Travelling by train is one of the best ways to see a place—you get to relax and let someone else do the driving, and you can gaze out the window at the scenery. This is particularly true in Scotland where the passing scenery is some of the most beautiful in the world—in fact, don’t think about the travel as getting from point A to point B but as the journey in itself.
One of the best ways to experience train travel in Scotland is on the West Highland Line from Glasgow. You can head to Oban on the west coast and from there take a ferry to the Isle of Mull or Barra in the Outer Hebrides. Or you can travel on the train via Fort William and Ben Nevis (Britain’s highest mountain) and on to Mallaig further north on the west coast and take a ferry over to the Isles of Skye. Either way you will pass through gorgeous highlands, tiny villages, past lochs and waterfalls and castles and cross the Glenfinnen Viaduct famous from the Harry Potter films.
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You can even catch the Hogwarts Express! The Jacobite steam train was used in the Harry Potter films and runs from May until end of October through some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery, from Fort William to Mallaig and back. It’s a six hour total journey including a couple of hours in the middle to explore the lovely coastal town of Mallaig. Or you can travel one way and go on to Skye by ferry.
If you really want to treat yourself, hop aboard the Royal Scotsman for a two, three, four, five or seven night tour around the Highlands. Only 36 passengers travel at any one time and there is an open-deck Observation car for soaking up the glorious views, as well as your own private cabin. And of course great meals with Scottish salmon and a wee dram of local whisky to follow.
One of Scotland’s most famous trains and routes is the Flying Scotsman which has run between London and Edinburgh since 1862. These days it’s a modern train but once it was a famous steam locomotive which was recently saved and is being restored, soon to return to the tracks. If you love trains and want to take a historic ride, check the website for upcoming journeys.
If you book train tickets in advance you’ll save money. The Scotrail site is very helpful with fares information or try the trainline to book in advance—you can pick up your tickets from a self-serve machine at any station you choose.