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Scotland's train network extends to all major cities and towns, but the railway map has a lot of large, blank areas in the Highlands and the Southern Uplands where you'll need to switch to road transport. The West Highland line from Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig, and the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh line, offer two of the world's most scenic rail journeys.

National Rail Enquiry Service (www.nationalrail.co.uk) Lists timetables and fares for all trains in Britain.

ScotRail (www.scotrail.co.uk) Operates most train services in Scotland; its website has downloadable timetables.

Costs & Reservations

Train travel is more expensive than the bus, but it's usually more comfortable.

Reservations are recommended for intercity trips, especially on Friday and public holidays. For shorter journeys, just buy a ticket at the station before you go. On certain routes, including the Glasgow−Edinburgh express, and in places where there's no ticket office at the station, you can buy tickets on the train.

Children under five travel free; those five to 15 years usually pay half-fare.

Bikes are carried free on all ScotRail trains, but space is sometimes limited. Bike reservations are compulsory on certain routes, including the Glasgow−Oban−Fort William−Mallaig line and the Inverness−Kyle of Lochalsh line; they're recommended on many others. You can make reservations for your bicycle from eight weeks to two hours in advance at main stations, or when booking tickets by phone or online.

There's a bewilderingly complex labyrinth of ticket types. In general, the further ahead you book, the cheaper your ticket will be.

Advance Purchase Book by 6pm on the day before travel; cheaper than Anytime tickets.

Anytime Buy any time and travel any time, with no restrictions.

Off Peak There are time restrictions (you're not usually allowed to travel on a train that leaves before 9.15am); relatively cheap.

It's always worth checking the ScotRail website for current family or senior offers.

Discount Cards

Discount railcards are available for people aged 60 and over, for people aged 16 to 25 (or mature full-time students), for two over-16s travelling together, and for those with a disability.

The Senior Railcard, 16-25 Railcard, Two Together Railcard and Disabled Persons Railcard are each valid for a year and give one-third off most train fares in Scotland, England and Wales.

You'll find they pay for themselves pretty quickly if you plan to take a couple of long-distance journeys or a handful of short-distance ones. Fill in an application at any major station. You'll need proof of age (birth certificate, passport or driving licence) for the Young Persons and Senior Railcards (proof of enrolment for mature-age students) and proof of entitlement for the Disabled Persons Railcard. You'll need a passport photo for all of them. You can also buy railcards online, but you'll need a UK address to have them sent to.

Train Passes

ScotRail has a range of good-value passes for train travel. You can buy them online, by phone or at stations throughout Britain. Note that Travelpass and Rover tickets are not valid for travel on certain (eg commuter) services before 9.15am weekdays.

Central Scotland Rover Covers train travel between Glasgow, Edinburgh, North Berwick, Stirling and Fife; costs £39 for three days' travel out of seven.

Spirit of Scotland Travelpass Gives unlimited travel on all Scottish train services (with some restrictions), all CalMac ferry services and on certain Scottish Citylink coach services (on routes not covered by rail). It's available for four days' travel out of eight (£139) or eight days' out of 15 (£179).

Highland Rover Allows unlimited train travel from Glasgow to Oban, Fort William and Mallaig, and from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, Aviemore, Aberdeen and Thurso. It also gives free travel on the Oban/Fort William–Inverness bus, on the Oban−Mull and Mallaig−Skye ferries, and on buses on Mull and Skye. It's valid for four days' travel out of eight (£85).