Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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West Highland Line: self-guided rail & hike tour
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Highlights

  • Walking the iconic West Highland Way up into the Scottish Highlands
  • Puffing across Glenfinnan viaduct to the west coast on the Jacobite steam train
  • Sailing across to the ‘bonnie banks’ of Loch Lomond
  • Following the tracks across remote Rannoch Moor, home to regal stags
  • Exploring the paths and trails at Glen Nevis with an option to climb Ben Nevis

Explore the Scottish Highlands by train and on foot. Combine a walk along the UK's most famous national trail, the West Highland Way, with one of the 'World's Best Train Journeys' on a journey through Scotland's western Highlands.

This rail and hike adventure will take you past mountains, forests, lochs and glens, including a boat trip on Loch Lomond, before reaching Fort William at the foot of Britain's tallest mountain, Ben Nevis. A fitting finale to your trip is a train ride on the 'Jacobite' steam train, also known as the 'Hogwarts Express'. Mallaig is the gateway to the Isle of Skye and a temptation for further adventures.

For more information on the West Highland Way, you can download our Free online guide, or visit our in-depth West Highland Way information page.

Day 1: West Highland Line from Glasgow to Ardlui


Your tour starts in Glasgow at Queen Street railway station. Once aboard the West Highland Line train you will travel north towards Loch Lomond.


Pulling into Ardlui station, you have arrived in the Highlands. Enjoy your first evening with a sun downer on the loch shore and look north to the peaks that will frame your followings day’s walk along the West Highland Way.


Overnight: Ardlui Hotel ***, Inverarnan



Day 2: West Highland Way to Crianlarich


Your day begins with a  short ferry ride across the waters of Loch Lomond to Ardleish on the Easter Shores. You are now on the West Highland Way and your walk takes you north through Glen Falloch. You may glimpse the roe deer on the mountains.


After heavy rain the sheer slopes of the glen gush with the turbulent waterfalls that brighten up even the most cloudy day. Passing through the conifer forests you enter the Glen of Strath Fillan to arrive at the village of Crianlarich.


Walk: 9.5 miles, 374m ascent, 150m descent, 3 - 4 hours


Overnight: Crianlarich Hotel *** , Crianlarich



Day 3: Walk the West Highland Way to Bridge of Orchy

Commencing with a gentle start through the verdant Strath Fillan, you will walk the footsteps of St Fillan, a 8th century Irish evangelist whose subsequent cult attracted Robert the Bruce as one of his followers.


Passing through the ruins of his chapel you move through Dalrigh, the 'King’s Field’, where legend has it Robert the Bruce suffered defeat in 1306. Following the ‘Way’ amidst the sky scraping mountain scenery of Beinn Odhar and Beinn Dorain you descend to Bridge of Orchy.


Walk: 13.5 miles, 183m ascent, 254m descent, 4 - 5 hours


Overnight: Bridge of Orchy Hotel ****, Bridge of Orchy



Day 4: West Highland Line to Spean Bridge


After breakfast you have the option of a 5 mile loop walk to the shores of Loch Tulla. with uninterrupted views across the loch, wild Rannoch Moor and the Black Mount.


A relaxing afternoon follows as you board the West Highland Line to head across Rannoch Moor. Crossing a wide remote expanse of the Rannoch Plateau at 300m above sea level. This is a wild landscape of peat bogs, lochans and ancient forests, home now to herds of red deer. Passing Loch Treig the line descends into fertile Glen Spean and the Great Glen. 


Optional Loch Tulla Walk: 5 miles, 175m ascent, 164m descent, 2 - 3 hours


Overnight: Spean Lodge, Country House, Spean Bridge



Day 5: Walk the East Highland Way to Fort William


Entering a forest trail to start your walk it is worth keeping an eye out for red squirrels. The dominating feature of the walk is Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain at 1344m which reveals its massive bulk in full as you near Fort William. Passing in its shadow you enter the town to complete your walk.


Walk: 12 Miles, 189m ascent, 190m descent, 3 - 5 hours


Overnight: Myrtle Bank Guesthouse, Fort William



Day 6: Ben Nevis climb or walks in Glen Nevis


With two nights in Fort William you may wish to tackle Ben Nevis with a self guided walk to the summit via the ‘Tourist Route’. Suitably equipped for the ever-changing conditions you may be rewarded with far ranging views from the summit plateau.


For a low level adventure, the Glen Nevis trails are a delight. One of the best short walks in Scotland, the rocky path through the Nevis gorge to the cascading Steall Falls, is highly recommended. 


Optional Ben Nevis ascent: 10 miles, 1352m ascent/descent, 7 - 9 hours


Optional Glen Nevis walk: 3 miles, 220m ascent/descent, 2 - 3 hours


Overnight: Myrtle Bank Guesthouse, Fort William



Day 7: West Highland Line to Mallaig - The ‘Jacobite’ steam train




A real treat is in store today with a trip on the ‘Jacobite’ steam train from Fort William out to the west coast port of Mallaig. A highlight of the journey is crossing the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan viaduct. While having gained recent fame through the ‘Harry Potter’ films, the location is historically important as the landing point of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 for his Jacobite uprising.


The dramatic scenery continues with summits towering over 700m above the tracks as you puff and whistle through the passes. Reaching the wild rocky and rugged west coast with views across to the small isles of Rum and Eigg. The train brings you into the vibrant port of Mallaig which  is also the perfect starting point for a trip out onto the Isle of Skye, only a 30 minute ferry ride away. 


Overnight: Seaview Guesthouse, Mallaig



Day 8: Onward Travel


Your tour ends after breakfast. You may wish to travel south via the West Highland Line (approx. 5hrs 30mins by train to Glasgow) or continue your adventures up into the Isle of Skye and beyond.

Accommodation

Our West Highland Line - Rail & Hike holidays include overnight accommodation in a mix of 2, 3 and 4 star country inns, hotels, guesthouses and B&B’s. The accommodation we use most often is listed below.


We carefully select your accommodation to ensure that you enjoy every minute of your stay and all offer a warm welcome to walkers, traditional hospitality and delicious local food.


We book en suite rooms as standard. If there are no en suite rooms available in an overnight location, we may book a room with shared facilities, but we would always inform you in advance if this was the case.


Accommodation Upgrade

If you would prefer a little extra luxury whilst in Fort William, Spean Bridge or Mallaig you can upgrade to our hotel accommodation option. For this option we use a selection of country hotels, luxury bed and breakfasts and country inns of character.


Accommodation Location

We will always try and accommodate you at the locations detailed in your itinerary. Occasionally, because of limited availability, we may have to accommodate you at an alternative location. In the unlikely event that we have to accommodate you elsewhere we will advise you of this before confirming your booking and arrange transfers to and from your overnight accommodation at our expense.


Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

This holiday is available to solo walkers, although a single supplement is payable. If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate your request, although it is not generally possible to secure more than three single rooms in a party. A single supplement is payable.


Meals

Breakfast is included each morning while lunch and dinner are not included so you are free to choose from the available options. Your accommodation will be more than happy to provide a packed lunch on request and this can be booked on arrival, alternatively your guidebook also includes details of local shops and convenient lunch stops on the way. Dinner is available either at your accommodation or nearby pubs and restaurants and your info pack will of course have recommendations.


Baggage Transfer

Your bags will be collected from your accommodation on each walking day and moved onto your overnight accommodation. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 18kg per person. On the rail days we ask that you take all your baggage with you aboard the train.


Accommodation Partners

Although not exhaustive these are the accommodation providers we use most often.


 

 



 

 

 




Ardlui Hotel - Inverarnan

The Ardlui Hotel is located in the heart of Scotland's first National Park - Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.


 

 

 


 

 

 




Crianlarich Hotel - Crianlarich

This is an award winning, comfortable and well-appointed 36 bedroom, 3-star hotel set in the lovely village of Crianlarich.


 

 

 


 

 

 




Bridge of Orchy Hotel - Bridge of Orchy

The Bridge of Orchy welcome their guests with personalised service, imaginative Scottish cuisine, quietly elegant en suite bedrooms and public rooms, intimate atmosphere.


 

 

 


 

 

 



Distant Hills - Spean Bridge



Distant Hills - Spean Bridge

Peter and Lesley McIntosh extend a warm welcome to you from their family run guest house. Distant Hills is an established family run guest house, set in extensive grounds and located at the edge of a quiet Highland village.


 

 

 


 

 

 



Myrtle Bank - Fort William



Myrtle Bank - Fort William

Myrtle Bank is a warm and pleasant establishment which overlooks Loch Linnie and is just a short stroll from the Town. Dora will welcome you in to her wonderful property which is extremely highly rated by clients.


 

 

 


 

 

 






Seaview Guesthouse - Mallaig

Seaview is a lovely family-run detached guest house in the centre of Mallaig. Fiona will provide you with a warm Highland welcome in this comfortable and relaxing bed and breakfast accommodation. It is ideally situated in Mallaig, overlooking the harbour and just a short walk from the train station.


 

 

 


 

 

 




West Highland Hotel - Mallaig

The West Highland Hotel retains the traditional charm of an age gone by and combines this with comfortable, modern en suite rooms. The view across the bay is spectacular and you are assured a warm welcome and a comfortable night in this lovely property.


 

 

 

Jacobite Cancellation Dates - Essential Engineering Works 2018

In order to keep the iconic Jacobite steam train in good working order essential engineering works are being carried out on Saturday 29th September, Sunday 30th September, and Monday 1st October. It's still possible to travel the scenic line between Fort William and Mallaig by the normal train service, but please note that we won't be able to book the Jacobite steam train on these dates due to the maintenance works. Your Destination & Adventure Specialist will be happy to answer any questions you have regarding this.


Availability

You can start on the following days of the week during the season (due to the operational timetable of the Jacobite steam train):


  • 25 April - 5 June 2017: you can start on a Tues, Weds, Thurs, Fri, Sat
  • 6 June - 16 Sept 2017: you can start any day of the week
  • 17 Sept - 21 Oct 2017: you can start on a Tues, Weds, Thurs, Fri, Sat

There are a few dates throughout the year when events in the local area will prevent us from being able to book accommodation. If you could schedule your trip around these dates it would be extremely beneficial.



Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

This trip is available to solo walkers, although a single supplement is payable. If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate your request, although it is not generally possible to secure more than three single rooms in a party. A single supplement is payable.


Grade & Terrain

This trip is graded easy to moderate and includes daily walks of between 8 - 13 miles. The terrain may be rugged underfoot with some hills but not too strenuous. Perfect for those with a relatively good level of fitness.


Navigation

The route is generally well way marked and easy to follow. We supply a detailed map and route notes so you will easily find your way.


Baggage Transfer

Your bags will be collected from your accommodation each day and moved onto your overnight accommodation. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 18kg per person. When you travel with public transport you take your luggage with you.


Travel Insurance

It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.


General Information

The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and pants), sun hat, sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack. 



Getting to/from Glasgow

By Air: Located 8 miles west of Glasgow, Glasgow International Airport is served by routes from around Britain and the world. A regular shuttle bus service runs to the city centre.


By Train: Glasgow has excellent rail links from within the UK. It is important to book as far in advance as possible to get the best fares. For information on all routes contact National Rail Enquires.


By Bus: Services from UK destinations are operated by National Express.


Services from Scottish destinations are operated by Scottish Citylink.



By Car: Glasgow is served by an excellent motorway network. Long term parking is generally available in the city centres. For directions and journey planner visit the mulitimap weblink.


Onward travel from Mallaig

By Train: Following completion of your holiday you may wish to return toward Glasgow via the West Highland Line. Journey time is approximately 5hrs 30mins.  For information on all routes contact National Rail Enquiries.


By Ferry: For onward travel to Skye you may take the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Armadale. Crossing time is approximately 30 minutes. For information on all routes contact Caledonian MacBrayne.


For detailed public transport information see Traveline Scotland.

Included

  • 7 Nights in good quality guesthouses/small hotels.
  • 7 Breakfasts.
  • Door to door baggage transfer of one bag of up to 18kg per person on walking days.
  • Train travel as per itinerary in second class.
  • One way tickets on ‘Jacobite’ steam train from Fort William to Mallaig.
  • A detailed information pack, guidebook and required maps for each party.
  • Emergency telephone support from our office in the event of a problem.

Excluded

  • Travel to/from Glasgow.
  • Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks.
  • Travel Insurance.
  • Personal Equipment.
  • Taxi transfers or public transport should you need to skip a stage.

Extras

  • Single room supplement.
  • Glasgow accommodation (pre tour).
  • Upgrade to hotel standard accommodation throughout.
  • Extra night/s along the route.
  • Upgrade to first class rail travel.

Planning a trip can be daunting, especially if this is your first long distance walking holiday. We are often asked the following questions and I hope that you will find the answers useful.

How fit do I need to be?

With 42 miles of walking this is a fair distance and the higher your level of fitness the more you will enjoy the experience. You should be comfortable walking on good tracks and paths over undulating terrain for up to 7 hours. If you currently don’t enjoy that level of fitness, regular walking in hilly terrain supplemented by cardiovascular exercise for at least six months before your walk is recommended. A good gym or personal trainer will be able to draw up a personalised training programme.

How far in advance do I need to book?

We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as the region is extremely popular especially over May/June and July/August. You will find up to date availability on our website and we will always try and accommodate your plans.

What personal equipment do I need?

You will need good walking shoes/boots (ideally waterproof), comfortable walking clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers, a daypack and hats/gloves etc. Our info packs have a list of all equipment to bring on your walk.

When is the best time of year?

Traditionally May has always been the most popular time of year because the theory goes that the weather is better and the midges have not yet appeared. Although having walked in every summer month I believe any time between late May and October offers a wonderful experience.

What are the midges like?

Midges are small biting insects (much like North American gnats) which are prevalent in the summer months. They are particularly bad on still, overcast days but do not bother you if you are moving, the wind is blowing, sun is shining, it’s raining, or you are inside so as long as you carry repellent for the odd occasion you may need it they shouldn’t have any impact on your experience.

Am I able to take my dog?

Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate walkers with dogs as many of the accommodation providers we use do not accept pets and several sections of the way are closed to dogs as they are permissive paths through farm land.

What happens if I can’t walk a stage?

You can use public transport or local taxis to move you to the next overnight stop. Full details are included in your info pack.

Do you move the bags from place to place or do we?

You will be required to do both on our Rail and Hike itineraries, and on some days you will be required to take your bags with you or you receive baggage handling to your next walking location! Please check and refer to your specific Rail and Hike itinerary on our website, and visit the ‘Included’ section for clarification on this.

Midlife Crisis

5

It did me the world of good to get out of my "comfort zone" and try planes, trains and automobiles. Life is too short and as we age we don't know what's around the corner. (Maybe a bigger mountain) ha ha

Gunna Do

Western Australia

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Best Adventure/Vacation Ever!

5

Our party of four had an amazing time walking and riding through the highlands. The combination of hiking days and rail days made it more manageable for us "weekend warriors". The accommodations were very comfortable and relaxing. We ate dinner at each of the hotels and were impressed with the quality of the menus. All but one of the hotel staffs were incredibly inviting and warm. The one that most impressed us was the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. The entire staff was wonderful but particularly Maria, the "co-manager", whose charming personality and generosity made us feel like old friends. And Ken at Old Pines in Spean Bridge was very helpful, even giving us a ride to the trail head instead of having to share the narrow road with cars (We deviated from the plan there and took the Great Glen Way to Ft. William instead of the West Highland Way because one of us wanted to see the lochs along the Caledonian Canal). The rail days gave us time to do some exploring in the towns and surrounding area on our own. After our MacAdventure tour ended we went up to Inverness, and from there to Edinburgh. We have so many gorgeous pictures of our days in the highlands, which were unusually blessed by clear blue skies! We all loved every minute and were sad to have to go home.

Mama Jlani

California

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Great time on the West Highland Way and in the Highlands!

5

We had a fantastic time on our Macs Adventure hike on the West Highland Way and Great Glen Way (we improvised this hike from Spean Bridge to Fort William). All the arrangements went like clockwork, the hospitality was warm, the directions were impeccable, and we would happily do a similar tour again. The Highlands are gorgeous. We ate really well. People were really nice. Accommodations in Edinborough, Bridge of Orchy, Spean Bridge, and Mallaig were fantastic. Crainlarich hotel was a little rough around the edges. Glasgow was not that nice. (The trip from Mallaig to Glasgow as long enough that, unfortunately, we didn't have much time on our last day to see much at all of Glasgow.) We got lucky with the weather, but the WHW and GGW would be beautiful in any weather. (Lucky, too, to avoid the midges completely!) The hikes were exactly the right combination of challenging enough to feel like an accomplishment without feeling like we were ever in danger. We could not get over how beautiful the country was. Macs Adventures does an amazing job of getting everything organized and moved around so that on your hiking days you carry just a small day pack with a packed lunch. Your heavier bags get moved to the next hotel right on schedule. The support team at MA, before and during the trip, was excellent. We got great advice and flexibility when planning the trip and quick and helpful responses on the one or two occasions when we had a question during the trip. The Scottish people are a pretty great selling point as well. Everyone was warm and welcoming. If we had a question, they were quick to help. This trip was really wonderful. Will happily recommend to others in the future. Thanks again for a great time! Cullen

Cullen

Richmond, VA (USA)

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Wonderful trip!

5

Wonderful mix of expert planning and support (e.g., luggage transfer, maps, help in designing a tailor-made itinerary) - and the freedom and independence of just being on our own for the actual travel.

Elderly hiker

San Francisco

true

Great Coordination!

5

8D7N Rail & Hike was well-organized and coordinated. We liked all accommodation as they are comfortable and locations near to train stations making them convenient for us. We would book trip earlier as June is still peak period and we understand there were some difficulty booking accommodation. E.g. We would have liked to stay at Ardlui Hotel so as to enjoy Loch Lomond. Also staying at Bridge of Orchy instead of coming bck to Tyndrum. But of course, we appreciated the seamless transfers and comfy B&Bs arranged. In all, it was a good trip and we enjoyed WHW.

Keng Yen

Singapore

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Great holiday!!

5

1. The code for the traintickets didn't work. I received the right code in a couple of minutes by E-mail. 2. The journey ends in Mallaig. The train journey to Glasgow takes more than 5 hours. we needed an extra night in Glasgow for our flight home. 3. Train time tables are very accurate.

Ger en Har

Heemsker, Netherlands

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West Highland Way

3

The West HIghland Way Train & Hike offers stunning views and some lovely walks and some of the best accommodation we've ever stayed in. However, the paths are rocky and there are long stretches of hard/rocky path making for an exhausting experience and we saw several walkers struggling especially as it was unseasonably warm in May! There are long stretches without anywhere to get food or water (on the East Highand Way we came across a large cooler full of drinks and snacks with an honesty box!). At the end of the West Highland Way it is still a long walk into Mallaigh to reach the 'new' end which you have to take into consideration!

Twix

Devon

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Excellent lodgings, scheduling could have been better.

4

When we scheduled the trip we didn't know I needed bicep tear and rotator cuff surgery 10 weeks before departure. We knew we might need to take trains/buses on some stages. I am almost 70. That said, the trip is GREAT! The lodgings are excellent! The hosts are most helpful and friendly. You will welcome the scheduled train segments which offer a break and another experience of the Highlands. There is bog mostly on all sides of the Way, so you need to mostly stick to the trail. On the first walking day we encountered a cow pie laden mud hole 10 yards wide by 20 yards long. Yes you will meet cows and sheep along the way. I managed to make it through, but my dear wife fell in, had muck over her boots and landed on all fours. Of course I needed to take pictures before I went back to help her. The gods repaid me. After helping her with her footing I fell and my knee landed on the lone big rock in the bog. After our falls both of us had damaged knees. The shoulder was a little troubling. We decided to take a train or bus for the next 2 scheduled walking days, then walk loops at the arrived at destination including Bridge of Orchy (a wonderful hotel) and Spean Bridge (a wonderful B&B). Based on other reviews and the additional instructions included in our packet, we decided we would skip the last walking day on the East Highland Way, take a 15 minute bus ride in to Ft. William and walk around that town for 2 days instead of 1. It was worth it. The Jacobite train was great fun. Mallaig, the final destination, is a beautiful fishing village. Gale force winds and rain greeted us; but for dining, we stayed in our room. A most welcome touch at the Moorings B&B, some single malt was provided. Improvements needed: Ensure your train from Bridge of Orchy is scheduled later in the day so you can do the planned local walk. Insist on Jacobite train seats in the rear so you can see the loco on the viaduct. East Highland Way should be replaced with another WHW day.

Kath and Fred's Most Excellent Adventure

Asheville, NC, USA

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We loved every minute of it!

5

We had good contact from Macs. After the initial contact it was not long until everything was confirmed and sent to us. We therefore had plenty of time to read and digest everything. It is important to practice a bit as some days were a bit of a challenge. All accommodation was good and some was excellent. A nice programme of walks.

Martin and Di

Jersey

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Wonderful Trip

5

We wanted a trip that would be active but not exhausting and this was the perfect combination of both. Since our luggage was moved for us the hiking was easier with just a day pack and it was exactly as claimed to be - gentle to moderate. The train rides and accommodations were lovely. We went in May and lucked out with good weather most of the time - or when it rained we were on the train so it didn't matter. We added the Isle of Skye to the end of our trip and that was really a nice grand finale.

Eliza

Colorado - USA

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West Highland Line: Rail and Hike

4.7 37

97.3

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