Highlands, lochs and epic landscapes: Scotland’s best rail routes to take it all
Despite what we all grew up believing, a fulfilling travel experience doesn’t have to involve flying.
In reality, to travel by train offers many benefits, including the ability to incorporate your trip into your vacation. Taking your time getting to your final destination allows you to discover hidden gems along the way.
That’s what slow travel experts Byway hope to deliver with their new rail links across Scotland.
Train travel is about the “joyful experience of travel”
“Slow travel isn’t just about avoiding flying – it’s the joyful experience of traveling and savoring little moments,” says company founder and CEO Cat Jones.
“If you’ve ever taken the train from Edinburgh you’ll know how quickly the scenery transforms from city to stunning wilderness.”
The travel agency has teamed up with VisitScotland and train operator London North Eastern Railway to offer a series of new flightless journeys to the Cairngorms and the East of Scotland. VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughhead says the country has a lot to offer all year round.
“There is so much to explore and discover, but only by slowing down can you fully immerse yourself in our stunning landscapes, landscapes, heritage and culture.”
“By taking your time, you can assess the impact of your trip, more sustainable choicesreducing your impact on the environment and contributing to the quality of life of valuable Scottish communities,” he adds.
What is the carbon footprint of a flight from London to Edinburgh?
According to Byway, if you’re concerned about environmental impact, you could take the train from London to Edinburgh and back five times and your carbon would still be lower than if you had flown.
All of Byway’s trips can be customized to your own needs, but here are just a few examples of how you could experience Scotland the easy way.
River Spey: Slow Journey from London to Aberdeen
From London, take a scenic train ride to Edinburgh through the countryside. The trip offers beautiful scenery with glimpses of Scottish castles and coastlines.
Spend the night in the capital to admire its stunning architecture or take a boat trip on the waters of the River Forth. Then cross this waterway over the Forth Bridge to exit via Perth, through the Grampian Mountains to reach Kingussie.
From here you can take the short bus ride to Loch Insh for a few minutes. wild swimming or paddle board. After enjoying all that this friendly city has to offer, an hour’s train ride will take you to Inverness, where the River Ness and Moray Firth meet.
There are plenty of cultural and culinary experiences to be had here. Walk to Inverness Castle, perched on a hill above the river or cruise the Caledonian Canal to famous Loch Ness.
The last stop on this slow travel route is Aberdeen. Just under two and a half hours by train from Inverness, this town is full of old-fashioned pubs and a vibrant nightlife.
Cruise back to London overnight the Caledonian sleeper with your own bed in your own cabin.
The Highlands: walks and whiskey galore
If you prefer stunning scenery and whiskey tours, then instead of heading to Edinburgh, board the train from London straight to Inverness. Known as the Highland Chieftan Line, this route will take you through some of the finest mountain and sea views in Scotland.
From Inverness, you can take the bus for an hour’s journey to Granton-on-Spey, on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. It is an ideal base for slow travel through Strathspey.
Walk between distilleries on a whiskey trail to discover one of the region’s most famous products. If you are traveling in winter there is a range of trails to explore in the Cairngorm or Lecht ski areas.
Or you can simply explore the scenic views the national park has to offer by Trek some of its trails.
When you’re done, hop back on the bus to Inverness and then hop back on the train to London’s King’s Cross Station.