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Grand Tour of Scotland: Rail & Hike

13 Days & 12 Nights
  • Explore Scotland's impressive landscapes, coastlines and forested glens on foot and by rail
  • Hike sections of the famous West Highland Way and Great Glen Way trails
  • Enjoy the country's most scenic rail journeys and ride the Jacobite steam train
  • Discover Skye's lively island towns and dramatic coastlines
  • Challenge yourself with an optional ascent of Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain
  • Uncover Scotland’s rich history and sample delicious local cuisine
Immerse yourself in the ultimate Scottish experience on this stress-free rail & hike adventure, where we have taken care of the details. Soak in the scenery on epic rail journeys; from the world-renowned West Highland Line aboard the romantic Jacobite steam train, to the remote Kyle Line traversing the country's wild interior. Walk stretches of the iconic West Highland Way and Great Glen Way trails, wander hand-picked routes in charming Perthshire and enjoy an optional hike up Ben Nevis. Spend time exploring the rugged coastline and quaint villages of Skye. This is Scotland in all of it's grandeur; from clan castles, sweeping coastlines, dramatic mountain ranges, to rich history and vibrant cities. Hop aboard and experience it for yourself!
Ideal for those seeking an all-encompassing journey through Scotland taking in the country's highlights, best-loved locations and a smattering of hidden gems, complemented with stays in hand-picked accommodations. This easy to moderate self-guided rail & hike walking holiday is perfect for a mix of abilities; some days have optional walks allowing flexibility depending on your mood or energy levels. Largely, easy-going trails will take you along mountain glens and clifftop paths, across scenic moorland, past tumbling waterfalls and ancient castles. You will spend two night stays in some locations allowing plenty of time for sightseeing or additional walks, and keeping packing and unpacking to minimum.

Tour Style:

Self Guided | Go at your own pace on an independent tour.

Activity:

Rail & Hike | See more of a destination by mixing train travel with walks accessible from the rail-line. Travel inn-to-inn by train & enjoy hikes from each stopping point. Train fare inc- no baggage transfers.

This trip is suitable for:

Multi-Generational, Mixed Abilities, First Timers

As a guide, we would suggest that the minimum age of traveler this tour would be suitable for is: 12 Years

Ideal if you have an interest in:

  • Special Occasions

Inspiration:

  • Classic

Activity Level & Terrain

The tour is graded as easy to moderate, but there are plenty of optional walks to choose from so you can make the trip more relaxed or challenging to suit you. All of the walks are easy to moderate in grade except the optional ascent of Ben Nevis (moderate to strenuous), and range from 4.5-22 km. The trip covers a great variety of terrain from forest trails, rougher hill and mountain paths, sections on quiet country roads, some town walking, and good to faint coastal paths following clifftops. Excluding Ben Nevis daily ascent varies from 27-443m making the routes very manageable for most regular walkers.

Please bear in mind that a hike up Ben Nevis is an altogether more serious objective for the unseasoned, casual walker. Although certainly manageable it makes for a challenging day out only recommended in good weather, and with an early start to allow for plentiful breaks along the way. The route is 16.5 km long, will take in 1326 m of continuous ascent to the summit. The route will likely take 7-10 hours unless you are a very fit and frequent hiker. If you go ahead make sure to be prepared for all weathers, so you can linger on the summit to soak up the spectacular and well-deserved view from the highest mountain in the UK.

Navigation

All of the routes are available via our Macs Adventure smartphone navigation app, where you will find GPX tracks, route notes and detailed digital maps. The app works on airplane mode so that you can enjoy the trail free of interruptions and conserve battery-life.

As is the nature of Scottish walking you will experience a great variation in trail quality from well-made tracks and paths to muddier and fainter sections of path on quieter, less-trod trails. The walks on this tour follow well-signposted Great Trails (the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way) along with unmarked routes that receive less traffic, but are still easy to follow with the assistance of the Macs App.

Accommodations

Included in the trip are 12 nights of accommodation in hand-picked small 3-4* hotels, B&B's or guesthouses. We carefully select friendly accommodations that offer great value, food and a warm welcome. The properties we normally use are detailed in the itinerary. However, these are subject to availability and when they are fully booked alternatives of an equal standard will be offered. 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.

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

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. In this case you can opt to change your dates, or we can arrange transfers to and from an alternative overnight accommodation (supplement payable for transfers).

Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

This holiday is available to solo walkers, although a solo 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 room 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 accommodations may be able 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.

Check-In Times

Although you may be arriving at your accommodation early off the train most accommodations aren't able to give access to your room until after 3pm. However, you will be able to leave your main luggage with your host at reception/in storage while you head out for your walk, or sightseeing. 

Included
  • 12 Nights in hand-picked B&B's, guesthouses and small hotels
  • 12 Breakfasts
  • Luggage transfer on days 2 & 3
  • Train travel (standard class) on days 1, 4, 9, 11 & 13
  • Jacobite steam train (standard class) from Fort William to Mallaig on day 6
  • Ferry from Mallaig to Armadale (Skye) on day 6
  • Taxi transfers as detailed on days 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10
  • Information Pack via your "My Account"
  • Route notes and access to detailed maps & GPS tracks in the Macs Adventure smartphone navigation app
  • 24/7 Emergency telephone support from our UK & US office
Excluded
  • Travel to Glasgow / from Edinburgh
  • Public transport or taxis for optional walks on days 5, 8 & 12
  • Optional excursions from Portree
  • Lunches, dinners, snacks & drinks
  • Personal equipment
  • Travel insurance (required)
Extras
  • Additional nights (recommended in Glasgow & Edinburgh)

When To Go

This trip is available from the end of April until the end of September, and you can begin on any day of the week. 

Portree is a popular overnight stop on Skye and can be busy during the summer season, so if you have any flexibility with your dates please let your Adventure Specialist know when you book.

Weather and Climate

Scotland enjoys a temperate climate, meaning it's relatively mild all year, except in winter when temperatures occassionally dip below 0 degrees Celsius for short periods. The Highlands are renowned for variable weather so you should be prepared for everything; from 'dreich' days (a Scottish word for drizzly days that are a bit bleak) to days with beatiful blue skies and warmer weather. Whatever the weather it tends to be breezy so spare layers in your day-pack are always recommended.

From the end of April to October average daily temperatures vary from 9-15 degrees Celsius. Monthly rainfall varies from 10-16 mm per month on averarge. Generally May-July are the driest and mildest months, but walking later in the year from Sep-Oct is pleasant in cooler temperatures and with great autumnal scenery as the leaves begin to change colour.

Getting to the Start

By Air: Located 8 miles west of Glasgow, Glasgow International Airport is served by routes from Britain and around the world. A regular shuttle bus service runs to the city centre, or you can take a taxi (25 minutes).

By Train: Glasgow has excellent rail links from within the UK, and is less than one hour on the train from Edinburgh city centre. There are two stations in the city centre, Central Station and Queen Street Station (links north to the Highlands). We recommend booking early to get the best fares. For information on all routes visit National Rail Enquires or Scotrail if traveling from within Scotland.

By Bus: Glasgow's main centrail bus station is Buchanan Street Bus Station, it is well-served with frequent services and airport shuttle transfers. Services from UK destinations are operated by National Express. Services from Scottish destinations are operated by Citylink.

By Car: If arriving in Glasgow, well-served by numerous road links, by car you can book long stay city centre car parking here. However, this is an expensive option so if possible we recommend using public transport. Returning to Glasgow to collct your car from Edinburgh at the end of the trip is easy by train or bus. 

Getting from the End

Travel from Blair Atholl to Edinburgh (2 hours) on your final day is included in the tour cost. Being the capital city,  Edinburgh is well connected by transport links to the rest of the UK. 

By Train: Travel to Glasgow on the train is possible in under 1 hour, check timetables and book tickets with Scotrail. Otherwise, there are travel links to all over Scotland and south to London regularly throughout the day. UK-wide tickets timetables are available on National Rail Enquires

By Bus: Onward travel is also possible by bus, you can check timetables across the UK with National Express, or for journeys within Scotland Citylink is easiest. 

By Air: Both Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports are well-served by low-cost and scheduled airlines. From Edinburgh city centre you can travel by tram or bus (approx. 30 minutes) to Edinburgh Airport for your onward flights. If flying from Glasgow Airport you can take a Citylink bus from Edinburgh city centre to Glasgow Airport, or take the train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to Glasgow Queen Street Station. From Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow there are frequent buses (bookable with Citylink) to the airport that take approx 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can book a taxi to Glasgow Airport with some taxi companies for a fixed rate - the journey from the city centre to the airport takes approx. 25 mins.

Luggage Transfer

Your bags will be transferred for you on days 2 and 3 when you walk from Ardlui to Crianlarich and then onto Bridge of Orchy. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 18 kg per person. On your travel days, we ask that you take all of your baggage with you aboard the train/bus/ferry. The trip is designed so that during the hikes you are free to walk with just a day pack.

Equipment

No specialist equipment is required on this trip. Our information pack contains a recommended kit list including items such as a waterproof jacket and trousers, a warm insulated jacket (either down or synthetic), with wicking baselayers and a fleece top to wear underneath. Walking socks along with a hat, neck warmer (e.g. a "Buff"), and gloves/mitts will also be useful. A small daypack, less than 25 litres, should be more than ample for your daily walks. You can wear either walking boots or walking shoes, according to your prefernce, as long as they have a good tread for grip on the trails.

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.

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Itinerary

Day 1 Train from Glasgow to Ardlui and overnight Day 2 Walk to Crianlarich on the West Highland Way 9.5 miles / 15 km Day 3 Walk to Bridge of Orchy on the West Highland Way 13.5 miles / 22 km Day 4 Optional walk and train to Fort William 5 miles / 8 km Day 5 Optional walks from Fort William 2.5 miles / 4 km Day 6 Jacobite steam train to Mallaig, ferry to Skye and overnight Day 7 Transfer to Torrin and walk to Broadford 11 miles / 17.5 km Day 8 Transfer to Portree and optional walk 3 miles / 4.5 km Day 9 Transfer to Kyle of Lochalsh, train to Inverness and optional walk 5 miles / 8 km Day 10 Transfer to Loch Laide and walk to Inverness on the Great Glen Way 12.5 miles / 20 km Day 11 Train to Blair Atholl and optional walks 4.5 miles / 7 km Day 12 Optional walks from Blair Atholl and Pitlochry 5 miles / 7.5 km Day 13 Train to Edinburgh and onward travel

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