Best Train Rides in Scotland
City to city, train by train
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, and whilst this is all well and good, time is precious when you are on holiday, therefore if at all feasible, you should make both the journey and the destination as exciting and as enjoyable as possible. So lets try.
Perthshire, known as the “Heart of Scotland” is a county of variety. From dramatic mountains, serene glens and endless expanses of lush forest, to its bleakly beautiful moors, rushing rivers and tumbling waterfalls, ancient castles and unspoilt nature, Perthshire is a culturally exciting proposition. So called the heart for its geographic location and as the main artery to the rest of Scotland, Perthshire is an ideal base if you wish to explore a lot of Scotland in a little time.
Perth is within easy reach of busy cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness, all of which are close enough for a day trip by car, or even better, by train. Travelling by train has many perks, one of which being that train routes pass through some of Scotland’s most breathtaking scenery, another plus being that everyone can enjoy the views rather than the designated driver keeping a text book ten-to-two and eyes on the road at all times. This also works in favour of a tipple with lunch – you are on holiday and in the land of whisky after all! Read on to discover the places that are accessible by train from Perth, and why they are worth a visit. Jump on the train, take a seat and enjoy a day trip to see some of Scotland’s cities, and the surrounding landscape, by the mighty railway.
Perth to Inverness/Aviemore (2hrs)
This train route takes you north from Perth, right through the heart of the Cairngorm National Park and into the Highlands. Passing through the picturesque villages of Pitlochry and Blair Atholl, and the delights of Dalwhinnie distillery, there are many places to reach on this particular train line. Follow it right up to Inverness and the journey time is 2.5 hours. Known a the capital of the Highlands, Inverness has lots of shops, restaurants and a great theatre.
The River Ness flows through the centre and offers lovely walks up and down its banks. Be sure to check out the the Victorian Market and Inverness Castle. A day trip to Aviemore provides a trip to Loch Morlich, or you could rent some bikes to take in the sights of the lovely Rothiemurchus woods. The Mountain Cafe does excellent coffee and cake, and if in time for lunch, the The Old Bridge Inn, on the banks of the Spey offers a roaring log fire, regular live music and great atmosphere, along with excellent food and a fine selection of cask ales, premium lagers and malt whiskies.
Places to stop en route: Dunkeld and Birnam, Pitlochry; Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, Carrbridge
Perth to Stirling (40 mins)
A mere 40 minute train ride from Perth will take you into Stirling. A small city it may be, but Stirling was instrumental in Scotland’s history. The seat of Scotland’s monarchs for three centuries, it is packed with history, with many a historic attraction should you be keen to know more. The surrounding scenery is spectacular, and there are shopping hot spots, places to eat and exciting events to explore.
Visit the Deanston Distillery, the eponymous and imposing Castle and the National Wallace Monument where you can discover the life and legacy of the patriot and martyr Sir William Wallace. Grab a soup and a sandwich at Darnley Coffee House, just 200 metres from Stirling Castle. Bridge of Allan, all of 6 mins on the train from Stirling has a fantastic collection of independent shops and cosy little pubs should your day turn in to an evening!
Places to stop: Gleneagles, Dunblane, Bridge of Allan
Perth to Edinburgh (1.5hrs)
With the castle cliffs to one side and crawling through Princes Street Gardens, the train approach to Edinburgh is surely one of the prettiest? A visit to Edinburgh is always thrilling, with history, culture and architecture being bustled to and from close to close in this electric city. The train ride from Perth goes through rich farmland surrounding the River Eearn before speeding in to Fife, all fields, farms and lochans.
The wide open straths give way to Kircaldy, and the route along the coast allows views to the west towards the Bass Rock and Berwick Law, visible across the water. Through Burntisland and you can see Arthurs Seat standing proud in the distance. Crossing the Forth Rail Bridge is breathtaking, the views back along the Fife coast, west towards Rosyth docks and down to yachts and tugs in the chopping water are magnificent. From there you skirt the airport and the Jenners furniture store and the brewery, and then it’s a matter of minutes before Waverly welcomes you to the capital.
Places to stop: Burntisland, Dalgety Bay, North and South Queensferry
Perth to Glasgow
A cheeky wee 1 hour train journey south west and you reach Scotland’s biggest city, famed for great shopping, grand Victorian architecture, friendly locals, and its buzzing pub, club, music and arts scene. A true culture capital, Glasgow has one of the best live music scene scenes in the UK. Take the train to Glasgow and you are on track for fun, culture, fab food and new friends.
From dawn to dusk and into the night, there are a huge range of things to do in Glasgow during every hour of your trip. Shop till you drop during the day and then as the sun goes down explore the city’s ever-changing array of traditional pubs, bars, restaurants and vibrant live music scene. And with the last train leaving at 11.30pm you have plenty of time! Take in the world class museums and galleries and the best of Glasgow’s architecture on a city walking tour, or perhaps taste your way around the city on a foodie excursion.
Places to stop en route: Gleneagles, Stirling
Perth to Dundee (25 mins)
Statistically Dundee is Scotland’s hottest sunniest city, and in this current climate that is no mean feat! A dynamic city, not only is it a UNESCO City of Design, but as of September 2018 it became home to the V&A Dundee, the world’s only V&A museum outside of London. Affectionately known as the home of the three J’s (jam, jute and journalism) these industries are entwined with Dundee’s heritage and identity.
Perhaps once overlooked as a tourist destination, Dundee is emerging at pace as a place of variety. This is a city with science, historic ships and museums, plenty of culture with theatres, arts centres and bars, and walking routes past interesting architecture for everyone who visits. And Dundee’s most appealing feature? It’s compact and easy to walk around! Most of the main sights are within close walking distance, which makes for a relaxed and leisurely day out!
Perth to Aberdeen (1.5 hours)
The Granite City it may be, but Aberdeen’s heart is certainly not made of stone, more a beating east coast hub of culture and charm. With colourful street art and painted doors, there are many hidden gems. The ancient university quarter (complete with a 15th century fortified cathedral ) has some fantastic architecture, the sandy beach allows for a perfect stroll towards vast dunes to the north and high cliffs to the south, the cafes, bars and restaurants offering delicious fare and a cosy place to rest your feet, all make Aberdeen a great visit. There aren’t many places where you can enjoy a theatre performance and go surfing in the same day!
Take a detour from the main shopping street, Union Street, down the side streets and you will find independent gift shops and clothing boutiques with a rich variety of wares. There are many outstanding parks, gardens and floral displays throughout the city, and and if you are lucky you may catch a snippet of the warming tones of ‘Doric’, the local Scots dialect, carried through the streets on an ocean breeze.
Places to stop en route: Carnoustie, Arbroath, Stonehaven
So, make the most of the railways and Scotland’s reachable-by-train destinations and fill your holiday with new places. Board that train, you never know where you might end up!