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Written by Linda Jackson

A Trip On Belmond Royal Scotsman

Discover the magical and rugged landscapes of the Scottish Highlands on the UK’s only luxury sleeper train and change your perspective of Scotland each day… without having to change your hotel to do it.


Life on the run has a new meaning when The Royal Scotsman is involved. It’s unique - a country home on wheels where the décor is rich and the tartans local.

What a wonderful indulgent, comfortable, relaxing way to take a luxury vacation in Scotland by rail. On rare occasions, the very-Scottish luxury train even makes a run across the English border. The old clans would not have approved!

From the minute my partner and I get on the train at central Edinburgh Waverley Station in the early afternoon we feel at home, and by the time afternoon tea is served we’re beginning to get to know the other 34 guests aboard.

Accommodation is limited to just 36 guests, we like the intimacy of that; the en suite cabins are beautifully decorated in rich marquetry – an additional touch of luxury we appreciate, and we have a choice of excursions during the day, entertainment at night, and an ever-changing landscape to view throughout the journey. There’s an observation car we discover (complete with an open-air veranda),  furnished with sofas and armchairs which apparently becomes the heart of the train after dinner. ‘Idyllic’ just can’t describe quite how high we feel.

Life on the run is already beginning to excite us. We admit not quite as exciting as that of Bonnie and Clyde or Thelma and Louise, but very nearly, and as yet we’ve hardly covered any ground – or rails, in this case. 

After dinner and convivial socialising in the observation car, we retire to our cabin. From day to night cabins are transformed from a Scottish train carriage to a welcoming warm, cosy, and intimate Scottish retreat that we just wanted to curl up in cuddling our favourite teddies. You get the feeling? How considerate, too, that the train does not travel overnight to ensure a good night’s sleep. No being shaken out of bed on The Royal Scotsman.

Together with our newly acquired adopted family of 34, we savour Scottish cuisine sourced from the regions and towns that we pass through during our trip, which ranges from wild salmon straight from the lochs to tender and tasteful Aberdeen Angus sirloin, and sample many (probably too many) of the 50 plus whiskies from The Royal Scotsman cellar which each has their own story to tell. We discover we are extremely good listeners.

As for excursions and activities, generally they vary from such things as clay pigeon shooting and fly fishing to a walk through a local village or an exploration of a traditional country home; sometimes a boat trip to see wild seals, visits to museums, or tours of Scottish gardens… except that is if you’ve opted for one of the special one-off Scottish special interest railway tours that The Royal Scotsman offer.

There are four one-off special Royal Scotsman railway tours during 2013 which we’d like to share with you. With the reputation that The Royal Scotsman enjoys, there’s no doubt they will be top-notch...


The Royal Scotsman - Classic Whisky Journey: 
21-25 April 2013

The Scottish Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is the perfect partner for the Classic Whisky Journey through Scotland, it’s the world’s foremost malt whisky club with the widest selection of single cask, single malt whiskies.


Classic Whisky Journey

Guests on this Royal Scotsman holiday are accompanied by a Society Whisky Ambassador who is on board throughout the journey, and will be able to sample and discuss the Society’s exclusive and rare malts.

This Scottish luxury railway vacation passes through Carnoustie, Arbroath and Aberdeen before reaching the heart of Speyside whisky region.  Passengers will visit Glen Ord Distillery at Muir of Ord (one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland), enjoy a private distillery tour, a tastings and nosing session, and an introduction to the rich smooth-tasting 12 year-old Singleton of Glen Ord.

Other distilleries visited on this luxury railway tour of Scotland include Glenlivet Distillery, home of the iconic malt that inspired the Speyside region, and Tullibardine Distillery (strong historic links to King James IV) for a nosing straight from the cask, plus tastings of a range of vintages.

Wild Seals, magnificent views, a pretty woodland walk, a stroll through a seaside village, and a few ‘wee drams’ are options, while non-whisky drinkers can also soak up Glamis Castle and its beautiful gardens.


Country Homes and Gardens of Scotland:
7-11 June 2013

Brechin Castle Gardens, Montrose, is the first stop on this Country Homes and Gardens of Scotland tour by rail; they’re some of the finest private gardens in Scotland.


Country Homes and Gardens of Scotland

Next stop is Foulis Castle, long-time home of the Munro clan and Mrs Munro herself will welcome guests of The Royal Scotsman and relate the history of her home.

The huge west coast estate of Attadale, home to the Macpherson family, is next in line where the Water Garden, Japanese Garden and Sunken Gardens are renowned. On the Isle of Skye a trip is organised to Clan Donald estate on the Sleat peninsula which features magnificent historic gardens, an award-winning museum, and beautiful walking trails. Springtime you’ll find a heavy scent and carpet of bluebells and wild garlic.

Ballindalloch, one of Scotland’s most romantic castles, is the setting for an evening reception where there are extensive gardens, a rock garden with tumbling spring water, and a beautiful walled garden.

Next is Rothiemurchus Estate in the Cairngorms National Park: learn about ancient Caledonian pine forests, try clay pigeon-shooting or fishing, and discover the estate’s fascinating history.

The next disembarkation is at Dunkeld, to visit Ruthven House with its traditional Scottish gardens and impressive Scottish and Dutch art collection.

Last but not least is a tour of Pitmuies Garden near Forfar, with its walled potager, well-planted borders and elegant design.


Grand Tour of Great Britain:
5-12 July 2013

On this tour The Royal Scotsman winds through Scotland, through Speyside and Aberdeenshire, then crosses into England to fringe the Lake District National Park.


Grand Tour of Great Britain

The Scottish luxury sleeper train will meander through Welsh valleys and along the scenic north Wales coast before retracing its route back into England and the Cheshire and Shropshire counties.

British gems such as the World Heritage site of Bath is on The Royal Scotsman itinerary, as well as the historical cities of Chester, Oxford, Cambridge and York.

Passengers can enjoy a variety of activities such as clay pigeon shooting, fishing, a punt on the River Cam, a 25-mile coast-to-coast run on the Welsh Highland Railway, plus guided tours of ancient cities and castles.

The comprehensive itinerary includes the famous battlefield of Culloden, Strathisla Distillery, Roman Baths, and noteworthy cathedrals.

The cuisine on The Royal Scotsman is divine, but passengers will also enjoy a fine gastronomic experience at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, one of the UK’s finest country house hotels, holder of two Michelin stars.

An exclusive viewing and last night celebratory dinner will take place in a stunning setting - at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, the second largest inhabited castle in England.


Classic Scottish Golf Tour:
17-21 September 2013

This luxury golf tour of Scotland is the ultimate golf vacation which ensures that non-golfing partners are pampered too.


Classic Scottish Golf Tour

Play the most northerly of the UK’s championship golf courses, Royal Dornoch Golf Club on the shores of the Dornoch Firth, described as ‘the most beautifully situated links in the world’ by golf course architect Donald Ross. Tom Watson is an honorary member. The long tough course (6,697 yards, par 70), is isolated (no problem for privileged Royal Scotsman golfers), features tricky raised domed greens and great bunkering; the setting is breathtaking so should be on every golfer’s ‘must play’ golf agenda. www.royaldornoch.com.

Highly acclaimed Castle Stuart Golf Links, host venue for the Scottish Open 2011-2013, is a stunning new championship links course (7,009 yards, par 72) enjoying panoramic views across the Moray Firth from every hole.  Greens are fast, consistent and true, six holes run alongside the sea, views are amazing, and it’s astonishing how mature the course is considering it was only completed in 2009. www.castlestuartgolf.com.

There are towering sand dunes at the north end of highly-rated Cruden Bay Golf Club (1899) which really dominate play early in the round, and a remarkable run of holes from 13 to 16 along a narrow strip of land between the sea cliff and North Sea. Expect swathes of fairway winding through giant sand dunes and firm subtly contoured greens. www.crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk.

While golfers tackle these superb links courses, non-golfers will enjoy excursions which include the 13th century Dunrobin Castle, a birds of prey demonstration, Dalmore Distillery, Johnston’s Cashmere Centre, Ballindalloch Castle, Pitmedden Gardens, and Fyvie Castle.


As for us… our life on the run with The Royal Scotsman, although far too short, was a delight. Our unique and explorative rail voyage right through the heart of the Scottish Highlands brought to life its magical and rugged landscape.

The first class service, excellent cuisine, interesting entertainment and friendly travelling companions, together with the breathtakingly beautiful Scottish landscape, made our railway vacation in Scotland an unforgettable experience that is likely to keep us on the right tracks for some time to come.

Luxury Scotland
Tel: +44(0)1383 825 800 
Fax: +44 (0)1383 825 700
E: jeremy@luxscot.co.uk

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