For fans of the popular television series “Outlander,” train travel is one of the easiest ways to soak up the sites of the Scottish Highlands.
Since the show’s debut in 2014, the number of visitors to the mostly rural northern part of Scotland has increased so much that the rise in tourism is called the “Outlander Effect.”
Come April, fans of the show — or the books on which it’s based — can tour the area in style when the Belmond Royal Scotsman begins operating train trips again. Though still months away, many of the early journeys are sold out, while others have only one carriage open.
Privacy on the Belmond Royal Scotsman
While the train first launched in 1985, its original carriages were replaced with 22 Edwardian-style cabins for journeys ranging from one to seven nights.
The mahogany-paneled dining cars on the Belmond Royal Scotsman.
Courtesy of Belmond Royal Scotsman
The Royal Scotsman has capacity for just 40 guests, which may be preferable for anyone feeling nervous about traveling with larger numbers of people. Single, twin and double bed cabins with en suite facilities are designed to ensure passengers’ privacy.
In the train’s observation car, guests can go on the open veranda to get an outside glimpse of the passing scenery. They can hear after-dinner storytelling from a Highland clansman, or local music, with a glass of one of the more than 50 different whiskies from the observation car bar.
The first ‘spa on rails’
If a private cabin and onboard entertainment aren’t enough, the Royal Scotsman has a spa carriage where guests can book treatments like massages and facials. The Bamford Haybarn Spa is the first of its kind aboard an overnight rail journey in Britain, according to the company’s website.
One of two treatments rooms in the train’s Bamford Haybarn Spa.
Courtesy of Belmond Royal Scotsman
“When I think of Scotland, walks in the Highlands, fresh air, rushing streams and beautiful heather-covered hillsides come to mind,” said Haybarn founder Carole Bamford. “After a day of exploring the Highlands, guests can enjoy a deeply relaxing experience in the calm and tranquility of the spa.”
The “spa on rails” is a replica of the Bamford Wellness Spa at the Daylesford Organic Farm in the Cotswolds English countryside. The brand has other locations in London, Miami and Brooklyn, New York.
Clans, castles and wizards
The Royal Scotsman departs from Edinburgh Waverly station, with journeys stopping at locations such as the Isles of Bute and Mull.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct, near Scotland’s west coast.
Martin Stroud | 500Px Plus | Getty Images
The Royal Scotsman’s five-night “Clans, Castles and Isles” trip passes well-known landmarks, such as Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, and the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which featured in the “Harry Potter” movies.
Alnwick Castle, which played part of the setting for Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school, is on the Royal Scotsman’s “Glorious and Grand — a Private Garden Tour.”
For anyone looking to make the most of the Highland’s great outdoors, other activities include gorge walking, clay pigeon shooting, fishing and golf.
How much it costs
Tickets aboard the train depend on the journey, which vary by destination, length and, in some instances, topic of the trip.
Scotch enthusiasts can embark on a dedicated five-day tour of Scotland’s renowned distilleries. The tickets, which start at a pricey £5,665 ($7,750), include a year’s membership to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
And that isn’t even the most expensive journey on the Royal Scotsman, with some trips costing an eye-watering £12,500 ($17,098).
The Royal Scotsman’s journeys aren’t limited to Scotland, with a seven-day “Grand Tour of Great Britain,” which includes guided tours of the Roman ruins of Bath and a steam train trip to Snowdonia National Park for £9,950 ($13,610).