King of the Rails: The Royal Scotsman

By: Anna Millar

August 23, 2013

The Royal Scotsman

A skirl of pipes harks the journey’s beginning, as a bagpiper, dressed in full Scots regalia leads the way down Edinburgh Waverley’s platform and onto Scotland’s – and one of the world’s – most indulgent rail experiences. Enter The Royal Scotsman, king of the rails.


Successfully on track since 1990, and owned by the Orient Express Company since 2007, the welcome glass of fizz barely touches the sides of the decadence to follow. You may need deep pockets to afford this Royal adventure, but nothing is left wanting here.

A definitively Scottish experience, full of tumbling mountains, rolling glens, hole-in-ones, gothic castles and pop-up ceilidhs, it says it all that the train itself is as thrilling as the leisurely pit-stops at some of Scotland’s most beautiful spots.

The Royal Scotsman

The Royal Scotsman, on the move © The Royal Scotsman


Sure, there are kilts, shortbread and drams to be found here, but the whole experience is blissfully lacking in the usual brand of cheesy Scots cliché.

There’s an unabashed nostalgia of times past, as the train chugs along at Victorian pace. The UK’s only luxury sleeper train, comfort is to the fore, with the classy walnut and gold exterior belying a relaxed country-house style inside. Each individual bedroom comes compete with en suite and comfy bed facilities: a touch only bettered by the fact that the train stables at night in a quiet station or siding, so there are no worries of a bumpy night’s sleep.


Views from the train © The Royal Scotsman


Elsewhere, beyond the charms of the restaurant carriage and 36-seater observation lounge, the Royal is the only train in the UK to have an outside viewing veranda, and there can be few better moments than standing, as if in a movie of your own making, with the wind in your hair as you sail by such glorious sights as Loch Luichart, the Torridon mountains or Kyle of Lochalsh, to name but a few.   

The Royal Scotsman

The Royal Scotsman, train exterior © The Royal Scotsman


If the scenery is awesome, the food on board is all about bringing the very best Scottish produce to the plate, from hand dived scallops to the finest Aberdeen Angus. As the train meanders along, decadent breakfasts, afternoon teas and extravagant dinners are laid on. Staff (of which there’s a ratio 3:1 to passengers) know each guest by name and your glass will seldom be empty, with a head-bangingly good array of malt whiskies and wines on the go.

Easy friendships are made with fellow passengers, drifting through to the wee small hours when the traditional entertainment of fiddles and ceilidh-ing kicks off.  

The Royal Scotsman

The Royal Scotsman, restaurant carriage © The Royal Scotsman


The Royal Scotsman are fans of keeping their itineraries fresh, with a Classic Whisky and Classic Golf Package the latest to be introduced, affording passengers the chance to hop off and indulge in some of the country’s best known past-times in the most exclusive of spots. And ever-keen to show you the full gamut on offer, specially-designed two to seven-day trips incorporate everything from castle trips and fly-fishing to teeing off on private courses and boat trips bound for the islands.

Header photo: The Royal Scotsman, on platform in Edinburgh © The Royal Scotsman

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Have you travelled on the Royal Scotsman? What did you think? Share your experiences below.


Anna Millar

Anna is a Glasgow born and Edinburgh based freelance writer and editor specialising in arts and travel. When she’s not exploring the Highlands and Islands or reviewing Scotland’s festival scene, she’s likely to be found propping up the bar at one of New York’s finest watering holes or exploring Europe’s untapped corners.

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