Edinburgh, travel

Exploring the Scottish Borders by steam train

I was very excited to be invited by ScotRail to explore the beautiful Scottish Borders on a steam train.

Our journey started from Edinburgh Waverley station where we met the iconic steam engine, The Royal Scott, whose arrival had caused quite a stir (yes, there were selfie sticks!). The train is composed of a historic locomotive built in 1927 and now beautifully restored. My secret train geek self was in heaven. Did you know that this engine weighs 85 tonnes and had a maximum speed of 100mph? The rest of the train was made up of restored vintage carriages and the overall effect was beautiful.

Once the excitement had died down and everyone had taken a selfie with the engine, we all climbed aboard and the journey could begin. As Scotrail's guests we were treated to the premier dining experience so were greeted with a glass of prosecco then sat back to enjoy the views as we left Edinburgh behind and the green countryside began to speed past us.

a fellow passenger admires the view

a fellow passenger admires the view

We were served a three course dinner at our seats in the first class dining car. I was pretty impressed to learn that it was all cooked from scratch on board the train. Much of the menu contained local and seasonal items and it was all delicious. We might even have had a second helping of the roast potatoes, but don't tell. Here's the dessert, just before I devoured it. You can see small flecks of soot from the engine that had blown in through the windows. All part of an authentic steam experience!

desert, just before I devoured it

desert, just before I devoured it

There is a morning and evening service, both of which call at Galashiels and Tweedbank. We opted to stay on to Tweedbank so we could explore Abbotsford House, the former home of the author, Sir Walter Scott. But there are also lots of interesting excursions from Galashiels. 

We had an interesting tour of Abbotsford House, home of the author Sir Walter Scott. The house is crammed with fascinating artefacts from Scott's collections and the library is beautiful. What struck me most was the dining room.  I was astonished to hear that Charles Dickens once ate at this dining table, as did our present Queen. It's been several years since I've visited, and I'm looking forward to returning to further explore the house and grounds another day.

the train crew prepare for the return journey

the train crew prepare for the return journey

We skipped the minibus back to Tweedbank and instead walked cross country to the station arriving just in time to rejoin the train to Edinburgh. On the return trip the train is pulled by a diesel engine as there is nowhere to turn the engine around. 

Darkness fell as we retraced our journey home, and in case we hadn't already over eaten, we were served a generous cheese course while we watched the scenery pass by.

These special trains are running every Sunday until 25 September, its an experience I'd really recommend, I hope we can repeat it next year.


The details:

Premier dining: A glass of prosecco or orange juice waiting for you on board, and full gourmet dining experience during the journey: £130

Standard class: Refreshments aren’t included, but you can buy snacks and drinks from the buffet on board: £55 (adult), £40 (child 0-16), £150 (family: 2 adults, 2 children)

You can book here 

We travelled as guests of ScotRail, however all opinions are my own.