Travel: Royal Journey

Many desirable destinations, although picturesque, feel the need to fabricate a “sense of place” for visitors. An area’s local color is often exaggerated to the point of cliché. In Scotland, that sensibility is authentic, imbued in everything from tartans and Scotch to the sublime countryside. A recent journey aboard The Royal Scotsman, part of the legendary Orient-Express group, proved an idyllic way to experience this part of Great Britain—no special effects required.
Upon checking in at Waverly Station in the heart of Edinburgh, the capital city, we were greeted by the siren call of bagpipes and escorted from a private, first-class waiting area to the train via red carpet. Once aboard, cozy sleeping car accommodations in the form of staterooms enveloped in marquetry welcomed us, along with compact, yet efficient, bathrooms and wardrobes.

The heart of the train, however, was the observation car, where guests could sample from among more than 50 brands of Scotch and meet others along for the journey. Our group included an eclectic mix of travelers from South America, other parts of Europe and the United States. Because the train never exceeds 36 guests, personalized attention by the staff is unparalleled, and each passenger is remembered by name.

From the observation car, I watched for hours as panoramic, hypnotic scenes of green hills and valleys dotted by sheep rolled past. Afternoon tea included Scottish and English favorites—shortbreads and scones—all served with jams and heavy dollops of cream for good measure.

Our journey of the Scottish Highlands included a stop at Rothiemurchus, an estate under the stewardship of one family since the 16th century. Fly fishing and clay pigeon shooting are hallmarks of the property, as are skilled (and patient) instructors. Another stop in storybook Keith, a nearby village, warranted tastings at Strathisla Distillery, home to Chivas Regal.

Back on the train, as we began our return trip to Edinburgh by way of Dundee, the soft and quiet undulations of the rocking train lulled me into a reflective state as I considered this quintessentially Scottish experience—one that truly exemplifies “sense of place” in its purest form.

The Scottish Way
Before or after embarking on the train journey, consider extending your stay in Edinburgh at The Caledonian, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which recently underwent an extensive renovation.

Greenyonder Tours offers numerous walking excursions, including the hidden gardens of The Royal Mile. No trip to Scotland is complete without a visit to the Royal Family’s former floating residence, Britannia.

For those who choose to explore the country beyond Edinburgh, The Isle of Eriska is a hotel and spa located on its own island that offers the quintessential country house experience, along with great golf (another must-do while in Scotland).

Located on Loch Lomond, Cameron House is ensconced in a baronial mansion and features two golf courses, four restaurants and numerous outdoor activities, including falconry and luxury cruises on the loch.

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