I went on the Queen of Scots tour with my Father in September 2014.
Despite living in Glasgow, I have never explored the majestic Scottish Highlands and this was truly a once in a lifetime trip!
We started our journey in Glasgow with a delicious welcome meal at the Millennium hotel, just a short stroll from the station we were to depart from. We were met at the hotel reception by our charming tour guide, Les, who made us feel instantly welcomed and brought together the tour party to excitedly chat about our forthcoming holiday.
Once dinner had commenced (a very indulgent three course feast at that!) we boarded our train as a group from Glasgow Queen Street station for a picturesque journey along the West Highland line to Oban. This really gave us an insight into the beautiful sights we were to see within our eight-day trip. And as we passed along the sleeping lochs and glens, Les helpfully informed us with little details and quips we would have otherwise missed.
We arrived early evening into Oban station and took the very short stroll to our hotel, the rather grand Oban Caledonia Hotel.
The hotel was very pleasant, built in the late 19th Century it boasts high ceilings and beautiful outside architecture. Most importantly the rooms were clean, with comfortable beds, and the hotel provided delicious Scottish and continental breakfasts each morning!
On our second day, after filling up with a hearty breakfast (with haggis!), we took a ferry ride from Oban sailing towards the beautiful Isle of Mull. The view from the ferry on a warm Summers morning was breath taking!
Once we had arrived on the island, a coach glided us through the stunning sights Mull had to offer. It really was such a highlight of the entire trip, to be able to experience a place so remote yet so rich in culture and landscape. We next took a prompt ferry ride to the tiny island of Iona. Again, much like Mull, the island is rather remote yet stunning, with lots of tearooms, pubs and quirky shops to enjoy. And of course Iona boasts one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred places, Iona Abbey.
Our third day of the trip began with a visit through the handsome Isle of Seil (where we took a break mid way to take some lovely snaps of the bridge and loch) and onto the An Cala Gardens. My Father and I agreed we were so taken back by An Cala; it really was like nothing we had experienced before. Often branded ‘One of Scotland’s Greatest Gardens’ I can only most strongly agree! A wonderful example of a 1930’s designed garden, An Cala sits within a horseshoe shelter of surrounding cliffs. A very pretty garden indeed!
Before returning back to Oban, our coach dropped us off for a little time on the Isles of Torsa. We had time to grab a coffee and pop into the local museum to learn more about the former slate industry once thriving on the Isles, a must! And then it was back onto the coach for us to experience a little more of Oban and its delightful harbour.
We even took the adventurous climb up to McCaigs Folly, which gave an unmissable view as the sun set, the perfect end to such a lovely day!
Our fourth day was the day my Father was definitely most excited for, as a train enthusiast, to experience the amazing Jacobite steam train on its journey from Fort William to Mallaig was really a once in a lifetime experience for him.
However, I was most excited about passing over the 21-arched Glenfinnian Viaduct otherwise known as the ‘Harry Potter Line’. We arrived for a short time in the town of Mallaig, which was rich in pubs and tearooms for lunch before completing our return trip on the Jacobite.
After our exciting experience we boarded the coach once more and glided along Inverness to check into our next hotel, the equally divine Palace Hotel, looking over beautiful Loch Ness. As our previous hotel had been, it was clean, beautiful in architecture and boasted a grand dining room to enjoy your relaxing evening meals.
Our fifth day included a train ride to the Kyle of Lochalsh, immortalised in Michael Palin’s original ‘Great Railway Journey’s of the World’. The sights to see whilst sweeping along the tracks were just beautiful; I couldn’t resist taking lots of pictures to remember along the way! We also managed to visit the Isle of Skye briefly, and then onto the very special Eilean Donan Castle for an organised tour. All of the experiences from this day were truly unforgettable!
Our next day was possibly my favourite! Despite living in Scotland, I have always desperately wanted to visit Loch Ness, and surely a cruise along the loch was the only way to do it – with style! It was truly unforgettable sailing along the incredibly still water of Loch Ness with the sunrise.
Once we had reached the harbour of Loch Ness, we decided to take a couple of hours to visit Urquhart Castle, which sits upon the banks of the loch itself, which was again a majestic experience.
The final day of the trip included a wonderful circular excursion, beginning with a steam train on the Strathspey Railway departing from the very quaint Aviemore train station. The carriages of this steam train were absolutely beautiful, with delicate china for tea and coffee, detailed upholstery and even lace blinds for the windows!
We were then treated to afternoon tea on a gentle heritage railcar ride on the Keith and Dufftown Railway and we finished our holiday on a climax by visiting the Glen Grantt Distillery for a guided tour and tasting session. The smell of the brew might have been even better than the taste!
We really did have the most amazing holiday with RailTourGuide on the Queen of Scots Tour, it was everything we had hoped to experience, and more!
Our tour guide Les (who doesn’t get enough mention throughout this blog) was really fantastic, and it wouldn’t have been half the trip we experienced without his expertise and company along the way.
Many thanks, again!
Nadia and George, Newcastle.
To enquire and receive a quotation for this tour please complete the form at the bottom of our Queen of Scots page or call us on 0191 246 0708