As we were flying into Edinburgh I struck up the conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me on the plane who when I told him that we were going on the Royal Scotsman train, said, “It the weather is sunny and dry, it will be beautiful. If it’s not, well, drink a lot of whiskey.”
Then he grinned at me and said, “And not bourbon, mind you, whiskey.”
We had a lot of rain and many of the guests on the train took his advice.
Taking a trip on the Royal Scotsman train was like going back in time. The gorgeous old Edwardian train is from an era when people took the train, sometimes on their private cars, up from London to visit friends and family in the Highlands for games, hunting and all kinds of leisure pursuits at a slow moving pace.
We took the three night excursion out of Edinburgh in May to the Western Highlands, a spectacular part of Scotland filled with hills, lakes and drop dead scenery. Everything from beginning to end was designed to delight the senses and give the thirty or so passengers a look at this isolated and majestic part of the world
We were met in Edinburgh at the historic Balmoral Hotel and then lead to the the train by a grand and rather fierce looking bagpiper. Gosh, I could see him leading a clan into battle and I’d surely get out of his way. Instead, we were lead to the gracious observatory/bar car for a civilized welcome, bit of champagne and introduction to our time on board.
Before we talked about anything, we learned to say “Saintje” or To your Health in the Scottish language.
The train itself is beautiful. I love the two dining cars where elegant meals were served. Our compartment was comfortable and well fitted out with storage and our own bathroom. Best of all was the observation car where we met up to read, look out the window, chat with other guests, drink vast amounts and kinds of Scottish whiskey and enjoy nightly performances of Scottish music.
Every day we got off the train for excursions. I loved the early morning walk through a tiny town to see Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Great Britain at 4,000 feet.
We also visited a beautiful beach not letting rain get in the way. I can imagine what it might be like on a sunny day. Packed because it would be such a novelty.
I loved this bridge. The engineer stopped the train so we could shoot photos–Harry Potter scenes were filmed here.
We also loved a visit to Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute. A wild and crazy neo-Gothic house built by a very wealthy family who could indulge all kinds of whims. We particularly got a kick out of a fake door way leading to a secret room in one of the four libraries of the house. While the majority of the books in the library were beautiful and valuable, the section of the fake hinged wall included phony books with titles like “The Blue Stocking Novel” by A. Legg, “How to get Money” by Borrower and “My Sermon” by R. Long. We chuckled and enjoyed the sense of humor.
I was particularly glad we choose May to visit Scotland. While we had a lot of rain (to be expected) the leaves weren’t fully out on the trees so we could see the many picturesque lakes and fields with the typical black faced sheep while we rolled along. It’s a beautiful and isolated country. I think this sign at the Glenfinnan Monument says it all. I watched and saw less than one car a minute, if that. Interesting their idea of “busy.”