5 best train rides in Scotland to explore dramatic highlands, sparkling lochs and coastal towns

Meals are prepared on board and served in mahogany-walled dining cars that offer seasonal Scottish produce, meats and fish alongside wines, liqueurs and malt whiskies. The paneled private cabins have beds fitted with soft Scottish wools and tartans and also include an en-suite shower, toilet, desk, table, wardrobe, toiletries, bathrobes and slippers. The train also includes two spa cabins.

Itineraries range from two to seven days and include sightseeing stops and hotel accommodations. New routes are expected to start from April 2023, but bookings are selling out fast. Tickets start at $4,789 (£4,000) for single occupancy on Belmond’s site or through Holidays by train.

The Far North Line connects Inverness to the northern Highlands

Edward Dyer/Alamy

The Far North Line

Take a four-hour journey on Britain’s most rural railway through hundreds of miles of bogs, small hamlets, golf courses, scenic train stops and salmon rivers. The single-track Far North Line runs from Inverness to destinations Thurso and Wick on the northern edges of the Highlands. It’s isolated, rugged and spectacularly wild.

The route is the same as the Kyle of Lochalsh line to Dingwall, where the lines split. Passengers travel up the coast to the Tain stop, where the line then plunges into Sutherland and Caithness land, through bogs and Flow Country, while crossing salmon fishing rivers. Flow Country is a large wetland bog and blanket bog habitat, an important environmental landscape for the prevention of climate change and a UNESCO project world heritage site.

Passengers can spot some castles from the railway after leaving Inverness: just past the Tain stop is the glorious and exclusive Skibo Castle (formerly frequented by Andrew Carnegie) across the Dornoch Firth sea entrance, followed by the hilltop (and supposedly haunted) Carbisdale Castle after the Culrain stop. Then pass the thick and mysterious Balblair Wood, midway between the Rogart and Golspie stops on the shores of Loch Fleet. And if you fancy another castle, the train will take you to Dunrobin Castle station, where you can stop and show your train ticket for discounted entry to the gigantic “house” (with over 189 bedrooms, this castle is one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses).

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