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Travellers on the Royal Scotsman trips to the region are able to enjoy stunning views of lochs and mountains.Travellers on the Royal Scotsman trips to the region are able to enjoy stunning views of lochs and mountains.
Travellers on the Royal Scotsman trips to the region are able to enjoy stunning views of lochs and mountains.

A rail experience through the heart of the Highlands has put Scotland on National Geographic’s ‘Best of the World – Top 20 Travel Experiences’ for this year.

The publication has today revealed that the experience of taking the Royal Scotsman train through the Highlands is ranked 14th and the only UK destination to make the Top 20 Travel Experiences annual list.

Other experiences include a horseback safari in Kenya, bear watching in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, diving with sharks in Western Australia, hiking a volcano in Panama and wandering tea trails in Sri Lanka.

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland chief executive, said: “The breathtaking scenery and landscapes of the Highlands is one of the top reasons that people visit this region so it’s no surprise that National Geographic has highlighted a journey that takes in this natural splendour.

“It’s fantastic that Scotland has been recognised once again in the Best of the World list, shining a spotlight on our world-class experiences.

“It is particularly welcome, as we encourage visitors to explore our country across the seasons using sustainable transport.

“VisitScotland is committed to the development of Scotland as a globally recognised responsible tourism destination.

“We are working with the industry, communities and visitors to preserve and protect the natural, social and cultural assets which are so vital to Scotland’s brand and its future prosperity.”

Best of the World 2024 was created, researched, reported and written in collaboration with National Geographic’s international editorial teams and their content is read by millions of readers through their magazines and websites around the world.

This year’s travel guide celebrates not only must-see destinations but expands the franchise to include a complete and authoritative suite of must-do, must-stay and must-consume recommendations for travellers to engage with these destinations ‘more deeply and meaningfully’.

National Geographic writes: “Exploring Scotland’s wild, scenic Highlands doesn’t have to mean roughing it. The Royal Scotsman train glides among the moody lochs and dramatic peaks in style.

“New suites debuting in May 2024 sport interiors that reflect the compelling landscapes through dark woods, wool tweeds, and richly patterned bespoke tartans crafted by Scottish brand Araminta Campbell.

“After a day spent hiking to waterfalls or playing rounds of golf (a sport inextricably tied to the nation), guests can wind down with a massage at the onboard spa.

“Departing Edinburgh’s Waverley Station, the two- to seven-night rail journeys cross the heart of the Highlands, from Perthshire to Inverness to the rugged west coast. During stops guests can tour castles, stargaze in Cairngorms National Park, sample whisky at revered distilleries, and even take a dip in a loch.

Craig Mills, the new chief executive of the Cairngorms Business Partnership, said he was delighted to see the region being recognised on such a prestigious stage.

He commented: “It is fantastic to see the Cairngorms recognised as one the best travel experiences. Anyone that has spent time in the area knows how fantastic and won’t be surprised to see it on such a list.

“The train journey through the national park, linking together some of Scotland’s iconic scenery, is something that everyone should experience and it is great to see that it is getting the recognition it deserves.”

The Highlands was previously named as one of National Geographic’s Best of the World destinations for 2023 in the ‘nature’ category.

The region was one of only two UK destinations to make the annual list and referenced areas such as Alladale Wilderness Reserve and the Affric Highlands project.

The Royal Scotsman offers several Highland journeys with associated experiences which weave their way through the region. These include the Cairngorms, Culloden, the Kyle of Lochalsh, Fort William, Glenfinnan and Bridge of Orchy.

Want some inspiration?

The full list for 2024 is:

#1: Go on horseback safari in Kenya

#2: Run an Olympic marathon in Paris

#3: Ski tour UNESCO sites in Georgia

#4: Bear watch in Katmai National Park

#5: Hear legendary live music in Kyoto

#6: Cruise an epic river in Colombia

#7: Road trip Route 66 in New Mexico

#8: Explore ancient art in Algeria

#9: Dive with sharks in Western Australia

#10: Hike a volcano in Panama

#11: Catch the eclipse at Niagara Falls

#12: Trek a glacier in Chile

#13: Step back in time on Menorca

#14: Ride classic rails in Scotland

#15: Find authentic flavor in Thailand

#16: Wander tea trails in Sri Lanka

#17: Gallery hop in São Paulo

#18: Raft the rapids in West Virginia

#19: Go antiquing in Hudson Valley

#20: Sleep on the water in British Columbia

• For more information on Nat Geo’s Top 20 Travel Experiences list, as featured in their best of the world guide 2024, visit

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