Have you ever wondered what it would be like to explore a destination by train? We’re not talking riding on a train to get from Point A to Point B, but rather making the train experience part of the journey.
With Belmond you can.
They have luxury trains in Europe, Peru, and Southeast Asia that can take you back to the golden age of travel, and one of these trains is the Belmond Royal Scotsman. Brownell Independent Advisor Jessica Battista got to travel on this beautiful train, and shares an inside look at the Belmond Royal Scotsman below.
The two-night Taste of the Highlands journey begins at Edinburgh’s Waverley station and travels through the Kingdom of Fife into the Highlands where the train overnights at Boat of Garten after an informal dinner. The next day, guests visit Culloden Battlefield and Rothiemurchus Estate for “country pursuits” such as clay pigeon shooting and fly-fishing. On this particular trip, we enjoyed a private tour and whisky tasting at Dalwhinnie Distillery before reboarding for the formal evening. The train overnights in Dundee and, following breakfast, returns to Edinburgh via the famed Tay Bridge.
I found the accommodations on the Royal Scotsman to be quite spacious and perfectly comfortable. Beds are all lower berth and the cabin features a writing table, a large picture window, a wardrobe, and en-suite bathroom with WC, sink and shower. Mahogany and tartan accents add a touch of warmth and Scottish flair. As a Southern woman, I especially appreciated the ceiling fan.
Every meal on-board the Belmond Royal Scotsman was outstanding. I was amazed by the gourmet cuisine Chef Mark and his team are able to prepare in such small quarters. There are two dining cars – Raven and Swift. There is only one seating for meals and guests may sit where and with whom they wish.
Convivial and fun. At the start of the journey, all guests are welcomed into the Observation Car with a glass of Champagne (or two). By the time the train passes the Firth of Forth bridge, you are well on your way to making friends. Even the formal dinner is festive as gentleman have the opportunity to hire a kilt from Kinloch Anderson, kiltmakers to Her Majesty the Queen. The nightly traditional entertainment ensures a lively atmosphere.
When was the last time you had a manicure or massage treatment on a train? That’s what I thought! A must-do on the Royal Scotsman is a visit to the Bamford Haybarn Spa. Spa therapists will greet guests during the Observation Car welcome and you should book your appointment then. Beyond the spa, you’ll want to spend some time on the open Observation Deck taking in Scotland’s fresh air and breathtaking scenery. Let’s not forget the 40+ whiskies to be sampled…in a few days, you can only get through a portion of this important research so pace yourself.
I loved everything about my time on the Royal Scotsman. My cabin was supremely cozy, the food was exceptional, the whisky options were not-to-be-believed, and the excursions (complimented by knowledgeable commentary from our host, Ian) showcased many of the reasons Scotland is such a special destination. Those luxuries aside, the true highlight of this Belmond train journey was that it provided the proper environment for what I consider the best part of traveling – making connections with people from around the world you might otherwise never know. In two short days, I made friends with a hilarious couple from Memphis, Tennessee; fabulous friends from Manchester, England; and a lovely pair who split time between Florida and Arizona. All from different hometowns and backgrounds, we were quickly united by the Royal Scotsman experience and months later we still remain in touch. Two nights was definitely not enough, and I can’t wait to return for a longer journey.
The visit to Culloden Battlefield was powerful and integral to understanding Scottish history. I also enjoyed trying my hand (albeit it unsuccessfully) at fly-fishing at Rothiemurchus Estate.
The ideal luxury train traveler
Hopeless romantics, history buffs, and luxury aficionados all are the right fit for luxury train travel. The longer journeys will particularly appeal to luxury cruise clients because the travel elements are similar: you don’t have to pack and unpack repeatedly, you can leave the transportation and logistics to someone else, and you get to know fellow passengers all while experiencing exceptional service and top-notch dining. Shorter rail jaunts are easily incorporated into full travel itineraries, while the longer journeys make for phenomenal stand-alone vacations.
Standout moments from Belmond
The bagpiper who escorted us along the train platform to board the Royal Scotsman set the tone for a memorable journey through the Scottish Highlands. Belmond excels at tying in that “sense of place.”
What to Wear
I suggest “Smart Casual” attire for relaxing on the train. Depending on the off-train excursions, guests will need to pack accordingly including comfortable walking shoes and weatherproof jacket. Weather is always changing it’s a good idea to layer and be prepared for all seasons in one day. That said, places like Rothiemurchus Estate will have rain boots and other weather-appropriate gear available for guests to borrow. There are both informal and formal evenings on the journey. On informal nights, I recommend men wear a jacket or sport coat, no tie required. Formal nights call for men to wear a tuxedo, dark suit with tie or hire a kilt. Women should select the appropriate corresponding evening wear.