6 Most Scenic Rail Journeys in Scotland

| August 21, 2015

As a travel writer I’ve been lucky enough to get out and travel on some of the world’s great railway journeys, such as the Orient Express and Trans Siberian. I can say hand on tartan heart that there are, though, no more scenic railway journeys in the world than those in my native Scotland.

P. 13 - Journeys - Glenfinnan Viaduct on West Highland Line

It’s great to see new ScotRail operator Abellio really push ‘Great Scenic Railway Journeys of Scotland’ (GSRJS). There are six designated routes, which really open up the nation’s history, heritage, wildlife and the country’s world class food, as well as all that glorious scenery.

It is not just routes that are being designated and pushed. There is real tangible investment too. Plans are already afoot for refurbishment of the trains on each of the half dozen routes. Improvements will include larger windows to make the most of the views, as well as a food and drink offering stuffed full of local produce. There will be a human touch too with ambassadors aboard these special services to offer information on the unfolding drama.

The stand out trip for me is my favourite railway journey in the world, the famous West Highland Line. This snakes out of Glasgow along the Clyde, before turning its back on the industrial world and skimming Loch Lomond en route to a mind-blowing haul through the Highlands in search of Fort William and Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain. The West Highland Line Extension pushes on to the fishing port of Mallaig, from where the Isle of Skye hovers just across the water. An alternative destination is Oban, Scotland’s busiest ferry port, which opens up Argyll rather than the Highlands. Pit it this way – you won’t want to spend much time reading!

Loch Coruisk - Boat Trip from Elgol

Not far behind for me is the Skye Railway, or Kyle Line. This 80 mile route breaks away from the North Sea and the only city in the Highlands (Inverness) and cuts high into the mountains. What I love most about it is that you get to cross right across Scotland as it ends right on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast at Kyle of Lochalsh. Again Skye haunts across the water. The stretch along the shores of Loch Carron as the rail skirts the edge of the loch is awesome in the true sense of the word.

Staying in the Highlands the Far North Line links Inverness with Wick and Thurso on the northern shores of Scotland, with touching distance of the Orkney Islands. Heading southwards I’m really glad to see the little heralded Stranraer Line finally be given the attention it deserves. This line skips south from Glasgow taking in a swathe of scenery, from the Southern Uplands through to the Firth of Clyde. The highlight is gazing out towards Arran and Ailsa Craig. One of the new scenic journeys also crosses the border, the Carlisle Line sneaking across to Carlisle from Glasgow after a gallop through Ayrshire and the Southern Uplands.

Finally we come to the new Borders Line, which has been reborn in 2015. This very welcome new rail line connects Edinburgh to the Borders for the first time since the 1960s, opening up a swathe of scenery that you just don’t get to experience driving this way by car. Sir Walter Scott – that great champion of the rolling hills and sweeping rivers of the Borders – would no doubt have approved. You can get to the grand home he had built on the Tweed here (Abbotsford) by hopping on the new train service.

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As a fan of both Scotland and of rail travel it’s great to see these scenic lines get the recognition that they so richly deserve. Letting the train take the strain these days is cost effective too with a range of passes alongside standard tickets and family discounts.

There is the Freedom of Scotland Pass and the Highland Rover, which both offer unlimited travel over a number of days. For more information on these routes and Scotrail travel in general get on to www.scotrail.co.uk. I’ve travelled by train on five continents and know first-hand that there are no finer railway journeys than those in Scotland. Book a seat and I guarantee you will be impressed by the Great Scenic Railway Journeys of Scotland.

 

– For more information check out the dedicated Great Scenic Railway Journeys of Scotland pages on the Scotrail website.

 

 

 

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  1. rebecca says:

    Some great photos. I must say, I think Scotland in general is just a beautiful part of the world!