I’ve spent almost three weeks in Scotland, and I think I can safely say that there’s no train or bus ride north of Edinburgh/Glasgow that doesn’t offer spectacular views!
Since I’ve managed to avoid renting a car (no regrets), I’ve relied heavily on public transport, and every experience has been a delight. None more delightful than riding the rails that comprise the West Highland line. Like this stretch between Crianlarch and Oban …
And, of course, there’s the Jacobite steam train made famous in the Harry Potter films. This particular train runs back-n-forth between Fort William and Mallaig, sometimes stopping for visits at the breathtaking Glenfinnan viaduct — also made famous in Harry Potter films!
Even if you’re not riding the Jacobite, you can easily visit the viaduct via regular train, getting off at Glenfinnan station. From there, you can take a few different footpaths to get to the viaduct for views from above or below. If you time it just right, you can also see the Jacobite crossing.
I did not time it just right, because my only opportunity for a day trip was on the weekend, and the Jacobite only runs M-F, except during a handful of summer weeks.
I also think I (accidentally) picked the steepest/hardest path to the viaduct and certainly the hottest day. Here are a couple of photos from my hike … taken from ground level while I was sitting down and panting. Who knew it could get so hot/humid in Scotland?
I also had the chance to take the Jacobite from Mallaig to Fort William, leaving in the afternoon. Here are some photos from the outside, and from the first class section on the inside …
I paid extra to sit in first class, which was slightly worth it for the comfy seats. I also paid extra for “afternoon tea” … which was totally not worth it! I basically got a box filled with nothing-special, pre-packaged sandwiches, a pat of butter, a pre-packaged scone and a small slice of fruitcake . None of it was very good and certainly not a square deal for the £15 they charged me.
But the view from any seat in the train, or any train on the West Highland route, is a square deal and will not disappoint. Here’s what it looked like from my Jacobite window. Be sure to listen for the clickety-clack of the wheels on the tracks and the chug-chug of the steam engine.
If you’re seated near the rear of the train (like I was), it’s also easy to get a shot through the window as you make your way across the viaduct. You can also get a shot of all the OTHER people getting their shots out the window. LOVE it!
When I arrived in Fort William, I had a four-plus hour wait for my bus to Inverness. By now, it should come as no surprise that I met some very cool/kind people who were also waiting: a couple from Germany and a woman from Japan.
This time of year, the sun rises very early in northern Scotland (around 4:00 a.m.) and sets very late (around 10:30 p.m.). So me and my new friends at the bus stop had one more spectacular ride in store as we made the journey toward Inverness at dusk.