapest option and starts at £413 per person. The maximum price for this option is £680. There are dates available from April 2022 to October 2023. This price is based on two people sharing a room.
For a single traveller the price is £556 per person. That’s a single supplement of £143
This option involves you making your own way to and from Edinburgh Airport as advised by the holiday company in order to travel on the tour coach.
Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – Regional Departures and Costs
- From £607 per person based on two sharing with dates from May 2022 to October 2022. The highest price is £836 per person.
- Single places available in June 2022 for £876 per person making single supplement £111 for that departure date.
- From £607 per person based on two sharing with dates from May 2022 to October 2023. The highest price is £909 per person.
- Single places available in June 2022 for £771 per person making single supplement £99 for that departure date.
- From £555 per person based on two sharing with dates from May 2022 to October 2023. The highest price is £889 per person.
- Single places available in June 2022 for £712 per person making single supplement £100 for that departure date.
- From £604 per person based on two sharing with dates from May 2022 to October 2023. The highest price is £889 per person.
- Single places available in June 2022 for £804 per person – which makes single supplement £140 for those dates.
- From £607 per person based on two sharing with dates from May 2022 to October 2023. The highest price is £889 per person.
- Single places available in June 2022 for £772 per person which makes single supplement £99 for those dates.
- From £570 per person based on two sharing with dates from May 2022 to October 2023. The highest price is £832 per person.
- Single places available in June 2022 for £699 per person which makes single supplement £99 for those dates.
- From £673 per person based on two sharing with dates from September 2022 to October 2022. The highest prices is £794.
- Single places available for September 2022 for £874 per person which makes single supplement £118 for these dates.
- From £648 per person based on two sharing with dates from June 2022 to October 2023. The highest price is £909
- Single places available in July 2022 for £763 per person which makes single supplement £99 for these dates.
- From £722 per person based on two sharing with dates available from September 2022 to October 2022. The highest price is £798
- Single places available in October 2022 for £868 which makes the single supplement £118 for these dates.
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 so is well established in terms of hotels and itineraries.
- Travelling one way by train and one way by coach gives an opportunity for 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.
Scottish Highlands Railway Holidays
This review is the Newmarket Holidays Scottish Highland Railways Tour.
Other Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday Options You Might Be Interested In;
Great Rail Journeys specialises in railway based tours. Their Highland Adventure tour, which is 5 days, stays at a hotel in Inverness city centre. It includes a trip on the Jacobite steam train, visits Culloden Battlefield and Eilean Donan castle, a ride of the Strathspey Railway and the Kyle line. It starts from ?895 per person. They have a selection of Scottish Highland Railway tours.
Rail Discoveries, another operator which has railway based tours, has a selection of Scottish Highland Railway tours.
Here is a little video taster from Visit Scotland about Scottish railways, just to whet your appetite!
If you have found this Scottish Highlands Railway Tour article useful you might find this Highland Coach Holiday review useful. This is a review of an escorted holiday based in Inverness.
9 Reasons To Choose A Coach Holiday – By Real Travellers
Coach Trips – 10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know Before You Book
The Scottish Highlands – A Stunning Destination Anytime of Year
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