Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Jacobite Steam Train, independent rail & hike tour of The Highlands & Isle of Skye
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Highlights

  • Discovering Scotland’s lochs, glens and mountains on foot and by rail.
  • Crossing Glenfinnan Viaduct on the Jacobite Steam Train, ‘Hogwarts Express’.
  • Exploring the rugged and romantic Isle of Skye, and walking the Great Glen.
  • Riding the remote North Highland Line from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh.
  • Getting to know the hosts of your hand-picked small hotels and guesthouses.

Experience the Scottish Highlands by train and on foot, taking in some of the best scenic rail journeys in the world. Starting from the regal city of Edinburgh, travel deep into the Highlands and across to the Isle of Skye, before returning to vibrant Glasgow.

Ride the iconic West Highland Line on the Jacobite steam train, the ’Hogwarts Express’, as well as the as North Highland Line, one of Britain’s most remote and spectacular, between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh, gateway to Skye. Relax as you speed past brooding lochs, leafy glens and rugged mountains. What’s more, you’ve some rewarding hikes included, as well as time to explore castles, ancient battlefields, Loch Ness, distilleries and centuries-old Highland estates.

If you'd like to treat yourselves to something really special, then take a look at our Luxury Highlands & Isle of Skye tour, which stays in boutique properties, including lodges and castle hotels.

Day 1: Edinburgh to Blair Atholl by train

Your rail and hike adventure through Scotland starts in the majestic capital of Edinburgh. Jump on board your first train which whisks you away into the Highlands to charming Blair Atholl (2hrs approx.).


Settle into your cosy B&B for a two night stay; the ideal base from which to explore.


Overnight: The Atholl Arms Hotel, Blair Atholl


Day 2: Blair Atholl Walks & Castle

After a hearty Scottish breakfast explore the idyllic Atholl Estates. Follow paths that meander through woodland and heather-clad hills  surrounding Blair Castle, the historic home of the Earls and Dukes of Atholl and dating from the 1200s.  


Alternatively, take a lovely 9 mile riverside walk to the quaint and popular town of Pitlochry, returning by local bus.


Walk: Up to 13 miles (21km), minimal ascent/descent.


Overnight: The Atholl Arms Hotel, Blair Atholl


Day 3: Train to Inverness, Optional Visit to Loch Ness/Culloden Battlefield

An early start today (1h30 train ride) will give you plenty of time to discover Inverness. This friendly city has several of Scotland’s star attractions close by. Visit Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle on an optional day trip by boat and coach, or the Culloden Battlefield exhibition, scene of the last Jacobite uprising in 1745, is an easy bus ride away.


If you’d prefer to stretch your legs, set out on a superb loop walk along the peaceful River Ness and Caledonian Canal.


Walk: 7 miles (11km), minimal ascent/descent


Overnight: Acorn Guest House, Inverness


Day 4: North Highland Line to Portree

Sit back and relax as you depart Inverness on the iconic North Highland Line, a stunningly scenic journey alongside remote lochs, glens and mountains to the seaside station of Kyle of Lochalsh (2h30).


Here you change for a bus (payable locally) which carries you over the Skye bridge to the isle itself and on to Portree (1hr) your base on Skye.


Overnight: Duirinish Guesthouse, Portree


Day 5: The Storr, Portree Coastal Walk or Optional Day Trip

The colourful waterfront houses of Portree harbour adorn many a picture postcard. Today you’re free to wander around this delightful Highland town, or you could take a bus journey (25 mins, payable locally) to The Storr; a rocky hill on the Trotternish peninsula. From here, it’s a rewarding 8 mile walk along the coast back to Portree.


Alternatively, take a day trip around the Isle of Skye (supplement payable), taking in the brooding black and red peaks of the Cuillins, Talisker Distillery, and the rock pinnacle of the Quiraing. Calmac also operates a ferry service from nearby Sconser to Raasay if you prefer to explore one of the islands.  


Walk: Storr to Portree Coast, 8 miles (13km), 465m ascent


Overnight: Duirinish Guesthouse, Portree


Day 6: Travel to Mallaig, Jacobite steam train to Fort William

You can look forward to many memorable travel experiences today!  First, take a scenic bus ride (1hr, payable locally) to Armadale, where you catch the trusty Calmac ferry (30 mins) to Mallaig.


Arriving back on the mainland, its time for a highlight of your adventure—the Jacobite steam train. The ’Hogwarts Express’ winds its way past pristine beaches and mountain panoramas, passing over the Glenfinnan viaduct to arrive at the lochside town of Fort William (2h50).  


Overnight: MacLean Guest House, Fort William


Day 7: Walk to Spean Bridge

Enjoy a lovely walk today, with views of Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, and you’ll also enjoy the impressive eight locks of Neptune’s Staircase along the Caledonian Canal.  Take in the impressive panorama of the Commando Memorial, as you make your way to Spean Bridge.


The trail begins with an easy walk along the canal, heading up the Great Glen and through woodland that is home to red squirrels.  


Walk: 15 miles (24km), 190m ascent/descent


Overnight: Spean Lodge, Spean Bridge


Day 8: West Highland Line to Glasgow

Get ready for yet another of Britain’s most scenic railway journeys as you travel south on the classic West Highland Line.


Soak up the last of the Highland scenery from your seat as you speed through the fertile Great Glen to Rannoch Moor, a remote 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.


Your delightful 3h30 journey ends in the vibrant city of Glasgow, from where you can make your onward journey.  Accommodation tonight in Glasgow is not included, however please contact us should you wish us to make arrangements for you.


 

Accommodation

7 nights accommodation is included in hand-picked small hotels, B&B’s or guesthouses, of a 3-star standard.


We carefully select small and friendly accommodation that offers great value, food and welcomes. The properties we normally use are detailed in the itinerary, however are subject to availability and therefore alternatives of an equal standard may be offered.




You can add extra nights at any point during your stay, and we particularly recommend doing so in Edinburgh and Glasgow as there is so much to see and do —please contact us for details.



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 Blair Atholl, Inverness, on Skye, Fort William/Spean Bridge you can upgrade to 'In Style' properties. For this option we use a selection of country hotels, luxury bed and breakfasts and country inns of character.


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 you can stop at local shops and convenient lunch stops on the way. Dinner is available either at your accommodation or nearby pubs and restaurants.




 

 

 



Atholl Arms Hotel - Blair Atholl



Atholl Arms Hotel - Blair Atholl

A traditional Scottish Highland hotel, almost adjacent to the entrance of Blair Castle, next to the railway station. Each of the 31 bedrooms is decorated in a unique tartan. There is a Baronial Dining Room, complete with minstrels' gallery, as well as a charming 'Bothy Bar'.


 

 

 


 

 

 



Acorn Guesthouse - Inverness



Acorn Guesthouse - Inverness

Dugie and Fiona run this characterful and charming guest house, situated within walking distance of the town centre. There is free WiFi and guests can enjoy a hot tub and sauna (extra charge).


 

 

 


 

 

 



Duirinish B&B - Portree



Duirinish B&B - Portree

Ruth and Allan are your friendly hosts at Duirinish B&B, located just a five minute walk from the lively town centre of Portree. Enjoy complimentary in-room tea and coffee-making facilities, and there is WiFi for guests.


 

 

 


 

 

 



MacLean Guesthouse - Fort William



MacLean Guesthouse - Fort William

This modern eight-room property is located just a five minute walk from the train station and town centre. Rooms are modern and bright, and there is free WiFi for guests.


 

 

 


 

 

 



Spean Lodge - Spean Bridge



Spean Lodge - Spean Bridge

Spean Lodge is a lovely historic highland lodge set in woodland above the River Spean, just a 5 mins walk from the train station. Cosy rooms have William Morris furnishings, tea and coffee making facilities and free WiFi. Relax in the comfortable guest lounge.


 

 

 

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

Please note that Skye is exceptionally popular throughout the Summer months.  As a result, it may be necessary to book upgraded accommodations and/or taxi transfers to accommodate your dates.  Your specialist will inform you of this prior to confirming your booking and advise of any supplement payable.


This trip is available between mid-May and mid-October.
Start dates are dictated by operational timetables of the Jacobite Steam Train.


  • 20 May - 15 June 2018: You can start this tour on a Weds, Thurs, Fri, Saturday or Sunday.
  • 16 June - 30 Sept 2018: You can start this tour any day of the week.
  • 1 Oct - 19 Oct 2018: You can start this tour on a Weds, Thurs, Fri, Saturday or Sunday.

The Blair Atholl Horse Trials take place on the 23-26 August 2018. The area is incredibly busy during this period, so booking the trip during this time is not recommended.


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.


Grade & Terrain

This trip is graded easy to moderate and includes daily walks of up to 12 miles (Day 7). As all walks are self-guided, you will be responsible for navigation, decision-making and safety during your trip. The terrain may be rugged underfoot with some hills but not too strenuous. You should enjoy a good level of fitness to make the most of this trip.


Navigation, Route Notes & Maps

The majority of the walks suggested on this trip (with the exception of Skye) are waymarked and we supply you with maps and route notes so you can easily find your way.


Baggage Transfer

Your bags will be transferred for you on Day 7 when you walk from
Fort William to Spean Bridge. We ask you to limit your luggage to one
bag of up to 18kg per person. On the rail/bus days, we ask that you take
all your baggage with you aboard the train/bus.


Day Trips & Excursions

You can book optional day trips from both Inverness (exploring Loch Ness) and Portree (exploring Skye).  These are optional extras and are not included in tour arrangements, as you can either enjoy a  suggested walk, or opt for a day trip.  These excursions are available to book as options on our website or contact us to add them to your arrangements.  


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.


Travel Timetables, Train Journeys

The website www.travelinescotland.com is fantastic for researching train and bus timetables throughout Scotland. Your pre-departure information pack will also have handy hints and tips about journeys and transport services.


Included in your arrangements are second class travel on ScotRail services as per your itinerary. These are 'Anytime' tickets which can be used at any time during the specified date of travel.


Accommodation Location

We will always try and accommodate
you at the locations detailed in your itinerary. Occasionally, because
of limited availability, there is the option to be accommodated 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.
You will have the option to change your dates or we can arrange
transfers to and from an alternative overnight accommodation (additional cost payable for transfers).


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 Edinburgh and from Glasgow

By Air: Both Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports are well-served by low-cost and scheduled airlines. From Edinburgh Airport you can travel by tram or airport shuttle bus to the city centre (approx. 30 mins).  From Glasgow Buchanan St Bus station (city centre) an airport shuttle operates regularly to the airport (approx. 30 mins). Further information will be detailed in your pre-departure information pack. 


Travel Timetables, Spirit of Scotland Travelpass


The website www.travelinescotland.com is fantastic for researching train and bus timetables throughout Scotland. Your pre-departure information pack will also have handy hints and tips about journeys and transport services.


Included in your arrangements is a Spirit of Scotland Travelpass, which gives you four days of unlimited travel over eight consecutive days. Conditions apply. Full details will be given in your pre-departure information pack. Please see ‘not included’ section for travel that is not covered in the pass but suggested in your itinerary.

Included

  • 7 Nights in small hotels and B&B’s (3-star standard).
  • 7 Breakfasts.
  • Train travel Edinburgh-Blair Atholl-Inverness-Kyle of Lochalsh and Spean Bridge-Fort William (Days 1, 3, 4 & 8).
  • Ferry Armadale to Mallaig.
  • Jacobite steam train (standard class) from Mallaig to Fort William.
  • Luggage transfer on Day 7.
  • Maps & route notes.
  • 24/7 Telephone support from our UK office.

Excluded

  • Travel to Edinburgh/from Glasgow.
  • Overnight in Edinburgh/Glasgow.
  • Travel if required on Days 2 & 5.
  • Bus from Kyle of Lochalsh to Portree (Day 4).
  • Bus from Portree to Armadale on Day 6 (payable locally).
  • Optional excursions from Inverness & Portree.
  • Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Personal equipment.
  • Taxi transfers or public transport should you need to skip a stage.
  • Mountain rescue/emergency assistance.

Extras

  • Additional nights (recommended in Edinburgh & Glasgow.
  • Single room/solo traveller supplement.
  • Upgrade to first class rail travel on the Jacobite steam train.
  • Guided full-day excursion on the Isle of Skye.
  • Day trip from Inverness to Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle (cruise/coach tour).

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 up to 12 miles of walking and the possibility to shorten the walks or take easier routes (or opt instead for a sightseeing day trip on a couple of occasions), you should have a good level of fitness to make the most of the itinerary. Getting out and about exploring Scotland on foot is incredibly rewarding and complements the sections of the trip where you'll be travelling by train.

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 the Isle of Skye over the summer months (June to September). The accommodations mentioned on our website are those that we normally use and are subject to availability at the time of booking, however, we work with many excellent B&Bs and small hotels in the areas you'll be visiting, 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 we 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 farmland.

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.

Nice trip in a beautiful country

4

My daughter and I signed up for this trip because we wanted an itinerary and planned outings and wanted to have a more active vacation. I received the schedule in the mail several weeks before our departure and read through everything, or at least I thought I did, but it turns out that we missed out on several potential walks due to my own oversight. Scotland is beautiful and we saw a lot of it, though it often felt like we spent more time traveling to locations than actually being there. As others have said, the luggage gets heavy and carting it around place to place on planes, trains, & automobiles got to be tiring. The B & B's were okay - two were outstanding, one was good, and the other two I would not stay in again. Overall, for a first time vacation of this type, everything went smoothly. If I were to go back to Scotland, and I would definitely like to, I would choose maybe two locations to stay at and rent a car to travel to places of interest, and plan my own walks. I discovered the website walkhighlands.co.uk that lists all the walking trails around Scotland. It came in handy when we wanted to walk on the Isle of Skye but didn't have time to do the long walk in the itinerary. The final walk from Fort William to Spean Bridge was long. I had no problem with it, but my daughter did not like that there was no trail from Gairlochy to Spean Bridge so we were walking in a narrow road much of the last 4 miles and encountered a lot of truck traffic. The tour of Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle was okay, though I would have preferred a smaller group (there were about 50 of us on the bus). The tour of Skye was excellent and our tour guide was very entertaining (and patient). We met wonderful people on our trip, had some great food (do make reservations for dinner - they were needed most everywhere), and had a great time exploring a beautiful country. I think if I were to do another trip like this, I would pay more for the luxury adventure as I like nicer accommodations.

Stacey

Texas

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A Splendid Adventure!

5

Thank you so much for the professionalism and attention to detail by Anna Wren and Caroline Sloan who planned our Scottish Highlands Rail and Hike Adventure! They accommodated our every request and put together a fabulous itinerary with very nice accommodations. We were able to see and do so much in during a period when the weather was absolutely spectacular. We were able to take in some summer theatre in Pitlochry and enjoyed tours in Loch Ness and Skye and indulged in dinner at the Interlochy Castle Hotel. We completed four hikes: Killiecrankie to Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Isle of Skye and a portion of the Great Glen Way. The hike on the Isle of Skye was stunning although it took us about 10 hours. I would like to share a video of it, however the editing isn't completed. We loved this trip! I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Vicki

California

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Fantastic hiking and rail holiday in Scotland

5

When we booked our rail and hike holiday to Scotland we chose May to avoid the midges and were prepared for whatever the weather threw at us. We hit the jackpot. Beautiful warm sunny days, no rain for 12 days; ideal for walking and enjoying the amazing scenery. We liked the pace of the trip with rail journeys through beautiful countryside interspersed between longer walks. The highlight was the walk across the cliffs form The Old Man of Storr back to Portree. It was also fascinating to see both ends of the Caledonian Canal and learn about the geology and history of the area. I would recommend travelling first class on the Jacobite steam train for that extra luxury. We ate out every night and the fresh fish, seafood dishes were all very good and reasonable priced. All in all, a very well organised holiday filled with many happy times and experiences.

Vanessa

London

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Macs made it so easy to have a great vacation

5

Everything was well organized. The app was the bomb! Downloading the maps ahead and always knowing where we were on the trail was so reassuring.

S&K

USA

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Well Organised

5

We enjoyed our trip overall. Highlights, were the tour of Blair Castle, the walk from Blair Atholl to Pitlochry and the standout was the hike from Store Loch Dam to Portree. Train trips were nice overall. We didn't care as much for the very popular Jacobite Train trip to Fort William, but that's just us. People were great, whether the owners of the B&Bs or servers in pubs or the public. Having the itinerary laid out made the trip much easier and a big thank you to Cara for providing me a replacement itinerary.

Glen

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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Great way to see some of the best of Scotland

5

Great way to see Scotland. Everything was well organized and the directions for the most part were spot on. The only caveat was the coastal walk from the Storr to Portree. The trail was pretty nonexistent and very wet. We were never sure if we were on the right path and turned around about half way and retraced our steps. Scenery was still outstanding and Alan and Ruth at our B&B kindly put our wet shoes in the drying room. All in all a wonderful adventure.

Diane

San Diego, CA

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I would go with Macs Adventure again!

5

Macs Adventure produced a great package that totally worked. We had no problems, but felt we could always contact them for assistance. Selected B&Bs were always fun and welcoming, as well as clean and neat. Prepared information packets were very helpful and detailed. We felt well prepared as we set out as beginner travelers!

Happy hiker

California

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Sky is not the limit

5

Accomodation was consistently good. Too many loud tourists on Harry Potter train trip. One day impacted by a train cancelation out of Inverness.

Macro

Melbourne

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10 days in Scotland do this trip

4

For travelers that like to "do their own thing" this was just the right mix of well-paced, pre-arranged transit and accommadations through a pretty thorough selection of should see areas and sites, with plenty of flexibility for exploring and food/fun exploring along the way.

JT

OC CA

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Absolutely !

5

Great experience. Great way to see Scotland. Rail travel was easy and stress free. Rail stations conveniently located in city centers and and within easy walking distance of hotels. Hotels were all good, one somewhat noisy. Everyone we met was very welcoming and helpful. Directions were generally easy to follow. Pitlochy definitely worth visiting. Edradour distillery tour in Pitlochy very good. We would highly recommend taking a tour of the Isle of Skye. The island is a natural wonder that should be seen beyond Portree and vicinity. We used SkyeBus, which was very good. Make reservations at Portree restaurants. Make sure you call ahead if you want a ride from Gairlochy to Spaen Bridge. There are no services in Gairlochy and we were without cell service. Fortunately a local work crew made a call for us for a ride to our hotel in Spaen Bridge. Again great trip.

LJF

Minnesota, U.S.

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The Highlands & Isle of Skye: Rail & Hike

4.6 29

100.0

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