The West Highland Line: the Scottish Highlands by train

The Scottish Highlands draw a variety of people to them: nature lovers, Harry Potter fans, adventurers… And many more. You can’t blame them, one quick Google-search shows you a-ma-zing pictures of the beauty you’ll find there. A great way to see it all is by train, for example with the Scotrail West Highland Line. This line takes you through the Highlands, from Glasgow to Fort William and from here to the port town of Mallaig. Prepare for some amazing nature and beautiful views!

Start your trip in Edinburgh

Edinburgh street | West Highland Line

Edinburgh streets.

A great place to start any journey in Scotland is beautiful Edinburgh. It has an amazing old city center with the famous Royal Mile, which is home to a proper castle, one of the Queen’s (many) palaces, and several nice museums. But besides this popular street, I can only recommend you to also discover the streets surrounding it. There are many narrow staircases to climb, picture perfect streets and pretty views to admire. If you’re just coming for the highlands, or if you’re coming from elsewhere in the UK, you could also begin your trip in Glasgow.

To the Scottish Highlands by train

Train-to-mallaig-2

A Highland view from the train.

Hop on a train to Glasgow and change to the West Highland Line in the direction of Mallaig (3 roundtrips per day). Our destination: Fort William. Definitely take a window seat, there will be plenty of beautiful nature to be observed during this 4 hour train ride. The landscapes around you will slowly get more rough when you’ll reach the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and further ahead it might even start to look like you’ve arrived on a different planet.

Good to know: you can also travel to Fort William by night on board of the Caledonian Sleeper (all the way from London!).

Glencoe

Three-sisters

Two of the Three Sisters in the valley of Glen Coe.

Now, in my opinion Fort William is a nice town, but it’s more of a base from which you discover the area. For example, a 40 minute bus ride away you find the cute little village of Glencoe, which is surorunded by beautiful nature. You might’ve heard of it because it’s where you find the Three Sisters, which are 3 hills right next to each other. But don’t stop there, the whole valley is worth discovering!

Glencoe-2

The valley of Glen Coe.

Next to the A82 (the road to Fort William and Glasgow), there is a dirth path which is perfect for hiking or mountain biking. It brings you straight through the valley and there’re many places to stop and take in all the views. Oh, and, prepare for all kinds of weather. Scotland is famous for having all seasons in one day ;).

Fort William to Mallaig by train

train-to-mallaig

The Glenfinnan viaduct, famous of course from the Harry Potter films.

Another great thing to do when you’re in Fort William is taking the train. Now, you can opt for the ScotRail train, which is included in the Pass. However, for all that recognized the bridge in the photo above (yes, you, Harry Potter fans), you can also hop aboard the Jacobite Steam Train*! However, which train you take doesn’t matter for the views, they use the exact same rail, all the way up to Mallaig. You may even recognize some more Harry Potter related scenery…

* The Jacobite is not included in the Pass, and if you want to make sure you have a seat on this amazing train, make sure to book well in advance. 

Mallaig

Mallaig

Boats in the waters of Mallaig.

After 1,5 hours you’ll arrive at the end of the line in the village of Mallaig. Around 800 people live here, so it is indeed really small, which is a big part of its charm. Walk around the village for a bit before taking the train back to Fort William (or stay, of course!), or continue your journey by ferry to the Isle of Skye!


Create your own adventure in Scotland with the Eurail Global Pass.

All photographs in this blog were taken by Shannen (Editor @ Eurail)

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