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Top Scenic Scottish Rail Journeys

Scotland is home to some of the World’s most scenic railway lines. From epic journeys to the Far North or the gentle rocking of steam trains chuffing along preserved tracks, there is a train trip for everyone in Scotland. In this blog, we’ll look at the top scenic Scottish railway journeys for you to consider.

Settle back and get ready for an unforgettable journey with stunning views. That’s what train travel in Scotland is all about!

The Far North Line

St John Square in Thurso

A public holiday was announced in Inverness when work started on the Far North Line in 1860. It took another 14 years before the line reached Thurso, the most northerly station in Britain.

This train journey leaves Inverness behind and heads west along the banks of the Beauly Firth. At Muir of Ord, the line heads northwards into Ross and Cromarty.

The train glides along the coast of the Cromarty Firth, where you can spot Foulis Castle and the town of Invergordon, which boasts a fascinating collection of murals created by the local groups – with subjects covering everything from lifeboats to the local Anglers.

Whisky Country

Glenmorangie Distillery

This part of the route is home to many whisky distilleries, including Teaninich, Dalmore and Glenmorangie in Tain and Balblair.

The line turns inland but returns to the coast for a stop at Dunrobin Castle station, which is close to the stunning castle.

You will continue past Helmsdale to Altnabreac – where the landscape becomes more isolated. From there, it is a short distance to Georgemas Junction, where the train goes north first to Thurso and then back east to Wick.

Whether you decide to stop at Thurso, the most northern station in the British Isles, or discover the old herring port of Wick, this is a journey to the very northern limits of the mainland.

West Highland Line

This scenic journey is considered by many as the World’s most memorable rail journeys.

Loch Lomond

Work commenced in 1889 when the first sod was cut using a silver spade. The line reached Oban in 1880, but it was another 14 years before the link to Fort William was opened. The line’s construction through inhospitable terrain was considered a feat of engineering. The final extension was to Mallaig, which opened in 1901.

The train escapes Glasgow City by going west along the River Clyde to Helensburgh and then north via Garelochead and Loch Long. And then, you discover a world of dense forests, majestic mountains and reflective lochs.

It’s not long before there are beautiful views of Loch Lomond and the Arrochar Alps – Beinn Narnain, Beinn Ime and The Cobbler.

The line splits at Crianlarich, leading to Oban, or Fort William and Mallaig.

Westward to Oban

The train follows the north side of Loch Awe under the shadow of Ben Cruachan. Watch for Kilchurn Castle, a 15th-century ruin at the end of Loch Awe.

The train departs the loch and continues along the River Awe towards Loch Etive. Watch out for the bubbling rapids at the Falls of Lora near Connell before the train arrives in Oban. From there, the ferries sail to Mull, Iona and the Outer Hebrides.

North to Fort William

Rannoch Station

Going north from Crianlarich is a stunning sight, starting with the amazing Horseshoe Curve that goes in, around and out of the glen under Ben Dorain.

Then the scenery changes into the wilderness of Rannoch Moor – where the line hovers over the peat bog with a backdrop of towering mountains on all sides.

The UK’s highest train station is at Corrour. You might also know it from scenes in the movie “Trainspotting”. As the train moves on to Fort William, look out for Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain.

Onwards to Mallaig

After Fort William, you’ll pass the Caledonian Canal and Neptune’s Staircase, a fantastic series of canal locks.

The line runs along the banks of Loch Eil and then follows the famous bend of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which offers impressive views of Loch Shiel and the monument to the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.

The way to Mallaig takes you past Lochs Eilt, Ailort and Nan Uamh – all stunningly beautiful – before reaching Morar’s sandy beaches, another film location, this time Local Hero. The last part of the journey to Mallaig gives you views of the Isle of Skye, which is only a short ferry crossing from the port.

Jacobite Steam Train crossing The Glenfinnan Viaduct

The West Highland Line and the Jacobite Steam Train

The section of route between Fort William and Mallaig is perhaps the most well-known piece of rail track in the World after being used by the Harry Potter films as the route taken by the Hogwarts Express.

The Jacobite Steam Train, which played the part of the Hogwarts Express, operates two return trips daily during the summer. 

Highland Main Line

This scenic railway line links several great Scottish cities and passes through stunning landscapes along the way.

From Edinburgh, the journey starts by crossing the impressive Forth Bridge and then through the ancient Kingdom of Fife before reaching Perth. Departing from Glasgow, the train heads to historic Stirling, famous for its ancient castle and the National Wallace Monument.

Jacobite Battles

ScotRail HST on The Highland Line

From Perth, the only way is north, through Highland Perthshire, known as ‘Big Tree Country’ and the Cairngorms National Park. You will see Dunkeld, Pitlochry and Killiecrankie, where the famous Jacobite battle occurred in 1689. During the skirmish, a Redcoat soldier lept 18 feet across the gorge, escaping capture!

It’s a long climb through the Pass of Dummochter to reach the summit, which marks the highest point on the UK rail network. As the train enters the Spey Valley, look out for Dalwhinnie, famous for its whisky distillery and later on the lonely ruins of Ruthven Barracks.

Admire the backdrop of the Cairngorm Mountains, including Ben Macdui, the UK’s second highest peak and the home of the mysterious ‘Grey Man of Ben Macdui’.

Steam Train on the Strathspey Railway

Steam Trains

The penultimate stop is Aviemore, one of Scotland’s most popular skiing destinations and the starting point of the Strathspey Steam Railway. This heritage line is served by steam-hauled trains, which operate through delightful scenery to Boat of Garten and Broomhill.

The final section of the route crosses the dramatic Culloden Viaduct and along the banks of the Moray Firth into Inverness.

The Kyle Line


The train departs Inverness and follows the southern bank of the Beauly Firth, passing through Dingwall and reaching Garve – watch out for the peak of Ben Wyvis, which dominates the surrounding countryside.

The line travels through the wild Highland landscape to reach Strathcarron, then sweeps along the banks of picturesque Loch Carron. Watch out for the white-painted cottages of Lochcarron and the massive Torridon Peaks on the western side.

The pretty palm-tree village of Plockton overlooks a pretty bay with yachts at anchor. At Duirinish, we meet up with the sea again and enjoy spectacular views of the Cuillin Hills on Skye for the final part of the journey into Kyle of Lochalsh.

Borders Railway Line

The Borders Railway starts at a station named after a novel by Sir Walter Scott and finishes near his beloved home, Abbotsford House.

Abbotsford House

The train heads south from Edinburgh Waverley through old mining villages like Newtongrange and Gorebridge. Then, heads through the rolling open farmland and lush valleys of the southern uplands.

From Stow, with its delightful 17th-century packhorse bridge, the train moves on to Galashiels, one of the largest towns in the border region. Galashiels has a long tradition of textile-making, so it is fitting that the town is home to the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

The end of the line is Tweedbank, a short walk from Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott’s home, where you can learn about the history of one of Scotland’s most famous writers.

Discover Scotland’s Scenic Railways with Scottish Tours

If you want to discover Scotland’s railways for yourself, we can help. Join the 4-day Scenic Scottish Railways tour from Edinburgh or 5-day Scottish Highland Railways air-inclusive tour starting from Inverness.

We make it easy to include a memorable railway trip as part of your Scotland holiday plans. Check our wide selection of holidays and book your Scotland Tour today.

Photo credits: Bruce Galloway, Alexander Johnson, Shutterstock and VisitScotland