Scotland by Train With Belmond

All Aboard! A bagpiper serenaded the group as they boarded the Royal Scotsman train.

When the e-mail popped up on my screen asking if I might like to experience a Belmond luxury train journey in Scotland, it took me all of 30 seconds to say, “Yes, please!” Half Scottish — my mother having been born and raised in Scotland — I was so excited at the opportunity to visit and travel on a luxury train. Images abounded of Agatha Christie’s characters: Ladies dressed for dinner with feather boas and pearls languidly sipping after-dinner drinks in the bar car while Monsieur Poirot scurried about trying to solve the latest murder; and then the idea of sitting by the window with gorgeous scenery rushing by while surreptitiously observing fellow passengers ... yes, please!

Next Stop.....: The crew on board The Royal Scotsman provided intuitive luxury service.

Guests embark the Belmond Royal Scotsman in Edinburgh, spending the night before departure at Rocco Forte’s lovely The Balmoral hotel. It’s such a fabulous hotel and the J.K. Rowling Suite — where the Harry Potter series was finished — is a treasure.

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I love Edinburgh. It’s ancient, romantic, broody and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s also home to beautiful shops (Hawico sells modern and luxurious cashmere) and amazing dining opportunities (check out Number One, the Michelin-starred restaurant at The Balmoral).

Georgia Schley Ritchie is shown onboard the train.

On the morning of our departure, we walked as a group from the meeting point at The Balmoral to Waverley Station where a bagpiper, who could have been on the frontline at the Battle of Culloden 270 years ago, played us aboard. The Royal Scotsman itself looked extremely charming, to say the least. Wooden panels, tartan carpets and tweed sofas combine for an elegant and luxurious home. Two dining cars served food so delicious that one cannot imagine it being prepared in the train’s kitchen. The Observation Car was also a delight. The exceptional crew seemingly had anticipated our every wish before we even knew we had it.

The excursions were truly top-of-the-line, such as sipping champagne with a countess at Cawdor Castle (best known for its association with Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”) or wandering about the incredible gardens and towering trees of Glamis Castle, the beloved Queen Mum’s ancestral home.

There isn’t a train I wouldn’t Take.... (here): The author enjoyed simply looking out the back of the Royal Scotsman train at the passing scenery.

As I had imagined, just sitting (or standing outside at the back of the train) and looking at the yellow gorse, white-washed cottages, majestic stags, hairy Highland “coos” and incredible lochs reflecting mountains rising from the moors was a stupendous experience. And those taking part in the Whiskey Tasting led by Les (a most knowledgeable and extremely witty Scotch Malt Whiskey Ambassador) raved about the distillery visits — a mecca for whiskey lovers!

Castles, castles and more castles (above and below): Excursions included visits to Cawdor Castle and Glamis Castle, both with storied pasts.

The Grand finale included a bit of Scottish reeling. Two musicians dressed in full Scottish regalia playing the accordion shouted directions for the dancers. Kilts and sporrans swinging as we laughed our way through the steps, possibly hindered (or helped) by the three wines accompanying the usual three-course dinner.

Please, can I do another luxury train journey soon?  

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