The Jacobite Steam Train Crossing the World-Famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

Scotland is where my heart always takes a leap, just like the wild salmon in the River Dee. It's my paternal homeland. A land of fantasy, culture, castles, cashmere, inventors, rebels, the best native seafood and world-class cities of the arts and culture - Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Dundee and Inverness.

Reader, let's take a slow train trip on The Caledonian Sleeper - one of the greatest train journeys from London to Inverness the gateway to the Highlands and Islands with the possibility to luxuriate in the art of slow travel. Byways can help you customise a great Scottish train trip from the city to the far, far north and set your love of art, slow food, elemental nature and wanderlust free.

The V&A Dundee Scotland, Image Courtesy Visit Scotland

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If you go before Christmas or for the start of the new year, you could go and see the exhilarating Tartan Exhibition at the V&A Dundee which runs until the 14th of January 2024. Here's a train trip that encompasses Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, giving you plenty of time to relax, graze and soak up Scotland's world-class arts, organic and pasture-raised food and culture buzz.

Joanna Lumley Wearing a Scottish Cashmere Twinset By Brora AW 2023

I have vivid childhood memories of visiting castle after castle with my dad, beachcombing for exquisite, shimmering tiny shells at Combe Bay; the anticipation and excitement of feasting on butteries, the Scottish idea of a croissant and drop scones for high tea and eating the freshest and most marvellous fish 'n' chips straight off the boats in Peterhead.

Brora Scottish Cashmere - Wave Jumper and Organic Lace Collar Blouse from the AW23 Collection

Collectively these indelible Scottish memories are my inspiration for the first magazine slow travel and culture vulture postcard devoted to the idea of Jimi Hendrix's fantastical land of Butterflies and Zebras and brilliant ways to travel, explore, eat, dress up and roam free like a Golden Eagle. Then, armed with this magnificent insider's guide to slow luxury Scotland, you can discover and support local artisans, talented chefs, national parks and heritage slow fashion from Barrie, Johnstons of Elgin and Brora. Each one-of-a-kind, heritage fashion house crafts slow, artisanal fashion jewels in tweed, Scottish cashmere and merino wool worth flaunting forever.

Given the state of the world and my own story of vaccine injury, I feel that we all need those butterflies and zebras right now and the ability to find joy and wonder in life. I yearn to go on adventures again. Reader, are you ready? Let's take the train together to Scotland's iconic cities of culture, food and heritage and get delightfully lost for a while.

Let me show you beautiful, slothful, magnificent ways to escape the 21st Century and slow down decadently and whimsically. It is time to explore Scotland's history, an epic train journey, delicious slow Scottish food from the farmer, fisherman and artisan producer and soak up Highland vistas as your companion for a trip that beckons you, dear reader, to visit the homeland of Billy Connolly, the Big Yin, Tartan and the best biscuits!

Scotland's Culture Hot Spots

To that you can add pitstops at two Scottish culture hot spot cities - Edinburgh and Glasgow - brimming with culture, art, design, and museums and the delightful prospect of Michelin Star slow food at such culinary jewels at Cail Bruich in Glasgow's West End, or head to Leith, Edinburgh's Michelin Starred gastronomic hotspot and sample exquisite food inspired by the native Scottish larder at Martin Wishart, Heron and The Kitchin, washed down with a single malt, whisky mack or a curious botanical elixir made with foraged treasures.

Balblair Scots Whisky

Naturally, you need to dress for the trip and the weather in Scotland, wrapped up in artisanal cashmere, tartan and Harris Tweed, hoping to collide with a lonely laird who looks just like Cary Grant. Well, you never know. Maybe I won't come back!

Monarch of the Glen and a Hot Laird

To prepare for the slow Scottish odyssey, why don't you escape back to the noughties and watch the entire hit series of Monarch of the Glen on BBC iPlayer and spend cosy winter nights in admiring his lairdship, Archie, laird of Glenbogle, played with a mix of steel, charm, naivety and upper crust pigheadedness by Alisdair Mackenzie as he remains quietly oblivious to the women fighting over him while he tries to hold on to his birthright - a leaking, turreted, forty room Victorian fairytale castle, nestled beside a dreamy loch and ancestral lands as far as the eye can see... or lose them to a colossal mountain of debt and a revolving assortment of venal bankers, scoundrels, speculators and husband hunters.

You could stay in the gatehouse, eco pod or holiday cottage on the grounds of Ardverikie Castle, the real Glen Bogle and the location for memorable films such as Mrs Brown starring Judi Dench and Billy Connolly and Salmon Fishing in Yemen. The estate has been under the stewardship of the same family for 150 years. Today the focus is on conservation and careful management of one of the most beautiful estates and deer forests in Scotland. Exclusive tours of the castle only open to guests are run from time to time. Enquire when booking.

Watch Monarch of the Glen on BBC iPlayer.

Take the Train to the Highlands and Islands

The Caledonian Sleeper Train Travelling Between London and the Scottish Highlands

When I was feature writing and fashion editing at The Times Magazine, I took the adventurer Alexandra Tolstoy to the Cairngorms for an interview and girls' own fashion story, with Alexandra dressed as Diana the huntress in a series of couture masterpieces including a handpainted wolf dress in leather and silk by cult couture house, Voyage. Alex looked one part Pippi Longstocking, with a dash of Winnie the Pooh (we had her fishing in the burn) with the romance and the sense of freedom and adventure of Jack London's magnetic novel White Fang. I must have been crazy. It was January, in the Scottish wilderness, and we only just wrapped the last shot and made it out before being snowed in.

One of the highlights of the trip was catching The Caledonian Sleeper Train from London to Inverness and staying up far into the night with the crew, iconic fashion photographer Mike Owen and Alex talking about how girls can do anything like following in the footsteps of Ghengis Khan along the Silk Road, which she did. We traded stories over an organic picnic, washed down with miniature bottles of robust red wine from the train buffet.

Afternoon Tea at The Roseate Edinburgh

Long train trips are a wonderful way to travel. Especially, if you are taking a train from the heart of London to the wild north of Scotland and watching the landscape slowly change from an urban, twinkling metropolis to purple mountains, ruined castles, vast lochs and sea eagles on the wing.

Bob Dylan is in the process of selling his remote and very private Cairngorms estate, Aultmore, in Scotland. The house which dates from 1911 comes with the most wonderful and fruitful walled gardens, Adams features and expansive vistas. Stay at The Fife Arms in sumptuous five-star splendour and discover some of the most pristine, wild and unspoiled habitats in the British Isles, just like Dylan, the poet songwriter and Nobel Laureate.

Edinburgh's Cobbled Streets and Independent Shops, Cafes and Independent Shops

Now I am starting to feel better, I am counting the days until I get on the train to Scotland and a Highland and Islands odyssey by train and Byways - the slow travel company - will be perfect to plan the trip, customise it and make it as delightfully slow, individual and slothful as I can dare to imagine.

Highlands and Island Train Trip with Byways from £368 per person for two nights.

The Iconic Forth Rail Bridge, Scotland

Byways Slow Travel Company - Byways can customise and extend trips and make them as individual as your personality and dreams. Scotland is the ideal country to explore by train. You can choose to combine a trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee with extensions to visit Oban, Mallaig and Fort William or visit Inverness on the East Coast, which has been voted one of the UK's most cultured and historic cities.

Byways Slow Travel Company


The Roseate Hotel Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a Unesco City of Literature and a place brimming with culture, refinement, education and spectacle from the drama of its commanding castle straight out of Game of Thrones to the buzz of the Edinburgh Fringe and the tattoo. The city is also an exciting destination for Michelin Star food, stately hotels, independent cafes and boutiques selling heritage luxury fashion, antiquarian books, jewellery and artisanal food. Stay at The Roseate Edinburgh, go and feast on Scottish seafood at Leftfield an intimate neighbourhood restaurant on Barclay Terrace, offering such delights as zingy crispy squid, oysters and mussels. You must also make a beeline for the buzzing, trendy Port of Leith where you can step onboard Brittania, Queen Elizabeth 11's beloved Royal yacht, enjoy afternoon tea on deck and take a tour of the UK's first vertical distillery with lofty views over the docks.

Royal Yacht Brittania


Glasgow has undergone an extraordinary metamorphosis in recent decades. The city has cast off its reputation as a grim industrial city to become a vibrant if still edgy metropolitan hot spot that is perhaps more daring than its refined rival, Edinburgh. Glasgow is the place to gravitate for its world-class museums - The Burrell Collection nestled in Pollack Country Park, The Kelvingrove Art Gallery Museum and The Glasgow Botanical Gardens with a rare collection of orchids and spectacular glass houses. Check the website for interesting lectures and short courses. When you have wallowed sufficiently in masterpieces from Dali to Degas, you can soak up the melting pot music and food scene in the chic West End or Merchant City and then sample cafe culture in trendy Bearsden and Finnieston. The place to eat in Glasgow is Cail Bruich. It took rising star chef, Lorna McKnee, just five months to attain her first Michelin Star. Lorna is a protegee of the late two-Michelin star chef, Andrew Fairlee at the celebrated Gleneagles Hotel. She is currently the only female chef in Scotland to hold the accolade for her exciting ideas on the seasonal British and Scottish larder reimagined with a five and seven-course tasting menu featuring the very best local, seasonal, Scottish and British produce.

When you have had enough of the city, Glasgow is the gateway to the extraordinary beauty of Scotland's west coast, its myriad sea lochs and the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides and the Western Isles.

Highland and Hogwarts Train Trip, Scotland

Why not take the iconic Highlands and Hogwarts Train trip here?

Glasgow Scotland


Queen Alexandra's Tartan Dress, V&A Dundee

Go for the V&A's Scottish outpost and leading champion of design and Scottish design luminaries beside the waterfront in Dundee. See the Tartan exhibition and revel in the timeless drama and rebellious spirit of tartan from Bonnie Prince Charlie, motor racing ace Jackie Stewart and through the work of Chanel, McQueen, Dior and Vivienne Westwood... oh, and Billy Connolly's kilt! Then explore the chic seaside enclave of Broughty Ferry, voted one of the best places to live in the UK.

V&A Dundee


Once Scotland's ancient seat of power, Stirling is dominated by its castle and the Wallace Monument. Stirling is an exciting small city with the sense of Edinburgh in Miniature. Stay at Cromlix, Kim and Andy Murray's country house hotel, near Dunblane and just eleven miles from Stirling. Cromlix offers a welcome relief from corporate hotels run by bureaucrats thousands of miles away. This historic hotel is brimming with charm, genuine hospitality and exquisitely appointed rooms with a rare sense of individuality and every possible home-from-home creature comfort from Roberts Radios to original art and delightful knick-knacks. The hotel's glasshouse restaurant is focused on seasonal local food with a feast for the senses too. Naturally, you can play tennis to your heart's content, enjoy the spa, explore the expansive grounds, try your hand at falconry or go foraging.


Wild and Rare River Tweed Salmon and Trout

Scotland must do more to protect the wild salmon, the king of fish. Wild salmon is gravely endangered from a century of overfishing and pollution. For a very special treat, order some precious wild salmon and or trout from the River Tweed from Forman and Field, one of the last great smokeries founded in London at the dawn of the 20th Century.

When I first moved to London to begin my career in journalism, I would patiently queue on a Saturday morning for a wild salmon steak from Steve Hatt, on the Essex Road, Islington. Steve was the fishmonger of choice in London. Steve told me that fresh fish doesn't smell fishy. The flavour of wild salmon bears no resemblance to farmed salmon. Wild salmon has a rich, gamey flavour and should be speckled with one or two bright purple beauty spots. As a very special treat, snap up some wild River Tweed salmon and trout from Forman's, London's great smokehouse, born out of the East End.

Forman and Field

Dress in Scottish Tweed, Wool and Cashmere for Your Trip

Dressing in Scottish cashmere and Harris Tweed from a brace of iconic Scottish fashion houses, Barrie of Scotland, Johnstons of Elgin and Brora.

The Luminaries Magazine Slow Luxury Scotland Address Book

Dovecot Studios

Dovecot is an internationally celebrated tapestry studio, housed in a grand Victorian Baths, in the heart of Edinburgh. It’s a destination for contemporary art, craft and design and an exciting place to visit and linger. It's available to hire for special events. Established in 1912, Dovecot continues a century-long tradition of collaboration with international artists to make handwoven tapestries and gun-tufted rugs of exceptional artistry, quality and design. Alongside the tapestry studio, Dovecot runs an exciting programme of exhibitions and events to further explore contemporary art, craft and design.

Dovecot Studios

Cail Bruich - Go soon before it becomes difficult to get a table. Michelin-starred restaurant in Glasgow's West End. Head chef, Lorna McKee, Scotland's only female Michelin star chef. Online bookings only. Offering a five and seven-course tasting menu with prices from £70 for lunch to £250 for dinner, excluding wine and whisky experiences.

Cail Bruich

Slow Food Scotland - Join the slow food movement in Scotland and get involved in the buzz around a renaissance in real food farming and small regenerative and pasture-for-life producers. Meet fellow foodies, find events and network with local groups.

Slow Food Scotland

Peelham Farm Pork Belly with Root Vegetables and Mash with Tigerlilly, Edinburgh

Peelham Farm - Organic farmers and producers of organic beef, veal, mutton, lamb and pastured free-range pork and scrumptious artisanal charcuterie of wonderful quality and authenticity in the Italian tradition. Tip, try their fennel or red wine salami and juicy beef burgers. UK-wide delivery. You can also visit the farm and they offer fantastic courses.

Peelham Farm

Slow Heritage Tweed, Cashmere and Merino Wool Luxe Clothing

Barrie of Scotland, now under the haute stewardship of Chanel. Barrie crafts sublime, colourful, flight of fantasy slow fashion works of art, allure and quality in Scottish cashmere that illuminate the craft of intarsia from a flower power bouquet to the hypnotic statement of a rebel tartan or thistles galore. Go mad and invest in a ritzy Barrie knitted suit with all the panache and dash of Coco Chanel and wear it forever and ever. Or buy a fabulously extrovert sweater embellished with the emblems of Scotland.

For winter 2023/24, Barrie has collaborated with film director Sophia Coppola to create the last word in stealth luxury - from cashmere boilersuits and a standout military jacket to a colour block sweater in subtle shades of palest pink and grey.

Barrie of Scotland

Bold, Playful Scottish Cashmere Knits, Stellar Collaborations and Adorable Dresses and Tweeds

Brora is a beloved slow fashion house that celebrated its thirtieth year in 2023. The focus is on bold, colourful Scottish cashmere, still made in one of the fabled and world-famous Scottish mills. Brora excels at covetable, luxurious sweaters, cardigans, sweater dresses and ditsy, ethereal separates that are always refined, feminine and elegant. Look out for Harris Tweed coats, exciting colour block designs and intricate, luxurious Fairisle cardigans, tanks and sweaters.

Natural fibres rule the roost at Brora from cashmere and alpaca to organic cotton. They are married to slow, artisan heritage skills and the idea of fashion made to last and be completely timeless. Brora does some exciting fashion collaborations. This year Brit Ab Fab national treasure Joanna Lumley has designed a delectable capsule collection of two cashmere twinsets and a darling organic lace cotton blouse. Brora has a branch in Edinburgh alongside shops in London, Oxford, Harrogate, Bath, Guildford and New York.


Iconic Makers of Cashmere, Tweed and Merino Wool

Brora Tweed, Plaid and Cashmere Clothing for AW 23/24

Johnstons of Elgin

Johnstons of Elgin have been fabled makers and purveyors of timeless, slow tweed, wool and cashmere clothing of rare beauty and longevity for 225 years. This is the fashion house to know for a sumptuous cardigan, ladylike Grace Kelly iconic twinset, cable knit sweater or refined winter coat that is film star fabulous and will last a lifetime. Like all the great heritage fashion houses, Johnston's of Elgin is highly innovative. The company runs stewardship programmes for young herders in Mongolia and their clothing is equally at home on the streets of Manhattan or a mountain in the Cairngorms.

This iconic Scottish luxury marque has been under the stewardship of just two families throughout its illustrious history. In a world of fast fashion where clothes are often made here, there and anywhere other than where they began, Johnston's of Elgin makes everything it sells in one of the last vertical mills in Hawick Scotland. You can visit the mill and shop or one of its elegant emporiums in London, Edinburgh, Elgin or the Kildare Outlet shop. Look out for the very limited edition Fairisle collection with talented Orkney knitter Mary White in support of the Longhope Lifeboat Station.

Johnstons of Elgin

Iconic Cashmere and Wool from Johnston's of Elgin 2023

A fabled vertical fashion house, mill and producer of the finest cashmere, wool and tweed from fabric to fashion. Based in Hawick, the spiritual home of cashmere fibre. The house produces luxuriously elegant and timeless cashmere lust-worthy pieces. Cashmere stars include a decadent, floor-sweeping cashmere dressing gown to a sumptuous cable-knit sweater or luxuriant cardigan to banish the most inclement Scottish winter and last a lifetime and then pass on. Johnston's of Elgin also produces stunning blankets in heritage weaves and does some fantastic collaborations with local artisans that benefit the community which thrives on the success of Scottish cashmere on the catwalk and world stage.

Johnstons of Elgin

Written, Researched and Compiled by Iconic Journalist Alison Jane Reid/The Luminaries Magazine. Copyright December 2023. All Rights Reserved. No Copying in any format whatsoever.

This handcrafted piece of slow journalism, has taken days to research, write and perfect. The best way to support the magazine is to take out a paid subscription. You can also donate to the magazine's PayPal Me Donations account. Feel inspired to take a train trip in Scotland and use Byways, the slow travel company. Tell them you read all about Slow Scotland in The Luminaries Magazine. Click on our Byway Slow Travel affiliate link here and plan your Scottish odyssey. Luminaries Trips to Scotland. Please also share the magazine with your friends and family and spread the word about us.

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About the Journalist -

Alison Jane Reid is a Scottish/English feature writer, editor and slow luxury tastemaker. Her iconic career in British national newspapers spans three decades. AJ worked as a lead feature writer specialising in cultural icons at The Times Magazine for a decade. AJ trained at Mirror Group Newspapers and went on to work as a contributing editor at The Lady and You Magazine. Her iconic interviews and features have also been published in Country Life, The Independent, ES, The Evening Standard, Coast and Harpers Wine and Spirits Magazine.

Alison Jane has also appeared in broadcast journalism for  - ITV, Channel 5, V&A Fashion Documentary and our television channel. In 2023, she took part in a documentary for Channel 5 about cultural icon Harry Styles.

Copyright Alison Jane Reid/The Luminaries Magazine December 2023. All Rights Reserved. No copying or reproduction whatsoever without written permission.