Explore the Scottish Highlands, including the famous Loch Ness and discover the beauty of Scotland by train. With a BritRail Spirit of Scotland Pass you have unlimited train travel throughout Scotland for a single cost-effective fixed price, so book now!
The Scottish West Highlands is a dramatic wilderness of ancient forests, lofty mountains and great lochs that is truly awe-inspiring. Here you’ll find the famous Loch Ness, known for its evasive Loch Ness Monster, and Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis. In this magical part of the world, the possibilities for adventure are endless and with a BritRail Pass, exploring the countryside couldn’t be easier.
With so many things to see and do, we suggest taking 5 days out to experience the area's unique attractions and using a BritRail Spirit of Scotland Pass, but for shorter trips, it's easy to book your individual rail tickets in advance through The Trainline, ACP Rail, International Rail and Rail Europe.
Start your journey
Begin your West Highlands adventure in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city and a place famous for its friendly atmosphere, nightlife and fantastic cultural attractions. From here, catch the train in the morning to Fort William, a 3 hour and 45 minute journey. If you’re a BritRail Pass holder you can go from London to Fort William on the overnight Caledonia Sleeper.
DAY 1-2: FORT WILLIAM
Originally built in the 17th century to pacify the local Scottish clans, Fort William today is a major visitor centre and the starting point for anybody wishing to climb Ben Nevis. There’s lots to see and do, so we suggest a stay of 2 days.
Fort William – Mallaig train journey – the Glenfinnan Viaduct is considered one of the best train journeys in the world. This journey appeared in the Harry Potter movies and crosses a spectacular viaduct with a lake and mountains in the background – an unmissable trip!
Hikers won’t want to miss the chance to climb Britain’s tallest mountain (4,409ft). While the mountain is accessible, weather conditions can change quickly, so it’s important to go prepared with waterproofs, a map and a compass so you can navigate. If this sounds too much of a hassle, you can hire a mountain guide to help you get to the top and back safely. From Fort William, get a taxi to the Glen Nevis visitor centre, it should cost £10 at the most.
If you want to take in the magnificent views and dramatic scenery of Ben Nevis at an easier pace, climb aboard the Nevis Range gondola. It’s ideal for keen climbers if you’re looking for a quick way to the best climbing spots, or for anybody for whom a mountain trek is a bit too gruelling! You can catch the 41 Stagecoach bus from Fort William to the gondola, which takes around 25 minutes.
Take a cruise across the depths of Loch Linnhe and see some of the wildlife that makes its home in the Highlands. You’ll see porpoise, seals and even golden eagles, not to mention beautiful views of Ben Nevis.
Set off in the morning and catch the train from Fort William to Mallaig. It’s a 1 hour and 25 minute journey, and it’s one of the most stunning rail journeys in the world. You’ll pass Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Britain, Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, and you’ll arrive besides the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis! Fans of Harry Potter will recognise Glenfinnan Viaduct as part of the route taken by the Hogwarts Express!
Once in Mallaig, catch a ferry to Armadale, a 40 minute journey. You’ll find timetables here on the Calmac website.
We suggest staying in the bustling coastal town of Portree during your stay on Skye – you can catch a number 52 Stagecoach bus there from Armadale, it’s a 1 hour 10 minute journey.
Like a vision from a fairytale, Dunvegan Castle stands on a rocky outcrop beside the tranquil surface of Loch Dunvegan on the western coast of Skye. It’s been home to the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years, and is home to a host of treasures, including the Fairy Flag – said to guarantee victory in battle! Explore this magnificent piece of Scottish history, and be sure to spend some time in its beautiful gardens. Catch the 56 Stagecoach bus from Portree to get here, it’s a 45 minute journey.
One of Skye’s most iconic and epic sights is the Old Man of Storr, a towering pinnacle of rock at the top of a hill near Skye’s east coast in Trotternish. It’s an irresistible spot for hikers, and the magnificent views over the sea and the west coast of Scotland make this a very rewarding walk. It takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to the top and back down again. To reach the starting point, catch the Number 57A Stagecoach bus from Portree: it’s a 15 minute journey.
Take in some of Skye’s magical countryside with a visit to the magnificent double waterfall on the River Rha, and the unusual conical hills of the Fairy Glen. The Rha Waterfall is accessible via a steep path, so take care when climbing down. The Fairy Glen is like a Highlands landscape in miniature, with a series of hills, cliffs and rocky outcrops that really do look like somewhere fairies might live. Rha Falls is a 30 minute ride from Portree on the 57C Stagecoach bus, or on the 915 CityLink bus, then a 5 minute walk. To reach Fairy Glen, catch the 915 CityLink bus (a 30 minute ride) it’s then a 25 minute walk.
Kilt Rock on the Trotternish Peninsula is one of Skye’s most majestic sights, a 90 metre high cliff face that bears some resemblance to the pleats of Scotland’s traditional garment, the kilt. The best way to take it in is via the popular stopping point between Portree and Staffin, where you can get the best view of the rock. You’ll also be able to see the Mealt Falls which freefalls off the cliff into the Sound of Raasay below. To get here, take the 57A Stagecoach bus from Portree (30mins) then 25 min walk, or the 57C bus if you’re coming from the north, then there’s no walk.
Get a glimpse of island life in the 19th century at the Skye Museum of Island Life. See traditional cottages equipped to reflect different functions of a traditional community, from farming to smithing and weaving. Catch the 57C Stagecoach bus from Portree, the journey takes 50 minutes.
The iconic 13th century Eilean Donan Castle stands on an island where three lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Aich. Named after a celtic saint, the castle was once a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and is today a famous beauty spot, surrounded on all sides by some of the finest landscapes in the West Highlands. Stop by and take a tour, and get a taste of 13th century life! To get here, catch the 917 bus from Portree to Dornie, it takes 1 hour and 20 minutes.
If you’re exploring Britain by train a BritRail pass is the easiest and most cost-effective way to travel. For a single fixed price, you can make unlimited train journeys around the whole country or a region of your choice. BritRail tickets are exclusive to overseas visitors so you'll need to buy your ticket before you arrive in the UK.