This was the best holiday we have ever had and we hope to do it again in a couple of years time.
R & J Whittle, Gourmet Italy
We are met at Glasgow Airport with a fleet of luxurious minivans and chauffeurs. The scenic drive takes us along the shores of Loch Lomond then to the rugged west coast with its long fjords and hundreds of islands. Our residence for our first two nights in Scotland is the Isle of Eriska Hotel and Spa, lavishly set on its own island. Built in Scottish Baronial style, it welcomes us with dinner at its Michelin-star restaurant.
The Isle of Mull and its 13th century castle beckon today. We take a ferry to the island, where we will travel by 4WD Land Rovers. First, a visit to the grey stone Duart Castle, home to the 28th Chief of the Clan Maclean. If we are lucky, he is home to meet us. We take advantage of the picturesque surroundings with a picnic lunch served from the Land Rovers in hampers and on rugs. Off the western end of Mull sits the tiny island of Iona, a tranquil place and once, a centre for Gaelic monks. After a stop here, we board a private boat to the uninhabited Isle of Staffa, site of Fingal’s Cave, where basalt columns ‘as high as a cathedral’ form the cave walls.
Today, we travel back to Edinburgh, where we take a city tour and have lunch at The Tower, which showcases the best of Scotland’s produce. At the station, we board the luxuriously appointed Belmond Royal Scotsman for a four-night classic journey through the Highlands. Ours is the only train in the UK with an outside viewing veranda, and is a spectacular way to enjoy the gorgeous countryside. The train heads north, crossing the Firth of Forth on the striking, cantilevered Forth Railway Bridge, followed by Arbroath, Montrose and Aberdeen. Tonight, we gather in the Observation Car for an informal dinner.
Our journey takes us west along the Moray Firth, the big notch on the top right corner of the country, if you’re looking at a map of Scotland. Once we leave the Moray Firth behind, we begin to cross the country towards the Kyle of Lochalsh - this is possibly the most scenic of railway routes in the British Isles. We leave the train in Plockton, where you may spend your afternoon on one of these Your World experiences.
We head towards Carrbridge, where we leave the train to discover Ballindalloch Castle on the River Spey. Besides having been held by the same family since the 15th century, its holdings also include the country’s only single estate distillery. Choose from these Your World experiences while here.
Back on our train this evening, a true Highlander Scot joins us after dinner. We watch and listen intently as he recounts the myths and stories of ancient Scotland, then puts on a display of traditional weaponry. Our train stops for the night at the Boat of Garten station on the private Strathspey Railway.
The Rothiemurchus Estate extends from the River Spey at Aviemore to the Cairngorm Summit Plateau. On its grounds are one of the last groves of Caledonian forest, which once covered most of Scotland. Immerse yourself in the outdoors with these Your World experiences.
We return to our train at Kingussie for lunch, then journey south to Dunkeld. There, we visit Glamis Castle, where HM Queen Elizabeth and the Queen
We return to Edinburgh this morning, where we leave the Belmond Royal Scotsman behind. The elegant and historic Hotel Balmoral welcomes us for a one-night stay. In the afternoon, we tour the city’s sights. Dinner takes place at Number One, a Michelin-starred restaurant in our hotel. Expect the freshest Scottish produce prepared inventively.
While Belfast was once off-limits, it now boasts a waterfront lined with modern art, a lively culinary scene and bars. Upon arrival, we are driven to the Merchant Hotel, our home for two nights. The Merchant was built in the 1850s and features plush rooms decorated in either Art Deco or Victorian style. High tea is served here, after which, a city tour awaits, but with a twist.
We explore the streets from the back of a renowned Belfast black cab. This evening, dress for dinner at The Great Room restaurant in our hotel.
Delve deeper into Belfast’s icons, history and myths with these Your World experiences.
This evening, we dine around at select restaurants in the city.
After a drive of just under two hours, explore Dublin at your leisure. Tonight, we rest at the Hotel Westbury, with locally crafted wool carpets and inviting Irish linen.
A Dublin city tour begins the day. Early in the afternoon, we embark on our second train journey. At Dublin Heuston Station, the Belmond Grand Hibernian welcomes us aboard. Polished to sparkling through a recent refurbishment, this well-appointed train plays the perfect host for the next four nights, starting with Irish afternoon tea. While this is served, we head south to Cork. On arrival, we explore the famed Jameson Distillery.
The stories of the Blarney Stone’s origin, none confirmed, could fill a book. Kiss it and you will be gifted with eloquence, so the belief goes. This morning we lean backwards over the battlements and pucker up, lips ready for a potentially life changing peck. After the excitement, we relax on our train as we watch emerald hills and the mirror-still Lough Leane pass outside. We stop in Killarney, celebrated for its national park, and ride through it in a traditional jaunting car, a pony and trap, in search of Ross Castle. It is set on the edge of Lough Leane, and to truly soak up the serene setting, we take rowboats out on the lake. This evening, musicians come on board our train for a merry céilí.
Galway’s residents are known to be fun-loving, as can be seen by the countless pubs, restaurants, cafés and live music venues all over town. We lunch on traditional Irish cuisine in a local restaurant today. Spend the afternoon on one of these Your World experiences today.
Our train turns east to Athlone, in the centre of Ireland, where we spend the night.
This morning, we are headed for Westport and medieval encounters at the 13th century Ashford Castle, where we applaud an ancient skill with a riveting demonstration of falconry. A guided walk follows, allowing us to admire the sprawling stone building and its vast grounds. After lunch in the castle, we settle in to our seats for a spectacular drive through County Mayo back to our train in Westport, where we will spend our farewell night enjoying the finest of dinners.
We enjoy a final Irish breakfast on our train as we return to Dublin. Today, we fly home, taking with us memories of lush, green landscapes, ancient castles and the soothing sway of our train journeys. We arrive in Australia on Sunday, the following day.
Sometimes travelling can be a chore, distracting you from the fascinating places you are in. That’s why everything mundane has been moved behind the scenes. You will never have to carry a map, luggage, small change for tips or bargain for a taxi fare.
There are no hidden costs. Everything is included – flights and other travel arrangements, luxurious accommodation, travel insurance, all dining and drinks, and sightseeing trips. Even the Your World experiences within your itinerary and internet access when available.
Welcome to your homes away from home. Each one has a certain something that sets it apart from every other residence at its location. Whether for its history, cultural significance or natural setting, we’ve selected only the very best.
This idyllic country manor is set on a private island. It is a green oasis where Highland cattle graze, views take in rolling hills and the surrounding waters are home to grey seals and badgers. Dining takes place in a Michelin-starred restaurant, while Stables Spa promises utter relaxation with its signature, organic treatments.
Purpose-built for its destination, there is no better way to take in the craggy mountains, verdant glens and quiet lochs so comfortably. The observation car is unique to other trains in this part of the world. Half of it is indoors, the other half is outdoors.
The only luxury train in Ireland, presents the very best views of coast and countryside. Elegant interiors are inspired by Dublin’s Georgian architecture. The observation car serves as a gathering space for all. In the evenings, it transforms into a lively space with musicians and traditional storytelling.
Fares are based on a Standard Suite aboard the Belmond Royal Scotsman and on a Standard Suite aboard the Belmond Grand Hibernian. Per Person, Twin Share
Fares include Emirates flights from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Prices from other cities available on request.
Solo availability at the above price is limited.
Land Only Guests join the tour in Isle of Eriska for dinner on Day 2 and depart Dublin after breakfast on Day 16.