The Royal Scotsman
Dining - and More Sightseeing
"The Royal Scotsman has one of the very best restaurants in Britain - moving or stationary"
Travel & Leisure
Dining on board is a very grand occasion. There is a set menu for lunch and dinner but any special diet and requests may be catered for. Innovative and imaginative meals using the very best Scottish beef, game, seafood and vegetables are freshly prepared and cooked on board. Under award winning head chef, Nick Capon, the two young chefs Sean and Julia on our journey, have trained with renowned restaurateurs Raymond Blanc and Michel Roux.
On our first night, we gather for pre-prandial drinks in the Observation Lounge. We are all getting to know each other very well, just like a private party and are on first name terms. Mark and Susan are New Yorkers, Scott and Marsh from Ohio, all very interested in Scottish history, culture and family clan connections. "Dinner is served" announces Camilla, the train manager.
The Dining car is elegantly set, with starched white linen tablecloths, fresh flowers, Royal Worcester china and an array of glistening crystal glasses.
A smooth velvety cauliflower soup is served with freshly baked bread rolls. Meanwhile Alan is pouring the first of many glasses of fine wines, especially selected for each course. This is all so decadent and I do feel I am back in the 1930s. Then a delicate fillet of cod, on a bed of crushed potato with a green pea salsa sauce. After a pause and more wine, a dark chocolate tart arrives. Oh my, that was good" remarks Scott. "Well, I'm going to pop my buttons" replies Helen, most graphically as we leave the table. Coffee and liqueurs are served in the lounge but by now it's getting late and people are drifting away to their State Rooms. It has been a busy day full of new friendships and so many adventures.
After a comfortable and peaceful night, we set off over a hearty Scottish breakfast - (porridge, kippers, eggs, bacon and toast) - for Aviemore, at the foothills of the Cairngorms and famous for all-round sports and ski-ing in the winter. Here we take our coach to the Rothiemurchus Estate, which offers the visitor acres of forestry, lochs, heather moorland for walking, off-road driving, mountain biking fishing and a safari trail. We clambered in to a landrover and were taken on a tour of the estate, seeing the woolly Highland Cattle and a herd of young Red deer at very close quarters. This estate is the natural habitat to a wide range of birds, trees and wild flowers. Loch an Eilein, with a ruined castle on its own island, is particularly beautiful.
After another delicious lunch on board the train, the rest of the day is filled with other excursions - a tour of a woollen mill and the Stathisla distillery in order to witness the making of Scotland's greatest exports, lambswool, cashmere and tweed - and Malt whisky. A private ceilidh has been arranged for us. After a few drams we all join in a few dances - the Gay Gordons, Strip the Willow and the Dashing White Sergeant.
After all the exercise we now have an appetite for dinner back on the Royal Scotsman. Tonight is the formal evening and the men are dressed in their tuxedos, some with black ties others smartly donning their clan tartan waistcoat and tie, while the women are looking glamorous in silks and velvets.
The chefs have surpassed themselves and must have been in the galley all day. We begin with hot smoked salmon salad with caviar. There is a choice of Aberdeen Angus beef or for non-meat eaters, a mushroom risotto, ingeniously topped with a poached egg. A perfect selection of white and red wines accompany the meal.
We finish with a light prune and armagnac soufflé, before coffee, chocolates, and liqueurs are served. Surprisingly a platter of excellent Scottish cheese is not on offer which would have been the ideal end to dinner. I am sure if I had asked, it would have been brought to me immediately - so excellent is the personal attention and service.
A few of us sit up late, exchanging addresses, taking photographs of our impeccably well dressed group, and enjoying the rhythm of the train as we speed south towards the fishing town of Arbroath and Dundee, where the train will stable for the night. Our last night and we waltz and sway our way down the long, narrow corridor back to our very homely Stateroom
In the morning over another superb breakfast of fruit, scrambled eggs, toast and fresh croissants, we begin the final leg of our journey, south along the Fife Coast and back to the famous Bridge spanning the Forth now glistening in the honey-gold summer sunlight.
As we all bid our farewells we all agree that it feels like a week rather than a weekend since we left Edinburgh. We have experienced, heard, seen, smelt, touched and tasted so much on our two day Highland Fling, cosseted in luxury and pampered day and night with the best of Scottish hospitality. Warm weather and cloudless skies have added to the pleasure and sheer fun of this unique trip.
This is no ordinary train journey. The experience of witnessing the raw, wild beauty of the Scottish landscape - with its ancient tapestry of mountains, glens, lochs, rivers and moors - flash by from the open air terrace of the observation car is a panoramic view which is utterly memorable and unique. Sophisticated, decadent, magical - The Royal Scotsman can only be described as a Scottish Palace on Wheels."That is the real Scotland; that is the Scotland whose memory wrings the withers of the far-from-home; and in some way that is mysterious, that is the Scotland that even a stranger learns to love."
In Search of Scotland, HV Morton
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