UK rail trip – 2022
Day 41 – 13th May, 2022
I awoke not long before the train passed through Carstairs. This is where the line to Edinburgh branches off. A night of broken sleep. I’m not as good at sleeping overnight on trains, in a seat, as I used to be. However, I was awake enough and looking forward to the day. Just before 07:30, the train arrived at Glasgow Central. The last time I was in Scotland, only about five weeks ago, masks were still mandatory in indoor settings. Thankfully, that mandate was lifted just after Easter. I checked Google Maps and saw that it was quite an easy and straight forward walk to Glasgow Queen Street. Leaving the station, I first dropped into the Sainsbury’s Local across the road and bought my 1 litre bottle of orange juice. I took swigs as I walked along the street. The walk to Queen Street only took about ten minutes, leaving 45 minutes until the departure of my train to Mallaig.
My ScotRail class 156 pulled out of the station on time. It was a full service, including about five men who were going to spend several days walking through the Scottish highlands along the West Highland Way. They were going to be starting their part of the walk at Bridge of Orchy station. Along the way, there were periods of sunshine and rain. And the scenery was absolutely fantastic. It has now become one of my favourite railway lines to travel. Apologies to the Hope Valley Line, Huddersfield Line, Settle-Carlisle Line and the Kyle of Lochalsh Line (which I only travelled along just five weeks earlier). The train passed several lochs which were quite far down, This is because the line had slowly been gaining altitude as the journey progressed.
At Crianlarich, the train seperates. The front half goes to Oban, the rear (my) half goes to Fort William and Mallaig. On arrival at Fort William, I saw a steam engine at one of the other platforms. Probably forming the steam special that runs over the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Before arriving at Fort William, I’d changed seats to the other side of the table. This is because the train reverses there. I wanted to make sure I was on the right side of the train, facing the forward direction, for when we pass over the viaduct. By this time, it was raining again. I’d hoped that it was not going to impact the view too much. It wouldn’t be too long before I’d find out. As the train kept winding its way along, I continued to be blown away by the countyside. The word ‘spectacular’ just didn’t seem to be enough to describe it. But something more spectacular had just come into view. In the distance, I saw the imposing structure of the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
I had been waiting to cross this viaduct for many years. I finally was fulfilling this dream. Those who have watched the Harry Potter films (there are probably still a few people left in the world that havent), will certainly recognise this viaduct. With that (partially) ticked off my bucket list, I settled in for the remainder of the trip to Mallaig. Next time I see Glenfinnan Viaduct, it will be by bicycle.
The arrival into Mallaig was very cold and windy. It was a very short walk to the ferry terminal. After paying my £3.20 fare, I proceeded to the foot passenger waiting area – not much more than a shed! But at least it was undercover. It was about a 15 minute wait before we were all able to board. The boarding process was pretty simple. Just follow the marked out walkway! The ferry, named Loch Fyne, left about 10 minutes late.
I could have chosen to stay indoors. But where’s the fun in that? 🙂 I went above deck for the crossing – it was very windy and a littlel chilly. I eventually had to take off my cap, as it was almost blown off in the wind.
After arriving at Armadale, I still had a couple of hours to wait for the first of two buses. I wandered around the wharf area (not much to see!). I decided to pick up some chips from The Shed, located right next to the wharf. A little overpriced, but that’s only to be expected when there’s no competition around. I decided to sit down at the bus stop and read a couple of railway magazines. Eventually, the bus turned up.
The scenery between Armadale and Broadford was absolutely spectacular. Beautiful coastline gave way to barren landscape, which was beautiful in its own right. One day I look forward to cycling through here. Not overly hilly, but there will be a few challenges. But it will be totally worth it. The bus arrived at the Broadford Post Office.
I still had another bus to catch before arriving at Kyle of Lochalsh. That was still an hour away. So, I popped into Cafe Sia & Siaway for a cup of tea. Definitely worth paying a visit if you happen to be in the area! After a cup of tea, I went back outside and crossed to the bus stop on the other side of the road. It wasn’t long before the bus turned up.
This bus was a little more comfortable than the one from Armadale to Broadford. It was more of a long distance bus, as it would go all the way to Inverness. On the way to Kyle of Lochalsh, the bus turned into the little village of Kyleakin and stopped by the old ferry wharf. Before the Skye Bridge was opened, the ferry crossing was the only way to get from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin. Due to weather systems, it was often out of action. A shame, in a way. After leaving Kyleakin, the bus rejoined the main road and proceeded over the bridge. Definitely looks quite steep! I wonder how long it would take for me to reach the top on a bicycle. A few minutes later, the bus arrived at the stop near the harbour slipway – the other side of the old ferry crossing.
I collected my luggage and walked up to the Islander Bunkhouse and checked in. They remembered me from last time. I will be staying here for two nights. I unpacked my stuff and went down to the bar and ordered a pint of cider.
After a couple of pints, I wandered down to the local laundromat. They were just about to close up. There were two washing machines available – one coin operated and the other accepted debit/credit cards! No need to hunt around trying to find change. Always a good thing! I sat down by the harbour for a little and then decided to call it a night.