The train originates from Queen Street Station in
This is not an express. Plan for five-hours or more between Glasgow and Mallaig. Due to irregular stops, many of which are by request only, trains easily get off schedule. Day-trippers can make a round-trip, but an early start is a must.
Many riders travel to Mallaig to catch the ferry to the Isle of Skye. Frequently those travelers return by way of Oban to take the train to Crianlarich where coaches reconnect for the trip back to
The tiny four carriage trains pull out of
The cramped interiors are not designed for luxury, but passengers don’t seem to mind as they flit from one side to the next to view each new panoramic vista.
With a constantly changing carrousel of scenery, one side of the train is no better than the other. Simply choose a seat and be prepared to be awed while shuffling back and forth to witness the majestic scenery that stream by the window.
Gare Loch is first. As home to Britain’s nuclear submarines, it seems incongruous amid the tree-lined brownish-green hills covered with bluebells.
Gradually the hills become more mountainous. On the right a long, deep, U-shaped valley known as Glen Douglas guides travelers toward the “bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”
Soon the loch made famous in the song Loch Lomond comes into view with Ben (Gaelic for “mountain”) Lomond towering over the scene. Across the water lies Inversnaid, the rolling landscape once roamed by legendary Scottish folk-hero Rob Roy MacGregor.
Just beyond, the train coasts through a tunnel of trees that eventually reveals streams rushing beside fields of wildflowers and steep heather carpeted banks covered with craggy yellow gorse. Here and there shaggy brown Highland cattle graze lazily, oblivious to the curiosity seekers aboard the train.
The train divides at Crianlarich with two carriages traveling to Oban, and the other pair to Mallaig.
Wheels sing upon the tracks as steel grinds against steel at every sharp bend in the rails. Just north of Tyndrum the train makes a dramatic horseshoe turn around a curve that wraps around a valley lined by two large conical hills.
From there it’s on to Rannoch Moor with its eerie Hound of the Baskervilles aura. The train is the only way across the boggy pockmarked moonscape with its outcroppings of rock and lonely otherworld atmosphere. Desolate though it may be, the Rannoch Moor is a highlight of the journey.
But there’s no time for despair because just after the moor, the stunningly beautiful Loch Treig comes into view. The squealing wheels hush as the train gently glides beside bluish-gray water that yields to rising banks of deep green on the opposite shore.
As the train pulls into
Those who journey onward however, are in store for the indescribable beauty of Glenfinnan Viaduct with its 21 arches that curve southward toward Loch Shiel. Along the shore of the loch stand
Summer travelers can enjoy crossing the viaduct aboard a steam-powered train. It’s the ultimate romance of the rails that can only be appreciated by the experience itself.
The end of the line is Mallaig, where frequent ferries are available for visits to Rum, Eigg and other small islands as well as the popular Isle of Skye.
This is rail travel as it once was and as it should be. Scotland’s West Highland Line is a memory in the making.
For information about the West Highland Line of Scotland, go online and visit www.raileurope.com
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world.
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at The
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