12 Days Awe-Inspiring Scotland Itinerary by Train

pretty vilage in scottish highlands

Travel across Highlands from Edinburgh to Inverness with the train. Historic cities, enchanting castles, scenic hikes and foodie destinations. This 12 day/11 nights Scotland itinerary by train includes visits to charming towns and villages, and each town has a story to tell and is a pleasure to explore.

Is this self-guided Scotland itinerary by train for me?

Scotland itinerary by train is designed for people who want a more eco-friendly journey, with less stress, leaving the airport or road madness behind.

This itinerary is specifically designed for travellers who enjoy walking or hiking in areas of outstanding natural beauty and who like visiting charming villages, meeting local people and getting to know more about Scottish folklore traditions or wildlife.

Scotland itinerary by train  

lets you discover the finest places of Highland Perthshire, Cairngorms National Park and the Inverness area. The regions are fine to discover at any time of the year but particularly beautiful in autumn because of the turning of the leaves in woodlands and forests are a riot of colour.

Vibrant towns and villages

like Pitlochry and Kingussie offer plenty of interesting places to eat and shop. From romantic strolls in Hermitage or riverside walks in ancient woodland to picnics by the waterfalls. From dancing ceilidh at the local pub to drinking a wee dram of whisky by the fire in a cosy cottage. You can enjoy them all!

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Scotland by train

If you like to travel in comfort and style, or perhaps you want to travel directly from London to Inverness, then a luxury sleeper train to Scotland is the best option for you. You can do this itinerary in reverse too.

This overnight train

travels from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen or Fort William. From comfort seats, double rooms and ensuite hotel room experience, The Caledonian Sleeper has the offer to everyone’s budget.

Edinburgh is the best city as a starting point for Scotland by train, but has a good train connection with the other cities like Glasgow, and so easily accessible from the rest of the UK.

Where can I go on a train in Scotland?

In Scotland, there is quite a good train network, travelling Scotland by train could not be easier. And most of the main train lines run along scenic routes and through stunning places in Scotland. Great Scenic Rail Journeys include six different train journeys through unforgettable Scottish scenery.

Here in this post,  Scotland itinerary by train has recommendations for the Highland Main route that goes through Highland Perthshire and Cairngorms National Park and stops in pretty highland villages.

Touring Scotland by train
Scotland by train

How many days do you need to see Scotland?

The best thing is to remember that you have limited time here in Scotland, so although it is good to see and do many things, it is also important to enjoy your holiday. Avoid the temptation of rushing from one site to another, ticking off a long list of “must-see” attractions. You can read this post to help you plan the trip of a lifetime. And here you will find the tips on how to find cheap tickets and save money.  

I think 12 days/11 nights is a good amount of time to get familiar with this area of Scotland. Obviously, you can extend or shorten your Scotland itinerary by train, and I will add extra recommendations if you’d like to stay longer in a particular place or explore it further.

Here’s a teaser for what a Scotland itinerary by train might look like.

Day 1: Edinburgh

Start your Scotland itinerary by train in Edinburgh. It is one of this trip’s must-see destinations. Easily accessible within the UK or from overseas, it’s a compact city where most of the attractions are within walking distance.

Start your tour

by visiting the iconic Edinburgh Castle, home to kings and queens for many centuries. Walking down the cobbled streets, explore Old Town, a UNESCO site. Here you will find a few interesting stops you might want to visit, such National Museum of Scotland (free entrance) where you can learn about Scotland’s beginnings.

Make sure

you catch the Terrace Lift, the hidden roof terrace at the very top of the building. Or follow in the steps of Harry Potter and visit locations that inspired J. K. Rowling, including Greyfriars Kirkyard and Victoria Street (Diagon Alley). Finish your day in style with a wee dram of the finest whisky at the Scottish Whisky Experience, located just next to the castle.

Edinburgh Castle, best edinburgh walking tours
Edinburgh Castle, view from Grassmarket

Day 2: Edinburgh

On day 2 of your Scotland itinerary by train take a tour of the Scottish Royal residence, Palace of Holyroodhouse. I then recommend hiking to Arthur’s Seat, our own ancient volcano, which proudly sits in the Holyrood Park.

Its history, geology and archaeology span thousands of years and you can learn about it at the visitor centre located in the park.

There are quite a few walking paths around the park and you can choose one which suits your walking ability. The view over the city from the top is worth every step.

 

Follow Edinburgh’s murders and ghosts...

This afternoon is perfect to explore Old Town’s underground city and vaults. Have you heard of the famous Edinburgh ghost stories?

The capital of Scotland may be the most haunted city in the world. Follow along with this guide for some hauntingly mysterious Edinburgh murder mysteries and ghost stories.

GET A FREE SELF GUIDED WALKING TOUR OF EDINBURGH

Day 3: Edinburgh

Today, live like a local

Experience the village atmosphere mixed with some bohemian vibes in Stockbridge. The village’s unique character along with the scenic route along the Water of Leith invites many urban explorers who prefer to travel off the beaten road.

Stockbridge is not only a picturesque village but also well-known throughout Edinburgh and beyond for quirky second-hand and vintage shops as well as the usual pre-loved stores.

Many have already spotted bargains and for just a few pounds sterling you can purchase some good stuff.  Follow this guide for the best shopping experience.

As a person who is a resident of this amazing boho village, I’d like you to experience Stockbridge like a local, so make sure to read my insider’s guide to Stockbridge. 

Not everybody knows

Edinburgh is the world’s number one festival destination. Just to name a few; Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, The Fringe Festival, The International Book Festival, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, The International Science Festival….. and many more!

What’s the best view?

Calton Hill at sunset. It’s one of the best spots for a view across the city.

Dean Village
Dean Village

Day 4: Edinburgh - Dunkeld

This morning follow your Scotland itinerary by train and catch the train to Dunkeld, which is on the Highland Main Line route (railway station Dunkeld & Birnam). On average, the journey will take 1h 40 minutes. There are four trains per day and the earliest train starts at 9.25 am.

Dunkeld,

a picturesque conservation village set in the heart of Perthshire, is located on the banks of the stunning River Tay. The Dunkeld is often described as a ‘Gateway to the Highlands’ town.

The history of Dunkeld can be traced back to the ninth century, where the town acted as an important centre for the Celtic Church. Much of the countryside surrounding the town is designated as one of Scotland’s ‘national scenic areas’, places which have been identified as areas of exceptional scenery.

Dunkeld cathedral
Scotland by train Dunkeld cathedral

You can’t miss 

  • The Dunkeld Cathedral, the number one attraction, an ancient sacred place, conserved by Historic Scotland.
  • ‘Little House, built in the early 1700s. By the 1940s the houses were falling into ruin when an appeal was made by the National Trust for Scotland to renovate and save the houses for the people of the town.

Hermitage Woodland walk.

If you have a chance to take this beautiful walk, take it. The path starts 1.1 miles from Dunkeld (you can take a bus) and has an attractive 1.5-mile woodland trail, which can be expanded further depending on your available time and walking ability.

The full route is 8 miles (Hermitage and Fiddler’s Path) This is a beautiful walk through Perthshire forests with impressive waterfalls (Black Linn) along the way. Waterfalls can be very impressive after heavy rain and snowmelt. The riverside route then continues to visit the dramatic Rumbling Bridge before a return through more open countryside with attractive views.

 

Dunkeld House Hotel
Dunkeld House Hotel

Day 5: Dunkeld to Pitlochry

After breakfast, follow your Scotland itinerary by train and catch the train to Pitlochry. With up to 8 trains a day, you can choose an off-peak ticket which is cheaper, but also the train will be less busy on this very popular route, especially during weekends.

The journey only takes around 15 minutes, so you can decide how early you want to get going. Then you’ll have the rest of the day in Pitlochry.

After check-in at your hotel, take a walk around the town.

Pitlochry

is a pretty Victorian spa town located within stunning scenery in Highland Perthshire. The town became a popular destination because of the clear air and waters of the region. Since the Highland Main train line connected the nearby towns, travelling became much easier and available to everyone. Hotels were constructed to meet the demand and there were some famous visitors to the area, including Queen Victoria.

Autumn colours in Highlands Perthshire

As you explore the town, do not miss Heathergems Visitor Centre and Factory  

Give yourself time to walk here, because it’s on the edge of town, but totally worth it. The production of the jewellery is fascinating, as you’ll learn how Heathergems are crafted from the heather on the hills into unique pieces of jewellery. The visit starts with an excellent film explaining the process of making the jewellery.

Then you can watch the workshops,

which are open to public view so you can see the process as it happens. This family-run business manufactures unique Scottish products; nowhere else in the world will you find this range of jewellery and gifts being produced.

There are pieces for everyone in a wide variety of styles and designs, so it’s like you’re taking a piece of Scotland back home with you.

In the afternoon

learn more about whisky at a distillery once in the ownership of the New York Mafia. Walk to Edradour Distillery, the smallest distillery in Scotland, located in the little picturesque village a 45 min (5km) walk from Pitlochry.

Starting at the Atholl Road Car Park in Pitlochry, this walk takes in Black Spout Wood, two distilleries and a 60m high waterfall. At the distillery take a tour (last tour at 4 pm; Sat/Sunday closed) and learn about the making of this traditionally handcrafted ‘Water of Life’. At the end of the tour, you will be invited to Tasting Bar, the best-stocked whisky bar in any distillery.

Day 6: Pitlochry

After breakfast leave the hotel for a beautiful walk in Faskally Wood. The wood is located just 1 mile from Pitlochry and from here you can choose several paths depending on how much time you would like to spend here.

All of the Pitlochry walks start and finish in the town centre, and they are clearly marked with colour-coded signposts.

The woodland is beautiful in the summer but develops gorgeous foliage colour in the autumn. The Loch Faskally circular route is 8 miles and includes a hill walk crossing an area of typical Scottish moorland scenery, before rising to a summit with superb panoramic views.

As you walk through, take lunch at Fonab Castle Brasserie with its superb view of Faskally Loch. Or try something completely out of the ordinary with dining in a Pod, also on the grounds of the castle.

Surrounded by nature, Pods are fitted with heating, lighting and personal music systems, creating truly memorable experiences. Booking is recommended.

Other walks

which form part of the Pitlochry Path Network include The Killiecrankie Walk (2 miles) and The Bealach Walk (10 miles)

In the afternoon

visit Pitlochry Festival Theatre, known internationally as the “Theatre in the Hills”. The theatre has a famous reputation for outstanding and high-quality productions. It is located in a beautiful setting and they often hold art exhibitions. Have a meal there in the restaurant and then see the show for an entertaining evening.

Enchanted Forrest’s

innovative sound and light show, a world-famous event, happens between October and November each year and should be on your to-do list. Using the forest as a natural backdrop, you will experience a lighting show that is, quite simply, out of this world. This is a unique and magical experience, so make sure you book your tickets in advance (usually go on sale from June).

Day 7: Pitlochry to Kingussie

After breakfast, leave your hotel for your next destination, travelling Scotland by train to Kingussie. The journey takes just under an hour with trains running frequently, so you can decide how early you want to get going.

Kingussie,

a lush village in the heart of Cairngorm National Park, is rich in history, wildlife and activities and has impressive views everywhere you turn. The place is often used as a filming location; fans of Monarch of the Glen will recognise many scenes featuring Kingussie. Outlander fans will be pleased that the nearby Highland Museum was used for filming in episode 1.

The area is abundant in wildlife, with many places to birdwatch or spot red squirrels, ospreys or red martins. Riverside walking, cycling, or even waterside sports; whatever you’re after, you will find it here in this lively village. What I love about it, however, is the tranquillity of this place, which in comparison to busy, bustling Aviemore is just serene.

After checking in to your accommodation,

take a stroll around the village, visiting the local art gallery The Iona Gallery which promotes local art and craftwork which is on regular display for sale.

Take a walk to Ruthven Barracks, which are almost on your doorstep, if history is of interest. The barracks are situated on the site of the medieval castles and were originally built for British troops to keep law and order in the Highlands.

After the Jacobite Rising in 1746, it was also the gathering place of the remaining Jacobite soldiers after the Battle of Culloden. Admission is free, and it is within easy walking distance of the town.

View from Ruthven Barracks
View from Ruthven Barracks

Day 8: Kingussie

After breakfast, take a 7-mile circular walk (Kingussie to Newtonmore via Loch Gynack) through wild woods with fantastic views of the distant mountains.

For a full-day trip and fantastic cultural experience include a visit to the near open-air folk museum.

Highland Folk Museum is located on the edge of Newtonmore. The Outlander series was filmed here, clearly the reason for my visit!

There were smoke-filled crofts and actors on-site in period costumes. You get a real insight of the living and working conditions of the Highlands in the past, so one can imagine being in that era from the moment you walk in.

Opening times: seasonal from May till October

Entrance Free (donations welcomed)

Partially suitable for visitors with limited mobility

Kingussie path networks
Kingussie path networks

Day 9: Kingussie to Inverness

There are up to 11 trains per day from Kingussie to Inverness and the journey times takes around 1 hour.

So there is no rush in the morning, and you can relax before you take Scotland by train to the capital of the Highlands.

Inverness

is not a large city and for sightseeing, one day is enough in my opinion.

But Inverness is a perfect base for day trips if you do not have a car, and you still want to see more of the Highlands.

After you check in to your hotel, take a walk to the main attraction, the spectacular Inverness Castle overlooking the River Ness.

Make sure you take a stroll along the River Ness and around St Andrews Cathedral.

If you would like to learn more about Scottish life in the Highlands and see some of the work from local craftspeople head to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

For book (and map) lovers,

I highly recommend a visit to Leakey’s Second-hand Bookshop. It’s one of those shops where you can lose yourself for hours, and with 100,000 books it’s easy to see why.

It was featured on Tatler’s list of the world’s most beautiful bookstores.

The bookshop is located in the old Gaelic Church (1793) with original features like the spiral staircase and fireplace, making it a very atmospheric place.

A brilliant place to start the evening

is Hootananny’s, or Hoots as it’s commonly known by locals.  Folk sessions are held every Sunday to Thursday night, but live music is also played throughout the weekend.

In the summer months, you may also be fortunate enough to see the Inverness British Legion pipe band playing in the High Street (Tuesday night), along with local Highland dancers in their colourful tartan kilts.

Leakey’s Second-hand Bookshop
Photo credit: Leakey’s Second-hand Bookshop

Day 10: Inverness

Today take an educational wildlife cruise with Dolphin Spirit. The Moray Firth & Inverness Dolphins Cruise will give you the opportunity to see otters, seals, red kites, ospreys, herons and, with some luck, the resident bottlenose dolphins which all make use of the Moray Firth.

All guides

are experts in their fields and include several marine biologists and shore watchers. You will hear a commentary about local wildlife, history, folklore and attractions. The company is part of the Dolphin Space program, which means they follow regulations that protect animals and make sure no harm is done to the wildlife.

Tours run at 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm and 4 pm every day, weather permitting. The trip is roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes long, going between the Beauly Firth and Inverness Firth. The peak season for dolphin activity is between May and August.

I would advise checking with the office when the tide will be rising, which can affect your chances of seeing dolphins (the best time to see them is usually on a rising tide).

The company also runs rib experience, a speed boat which goes much further than the larger vessel (and faster) so you have more opportunity to see the dolphins.

 

Day 11: Inverness

Today take a relaxing day and let someone guide you around the best sightseeing spots around Inverness. These tours have received 5* ratings from travellers, and I can personally highly recommend them.

The tours are run by local people who are knowledgeable about the history and local traditions. There are many tours to choose from, and what you select depends on what you are most interested in. You can choose between:

Small groups day tours from Inverness

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

If you would like to see Loch Ness I highly recommend The Complete Loch Ness Experience. You can enjoy incredible views from a cruise, learn about the historic ruins of Urquhart Castle, and experience the less frequented south roads of the loch.

Experience the natural wonders of Scotland’s most famous island Isle of Skye with Skye & Eilean Donan Castle tour

Glen Affric, Culloden & Clava Cairns – 1-day tour for Outlander fans plus discovering Scotland’s most beautiful glen.

Torridon, Applecross & Eilean Donan Castle – 1-day tour to see the iconic castle and the wildest part of the Highlands

Three-day tours from Inverness

Lewis, Harris & the Outer Hebrides – 3-day tour

If you like to see more of Scotland take a small group (max 16 people) tour to the Outer Hebrides. Learn about the rich history of the island, including its Viking past, not to mention the stunning scenery as you travel through. 

Orkney Explorer – 3-day tour

The archipelago of Orkney hides many treasures: and on our new three-day tour, your experienced guide will ensure you find the best of them

The North Coast 500 – 3 day tour

On this tour, your driver-guide takes you to the best spots to sample the sumptuous seafood, admire amazing landscapes, and learn the legendary tales.

Day 11: Depart

Unfortunately, is time to leave Inverness and finish your Scotland by train itinerary to return home. 

These are just some of the travelling by train highlights to see in Scotland, but there’s so much more to uncover. Schedule your consultation today and we can get started on creating your personalized Scotland itinerary.

FAQ

  • Advance tickets If you know your exact travel dates, book Advance tickets ahead of schedule to reserve your seat; 3 months ahead
  • Anytime tickets Offer complete flexibility. Catch any applicable train at a time that suits you, although seats cannot be reserved and are not guaranteed.
  • Off-Peak tickets Travel at less busy times and benefit from reduced fares
  • Super Off-Peak tickets Like Off-Peak tickets, but only available at the very quietest times of the day. Prices tend to be cheaper

There are four different ways available for you to book train tickets in Scotland.

  • Buying online is a great way of looking at Advance ticket options and train times picking up travel tips along the way
  • Using app to book your tickets means you’ve got more control over your train travel.
  • In the UK, you still have the choice of buying printed “paper tickets” from a machine at the station
  • On the train In some rural and quiet areas of the UK, there won’t be ticket machines. Trains in these parts of Britain will travel with a conductor who’ll be able to sell you a ticket.

There are several options for you to pick up them, and they’re all quick and easy.

  • eticket are fast and secure – simply store the PDF (portable document format) on your phone and portable device or print at home
  • Mobile Ticket Skip the queues at the machine and get your ticket straight inTrainline app. Simply scan the barcode at the gates.
  • Collect at the station Print a paper ticket at the ticket machine at the station using a unique collection code. You’ll need to bring the credit or debit card you used to pay with you to collect the tickets.
  • By post tickets they’ll be delivered straight to your door. (Additional postage fees apply). I will not recommend this option. If tickets get lost in the post, you will not get a refund.

Book in advance train tickets in the UK usually go on sale 3 months before the date of travel

Travel Off-Peak choosing times of day that are less busy.

Consider a Railcard They’re types of train discount cards you can buy for £30 for unlimited use. You can get up to a 1/3 off the price of Off-Peak train tickets when using a Railcard.

GroupSave is a concession that allows any group of 3 – 9 passengers travelling together up to a 34% discount on Off-Peak tickets on selected routes

You can travel with three items of luggage per person on most trains in Scotland. This usually means you can take two suitcases and a piece of hand luggage. Some stations provide luggage storage facilities (in case you’ll do a round trip and come back to that place). Check it here

On longer or more popular routes, you can usually reserve a seat if you book a ticket for a fixed time and request a seat allocation when you book. You can request services like an aisle or window seat, a forward or rear-facing seat, a seat in the quiet carriage, a table seat, or a seat near a toilet.

More information and how to check your journey

12 Days Awe-Inspiring Scotland Itinerary by Train
About me
kasia

My name is Kate and I created Scotland Itinerary Planning to give you those life-changing experiences right in the beautiful country I call home.

I’m proud to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities. Living in Edinburgh has provided me a base to explore extensively around this magical little country.

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