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LUXURY TRAINS: The Royal Scotsman 
Style: Classy, country house refinement, genuine Scottish hospitality
Scene: Sublime scenery experienced on this 36-berth legendary train.
Seen on Board: Smiling faces, good-natured camaraderie between crew and an international cast of characters.
We have overnighted in Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel - the magnificent  luxury Victorian pile that has been one of the city's famous institutions for 110 years. Now in the portfolio of Rocco Forte's salubrious hotels, The Balmoral is our hotel of choice not only for its immaculate reputation, but also because it is immediately above Waverley Station where we will depart for our Highland Journey.

'Follow the piper' The Royal Scotsman's hostess urges. The skirl of pipes signals the piper's approach. We fall in behind, as he escorts the party of guests to the waiting train. There is no mistaking the deep-red carriages with the gold crest Great Scottish and Western Railway Company emblazoned on the side. Waiting to welcome us aboard, are the train manager and his staff - all wearing The Royal Scotsman's signature plaid. Our piper is still playing as we pull away from the platform.

Baggage has miraculously reappeared in our state twin cabins. All cabins have fixed, lower beds, dressing table, full length wardrobe, individually-controlled heating and cooling, and most importantly, en-suite bathrooms with shower, wash-basin and toilet.
No time to dally. Off to the dining car for a lavish afternoon tea. We become quite adept at wending our way along the moving train. Just follow the squares on the plaid carpet that runs the length of the train. We meet and mingle in the Observation Car. The Royal Scotsman is the only train in the UK which has an outdoor viewing platform. I am quite content however, to watch from a plump sofa as we progress over the famous Forth Railway Bridge which spans the Firth of Forth, then head up through Dunkeld, Pitlochry and Blair Atholl. Soon the rolling hills of Perthshire give way to a more dramatic landscape of peaks and glens as we approach Cairngorms National Park. Here we will stable for the night in a quaint Highland village called Boat of Garten on the private Sthraspey Railway.
But now we ready ourselves for a whisky tasting followed by an informal dinner and some traditional entertainment. As for the whiskies, I counted at least forty ranging from The Royal Scotsman's own bottling, to a wide variety of single malts with distinctive regional variation.
There are two dining cars on board: Raven, which can seat 20 guests and Victory 16 guests. Both luxurious cars are wonderfully of evocative of a more gracious era, which thanks to the company, has been superbly re-created. Tonight's menu comprises a vegetable terrine for starters, followed by a Scottish seafood medley of freshly-gathered local oysters and scallops from Kyle of Lochaish, Scottish salmon and Haddock. A trembling timbale of summer berries in rose wine jelly delivers a smooth finale. Carefully selected wines include a New Zealand Pinot Noir, a Chablis premier cru from Domaine de Meulieure, and a Coteaux du Layon St Lambert from the Loire.

And après, the local musicians' repertoire alternates between Scottish ballads and highland reels. The Americans set a cracking pace dancing up and down the car with such vigour we might have been derailed!
Next morning serious choices require confirmation. Clay-pigeon shooting or fly-fishing? We are the only two to opt for fly-fishing and travel by coach to the private estate of Rothiemurchus where our gillie helps kit us out for this 'fishing folly' as my companion describes it. Who lands an impressive two kilo rainbow? Not me. The affrontery!
We re-join the luxury train in Aviemore for a short journey to Carrbridge to visit the Battlefield of Culloden. But first lunch. Just something light the staff assure us. Rack of lamb with a creamy aubergine and pearl barley risotto (scrum), then raspberry Creme Brulee. A brisk walk (guided) around the infamous battlefield is essential. If the Scots had been fortified by such fare, they would have backed the English into retreat and changed the course of history.
Tonight is formal night. Everyone is in festive mood with most clad in plaid. Champagne and canapes - tasty mini balls of haggis - are served in the Observation Car before we are summonsed for a farewell dinner of roast fillet of Aberdeen Angus with truffled root vegetables and a chocolate Marquise. A fitting finish to a fabulous trip. But what's for breakfast?
Ultimate Luxury:  Dining at beautifully-dressed tables, set with gleaming crystal and silverware, on outstanding food which could give some Michelin-star restaurants a jolt, and it's all prepared in The Royal Scotsman's galley.
Most Indulgent Moment: Afternoon tea with the works. Scottish smoked salmon sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and homemade jams (try the blackcurrant), and short bread of course.
Insider Secrets: The amazing whisky list on board including my favourite, a 16 year old Lagavulin from Port Ellen on the Isle of Islay.
The Little Things: Being greeted by name and a Welcome Back aperitif following each excursion.
Junior Luxies: They would love the train ride. But unless their manners are polished and TLTB- perfect, perhaps not until they are older.
Dress code: Comfortably casual but classily cut. Gentlemen a jacket for dinner, no ties necessary. Black-tie or dark lounge suit on formal nights but kilts preferred. Hired is fine, if you haven't your own clan's plaid. Ladies - chic, never goes out of fashion. Jewellery? Fabulous fakes are fine.
Luxury Link: www.royalscotsman.com/
Maggy Oehlbeck 16/10/12
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qoute Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain

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