Leo Bear rides the Rose Uniacke-revamped Royal Scotsman through the Scottish countryside and indulges in the UK's first ever spa carriage
What do you get when you cross a magnificent Scottish Edwardian train with Lady Carole Bamford? The answer is the UK's first ever 'spa carriage'. Following a revamp of Belmond's Royal Scotsman, the train has now launched a small-scale Haybarn Spa carriage, where guest can indulge in massages, facials and mani/pedis while whipping through the heather-filled landscapes of the Highlands. Comprising two white-washed rosemary-infused treatment rooms (formerly guest cabins), the spa is the perfect antidote to a day of clay-pigeon shooting, fishing or rambling. The gentle rocking motion of the train only adds to the relaxing effect of a deep-tissue massage by one of the highly-trained therapists that have been plucked from Daylesford's HQ in the Cotswolds. All beauty products are natural, organic and produced in the UK, and, as well as in the spa, cabin bathrooms are furnished with a neat selection of Bamford lotions and potions.
The launch comes after British interior designer Rose Uniacke re-designed the train's interior (the first revamp in 10 years). The Observation Car (a living room by the day and bar by night), and both dining carriages, have emerged lighter, softer and a wee bit more modern. As a former furniture restorer, Uniacke is passionate about original features, hence all the mahogany marquetry panels - etched with Scottish thistles, bracken and finches - remain untouched (apart from eight weeks of French polishing), as do the cut-glass art-deco wall lights and the wonderful open-air portico at the back of the Observation Car. Gone are the port-stained carpets and scratchy Harris tweeds in favour of sage-green herringbone carpets and velvet-piped cushions in buttercup and basil hues. Other new features include a collection of Charles Rennie Mackintosh prints on the walls, a brand-new heating system throughout the locomotive and new power-showers in every cabin. Really, the only luxury missing is WiFi - consciously vetoed in favour of atmosphere.
Thanks to a complimentary bar (whiskeys-a-go-go), bonny tartan-clad staff and after-dinner entertainment including folk-singing Highlanders and Scottish reeling, the Royal Scotsman is, and has been for the last 30 years, one of the most convivial trains on the circuit. But this new improved version sets in motion a different level of luxury, one for spa-lovers. Our advice? Lie back - lavender eye-mask in place - and enjoy the ride.