WHEN it comes to Scottish history, railway heritage is a fascinating track to follow. From the advent of steam locomotives to the golden age of excursion travel and the brutal Beeching cuts, there is plenty to stoke your interest.

Here, we list some of our favourite train-themed adventures: museums, guided tours and restored station gems, as well as disused lines and abandoned tunnels that are perfect for exploring.

The Doon Valley Railway, Ayrshire

Run by the Ayrshire Railway Preservation Group, this impressive heritage site is home to steam and diesel locomotives. The first open day of 2023 will be on April 10, with other dates throughout the year.

Among the rolling stock at the Doon Valley Railway is an LMS engineer’s saloon, dating from 1944, which has observation windows at either end, allowing passengers to enjoy views of the line and surrounding landscapes.

There is also a German-built BP tanker, a mineral wagon previously used to transport coal, and a restored Johnnie Walker Customs Lockfast Van that, in a former life, transferred whisky from a bond at Hurlford to a bottling plant in Kilmarnock.

Visit doonvalleyrailway.co.uk

Glen Ogle Viaduct and Killin Junction, Perthshire

It is possible to follow the path of the former Callander and Oban Railway to the high point of Glen Ogle and Killin Junction. The route takes in the Glen Ogle Viaduct, built between 1866 and 1870, which spans 12 stone arches.

Killin Junction was a station that connected the above stretch of line to the nearby Killin Railway branch. It was in use for almost a century but closed in 1965 following a landslide. Today, only traces of the “ghost” platforms remain.

If in the area, it is well worth driving a few miles along the road to check out the old railway line between the erstwhile Dalchonzie Platform/Halt station and St Fillans, at the eastern end of Loch Earn. The area is home to ruggedly picturesque scenery and photogenic wild goats.

Visit visitscotland.com

Neidpath Tunnel, Scottish Borders

Located just outside Peebles, Neidpath Tunnel was once part of the single-track Symington, Biggar and Broughton Railway line. Variously known as “Peebles Tunnel”, “Castle Hill Tunnel” and “half-mile tunnel”, it opened in 1864 and passes beneath an area called South Park Wood.

According to local legend, the tunnel was mooted as an intended hiding place for the royal train during the Second World War, but this outlandish tale has never been corroborated. The line closed to regular passenger traffic in 1950.

Neidpath Tunnel is 1,804ft (550m) long and unlit – a torch is required, even in the middle of the day. Many visitors describe it as an eerie place and chilly too, so wrap up warm.

Visit visitscotland.com

Edinburgh, various

A network of walking and cycle paths around the Scottish capital make use of former train routes and tunnels. The Leith-Portobello path, running to Portobello from Easter Road and Leith Links, follows part of the old Restalrig line.

The Innocent Railway Path is built along a line that ran from Edinburgh to Dalkeith. Widely credited as the oldest train tunnel in Scotland, it is 1,700ft (518m) in length and can be used to travel south-east from St Leonards towards Duddingston.

Then there is the colourful, mural-emblazoned Colinton Tunnel on the Water of Leith Walkway. Part of the former Balerno branch line and now given new life thanks to a community art project, it is 459ft (140m) long.

Visit innertubemap.com and colintontunnel.org.uk


Glasgow Central Station

A guided tour through the subterranean passageways, vaults and echoing spaces beneath the tracks of Scotland’s busiest railway station – Glasgow Central – is a must for any social history buffs.

The human stories will stay with you long afterwards, not least poignant tales about a makeshift mortuary during the First World War. Grieving relatives faced the grim prospect of viewing rows of corpses to identify the remains of loved ones who had perished on French battlefields.

An array of objects, such as a 100-year-old wheelchair and a newspaper dating from the 1940s, have been discovered within the station’s sealed-up cupboards and walls. The best bit: getting to descend below ground to view an obsolete, soot-stained Victorian platform.

Visit glasgowcentraltours.co.uk


Glenfinnan Station Museum, Lochaber

It is fair to say that the Glenfinnan Viaduct is one of Scotland’s most photographed landmarks, not least among diehard Harry Potter fans who have long dreamed of stepping aboard the fictional Hogwarts Express to traverse its magnificent arches.

Nearby is the small-yet-perfectly formed Glenfinnan Station Museum (open April to October; off-season visits are available by arrangement) which is home to a raft of memorabilia and tells the history of the picture-postcard West Highland Line that winds its way from Glasgow to Mallaig.

Highlights include a beautifully restored signal box, sleeping car-turned-bunkhouse and a dining car. New for 2023: plans are on track for a miniature (7¼ -inch gauge) woodland railway which it is hoped will be completed and unveiled this spring.

Visit glenfinnanstationmuseum.co.uk


Glenfarg, Perthshire

There are two disused railway tunnels at Glenfarg, which are great fun to explore on a walk of around three miles (5km) round-trip.

The southern tunnel is 1,575ft (480m) in length, with two straights and a bend around two-thirds of the way through. The northern tunnel is 1,509ft (460m) long and is a continuous curve, meaning you can’t see daylight when standing in the middle. A torch and good footwear are essential.

The line here was opened in 1890, which coupled with the completion of the Forth Bridge, provided a direct rail link from Edinburgh to Perth. It survived the Beeching cuts of 1966 but was closed in 1970 to make way for the M90 motorway.

Visit glenfarg.org

Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, West Lothian

This fantastic heritage railway deserves its name in lights with a clutch of starring roles in TV shows and films including Outlander, The Railway Man and The 39 Steps.

Hop onboard for the 10-mile train journey to Manuel Junction along the Forth Estuary, passing woodlands, waterfalls and over the Avon Viaduct. Themed options include afternoon tea, a murder mystery and a steam train driver experience.

The on-site museum is a joy to visit with interactive displays, as well as exhibits including a vintage Glasgow Subway car and a mail coach where you can try your hand at sorting letters. Check the website for a full list of February opening dates.

Visit bkrailway.co.uk


Castle Stalker, Argyll

It is a haunting image that always arouses curiosity: the remnants of a set of tracks disappearing beneath Loch Laich with Castle Stalker standing on a tiny tidal islet in the background.

The oft-photographed narrow-gauge line runs from the boathouse and was built to haul craft up the shore at low tide. Yet there is something about its close proximity to the gently lapping water that brings to mind the opening scenes of a spine-tingling gothic horror.

Castle Stalker itself is a handsome medieval tower house built in the mid-15th century. It makes a cameo in the final scenes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (as “Castle Aaargh”) and also appears in the film Highlander: Endgame, as well as the Netflix TV show Sense8.

Visit castlestalker.com


Keith and Dufftown Railway, Banffshire

Nicknamed “the Whisky Line”, this 11-mile route is packed with links to the amber nectar as the railway was formerly used for transporting freight from the area’s many distilleries.

Running between Dufftown – aka “the malt whisky capital of the world” – and Keith, it passes through countryside with dense pine forests and wildlife-spotting opportunities including red squirrels, deer and birds of prey, such as buzzards.

The restored Dufftown station has a museum, booking office and the Sidings Cafe, the latter renowned for its excellent selection of home baking. The 2023 timetable runs from April 7, with the first services of the year coinciding with Easter weekend.

Visit keith-dufftown-railway.co.uk