IRT guests Robert & Virginia Montgomery aboard the Royal Scotsman. Photo courtesy of the Montgomerys
One of the world’s most intimate luxury trains — the Royal Scotsman — threw open its doors this week for 2016 bookings, even as space this year is dwindling on many departures.
During the last several years, the train has inaugurated several “limited edition” tours, which have proven to be very successful, said Valerie J. Ottofaro.
Ms. Ottofaro is Director of Sales, Belmond Trains & River Cruises. (The train’s official name is Belmond Royal Scotsman, honoring the company’s new brand.)
“The Grand Tour of Great Britain will continue to run as an exclusive tour in 2016,” she said. The dates are July 8-15, 2016.
The popular, 7-night annual tour is for true devotees of history, food & spirits, culture, and life in England, Scotland and Wales.
The varied, exclusive activities include a castle tour with its owners, a ride on the narrow-gauge Ffestiniog Railway and dinner at a country estate.
Royal Scotsman breakfast tray. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy
“IRT guests who have done this trip have raved about it,” said Eleanor Flagler Hardy, President of The Society of International Railway Travelers®.
Other special trips are for devotees of whisky, golf and Scottish country life.
The “Classic Whisky Tours” — in partnership with the Scottish Malt Whisky Society — “have proved very successful over the past two years,” Ms. Ottofaro said.
The five-day whisky tour includes visits and tastings at a number of distilleries as well as on-board tastings in the train’s lounge car. For 2016, one trip is planned: April 25–29.
Belmond plans one Classic Golf Tour for June 13-17, 2016.
“This is a four-night journey through the heart of the Scottish Highlands,” Ms. Ottofaro said, “offering three rounds of golf at some of the country’s finest and most northerly of the UK’s championship golf courses.” One of the courses will be Gleneagles.
“The Heritage Homes and Gardens tour,” meanwhile, “has been received very well over the past two years,” she said. Next year the trip runs June 6-10.
“This is an exploration of Scotland’s most fascinating and scenic country homes and gardens,” said Ms. Ottofaro.
“It’s a special four-night tour hosted by an experienced gardener, a professional photographer and a freelance garden writer who provide guests with gardening tips and fascinating history along the way.”
Taking the perfect photo on the Royal Scotsman’s outdoor rear platform. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy
Meanwhile, officials said space was almost gone for several 2015 specialty tours, including the annual Grand Tour.
Just one double and one single cabin remain for the 8-day Grand Tour of England, Scotland and Wales, a Belmond reservations specialist told IRT yesterday. This year’s dates are July 10-17.
This year’s April 27-May 1 “Classic Whisky Tour” has one twin and two single cabins left.
A second 2015 “Classic Whisky” departure, July 5-9, has just one twin cabin remaining.
Drinking tea in the lounge car. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy
More space is available for this year’s annual Heritage and Garden Tour, the spokesperson said: five twins and two singles. The dates are June 5-9.
Call (800) 478-4881 or email email@example.com, if you’d like to grab a spot. IRT will accept bookings on a first-come, first-served basis. A 15% deposit is required to secure your booking. If the trip is within 60 days of travel, full payment will be required.
(Book by March 31 for value-added special offers for certain departures. Restrictions apply.)
“Booking soon gives you a better chance of getting just what you want,” IRT’s Mrs. Hardy said.
Lively conversation in the Royal Scotsman lounge. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy
“Also, in general, the earlier you book, the closer you’ll be to the lounge and dining car. And that’s especially true for singles, since there are only four single cabins on each departure — with no single supplement.”
Another success story is the 2014 addition of the 3-night Edinburgh-London tour, Majestic England. An add-on return trip, “A Tale of Two Cities,” is an overnight London-Edinburgh journey whose emphasis is on-board food, spirits and ambience.
“We have seen encouraging sales for both journeys,” Ms. Ottofaro said.
The 3-night Edinburgh-London trip includes Alnwick Castle, home to the Duke of Northumberland’s family; York, site of the National Railway Museum; Sandringham, the Norfolk retreat of the Royal Family; and Cambridge.
Toddy time in the lounge car. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy
Thus, a traveler could combine this 3-night Edinburgh-London trip to the one-night London-Edinburgh return journey.
“And twice each season — in August and September — the London itinerary has been scheduled so it can be added to a 5-day Classic journey through the Scottish Highlands,” Ms. Hardy said.
For questions or to book, call (800) 478-4881 (U.S. and Canada) or (502) 897-1725 (elsewhere). Or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.