This travel route takes you from London to the Scottish Highlands. The Caledonian Sleeper Night Train runs from London to Fort William. Continue via the Gelenfinnan Viaduct to Mallaig and Armadle on the Isle of Skye. From Kyle of Lochalsh on to the far north of Scotland, to Thurso. And from there back again via Inverness and Edinburgh. It is a perfect journey to travel with an Interrail/Eurail Pass - therefore I'm focuses on it. Of course you can travel as well with standard train tickets.
To London by train
The Eurostar train will take you from Brussels and Paris directly to London. You will need to buy an Interrail/Eurail reservation for 30 EUR which is available on ACPRail and B-Europe. If this is too expensive for you, you can also look for a bus connection: Flixbus or Omio. These also go overnight and save the cost of a hostel or hotel.
From London to Fort William at the Caledonian Sleeper
The Caledonian Sleeper night trains connect London with Scotland. In the meantime, they offer completely new and very comfortable coaches. With Interrail/Eurail you travel free of charge on a seat! You can reserve your own private compartment with Interrail/Eurail from 120 GBP. It leaves London at 21:15. Your arrival in Fort William is at 09:57 in the morning. The train from London to Fort William does not run on Saturday evening!
Your free seat reservation can be obtained via the Caledonian Sleeper customer service. Reservations for private compartments can be made directly on their website. Check the box "Room Supplement Only" to buy only the reservation.
Decide by date of travel: by ferry to Isle of Skye or by bus
Note: you now have two possibilities to travel further. This depends on your travel date.
1) Fort William - Train to Mallaig - Ferry to Armadale - Bus to Kyle of Lochalsh: this is probably not possible on weekends, as there is no bus connection between Armadale and Kyle of Lochalsh. But it is my recommended route. Find out about the travel times on your travel date using the following links in the text.
2) Fort William - Train to Mallaig - Train to Fort William - Bus to Kyle of Lochalsh: here you take the beautiful train route from Fort William to Mallaig and back to Fort William. From here you can take the bus to Kyle of Lochalsh which runs all year round.
From Kyle of Lochalsh your journey continues.
Bus from Fort William to Kyle of Lochalsh
The bus from Fort William to Kyle of Lochalsh runs three times a day. The journey takes two hours. The bus ticket costs 25 GBP and you can buy it either directly from the driver or online on Citylink. The departure from Fort William is at 10:00, 14:00 and 18:40. This bus journey is not included in the Interrail/Eurail ticket.
Fascinating route from Fort William to Mallaig via the Gelenfinnan Viaduct
The train route from Fort William to Mallaig is described as the most beautiful section of the West Highland Line. The journey takes 1:30 hours. This journey is of course free of extra costs with Interrail/Eurail. The highlight of this route is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which can be seen in the Harry Potter films! Sit on the left in the direction of travel. There is also a station museum worth seeing. You can also sleep there in 1950s sleeping cars - from 25 GBP. The walk to the viaduct is about 1km and takes about 20 minutes.
Departure times from Fort William: 08:30 / 12:12 / 16:19 / 22:11
Departure times from Mallaig: 06:03 / 10:10 / 16:05 / 18:15
Fewer departures at the weekend. You can find current timetables on Scotrail.
With the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale
Mallaig is a fishing village and terminus of the West Highland Line. On the Isle of Skye you can take a ferry to Armadale. The ferry runs up to eight times a day. The journey time is 25 minutes. The fare is GBP 3. You must check in at least 10 minutes before departure!
You can find the exact timetable and other routes (if you plan them) on the website of the operator Caledonian MacBrayne.
The ferry offers a beautiful view. There are seats inside and outside.
In Armadale the ferry stops briefly to pick up passengers and then returns directly to Mallaig.
By bus across the Isle of Skye to Kyle of Lochalsh
The Isle of Skye offers you absolutely great opportunities to enjoy Scottish nature. I am now only referring to the connection from Armadale (arrival of the ferry) to Kyle of Lochalsh (connection to the train). On Skye itself there is no train, only buses.
The bus service from Armadale to Kyle of Lochalsh is a bit cumbersome: it runs rarely and sometimes not at all on weekends. Fridays usually at other times. You have to change buses in Broadford. Please check the website of the operator Stagecoach. It is bus number 52 (Armadale, Pier to Broadford, Post Office) and 50 (Broadford, Post Office to Kyle of Lochalsh, Harbour Slipway). If you use the timetable search, you will need to search in two steps: Armadale-Broadford and Broadford-Kyle of Lochalsh
Armadale, Pier departure 10:45
Broadford, Post Office arrival 11:10
Broadford, Post Office departure 14:58
Kyle of Lochalsh, Harbour Slipway arrival 15:18
As you can see, it can be more comfortable (as mentioned above) to drive from Fort William to Mallaig (a route worth seeing!) and back again. And then by bus from Fort William to Kyle of Lochalsh.
From Kyle of Lochalsh to Thurso one day through Scotland
Your journey now continues through the Highlands. First from Kyle of Lochalsh to Dingwall. The journey takes two hours. There you change to Thurso. The journey from Dingwall to Thurso takes three hours. It is a very scenic route through mountainous country with many bridges and tunnels. You can adjust the train connection a little and thus extend your stay in the market town of Dingwall. This journey is free for you with your Interrail/Eurail ticket.
Kyle of Lochalsh departure 12:08
Dingwall arrival 14:09
Dingwall departure 14:37
Thurso arrival 17:50
Thurso is the northernmost railway station in the UK. From here ferries go to the Orkney Islands. An overnight stay is quite nice, for example in the Station Hotel, which I can recommend. It has something special, this far north.
Train journey from Thurso to Inverness
You already know parts of the route from Thurso to Inverness. The journey from Thurso to Inverness takes four hours and is free with Interrail/Eurail. There are two to four connections depending on the day of the week.
Thurso departure 13:06
Inverness arrival 17:06
In Inverness you can stay overnight or take an earlier train from Thurso and continue straight through to Edinburgh.
Interrail/Eurail from Inverness to Edinburgh
From Inverness to Edinburgh you have connections almost every hour. The journey time is 3:30 hours and is free with Interrail/Eurail. As an example a connection from Thurso via Inverness to Edinburgh.
Thurso departure 08:34
Inverness arrival 12:26
Inverness departure 12:49
Edinburgh arrival 16:34
Edinburgh to London: by day or night train
Edinburgh is definitely worth staying two or three nights. There is a lot of culture to see and in the evenings there are countless pubs to linger in. I personally like Edinburgh very much. Edinburgh offers a wide range of inexpensive hotels, hostels or Airbnb-apartments.
From Edinburgh you can then travel back to London with the Caledonian Sleeper. Either free of charge with Interrail/Eurail in the seat car. Or in a sleeping car from 120 GBP. Read how to book this at the beginning of my blog post. This night train does not run on Saturday evening.
Edinburgh departure 23:40
London arrival 07:07
You can get on the train as early as 23:00 and stay inside until 07:30. Then your night will be a bit longer. Optionally you can take the night train to London already from Inverness if you want to skip Edinburgh.
During the day, the journey from Edinburgh to London takes 4:30 hours. An Interrail/Eurail reservation is compulsory, but is available free of charge from stations in the UK. Or online at ACPRail for a small service fee.
Which Interrail/Eurail ticket is best for Scotland?
Summary: what do I need
Interrail and Eurail
If you travel with Interrail/Eurail (my recommendation):
- Interrail/Eurail Ticket: 5 days within a month or with more travel days.
- Reservation Eurostar to London: 30 EUR. Buy here at ACPRail.
- Reservation Caledonian Sleeper London-Fort William: reserve free seat or bed from 120 GBP
- Reservation Caledonian Sleeper Edinburgh-London: reserve free seat or bed from 120 GBP
Optional, there is the so called Britrail Pass, which is comparable to Interrail/Eurail. Have a look here: Britrail at ACPRail
Standard train tickets
If you want to travel with standard train tickets:
Glenfinnan Viaduct, from 25 EUR
Mallaig - The Mission Bunkhouse, from 30 EUR
Kyle of Lochalsh - Creaggan Ard Guest House, from 60 EUR
Thurso - Station Hotel, from 60 EUR
Edinburgh - Overview of inexpensive but good hotels
Hostels: find cheap hostels at Hostelworld.
Airbnb: find private accommodation on Airbnb.
Conclusion and evaluation of the route through Scotland
Beautiful landscape and not too crowded. If you travel in the off-season, trains and the places you visit are empty. But pay attention to the running times of trains, buses and ferries. The travel connections on the island of Skye is difficult with the bus from Armadale to Kyle of Lochalsh.
All in all the Interrail/Eurail Pass is in my eyes the best deal compared to the rather expensive standard train tickets. Especially if you want to add somoe more stops in the UK.
Enjoy your journey. Peter :)
Posted 9 months ago