Into the Greenery: Scottish Highlands by Train
After years of contemplating – I finally traveled to Scottish Highlands in the summer of 2016 for a short visit of three days. I benefited from a long weekend that fell between two weeks of meetings in London. Two years later, I made it up to the land of greenery once again but this for a winter trip. Come summer come winter, Scottish Highlands is a destination that will please the nature lovers under any and all weather conditions.
As a solo traveler, my preferred way of transportation was, as always, the train. Even though the train tickets in England and Scotland are scarily expensive making you re-consider your trip – the train passes available for both countries are life savers making the trip possible at a considerably lower cost. You can check out the Brit Rail site to find the pass suitable for your needs and they usually have very good discounts for winter trips making it even more affordable.
Train to Scotland through English countryside
My summer journey started with a trip on a fast train from London to Glasgow. The trip took around four hours and there is never a dull moment. The wonderful English countryside scenery starts almost as soon as the train leaves London.
Overnight stay in Glasgow
I had a very brief overnight stay in Glasgow but the town looked quite interesting and I wish I had more time – next time. The Glasgow hotel that I stayed in was very nice (one of the biggest rooms that I have stayed in) at a considerably good price (around USD 80 per night). Abode Hotel Glasgow also had a quite interesting interior decoration (with a vintage caged elevator).
Glasgow to Mallaig, arguably one of the most scenic train journeys in the world
The next morning I took off for Fort William again by train – starting the first leg of my journey through Scottish Highlands on one of the arguably most amazing train journeys in the world (Glasgow to Mallaig). Scottish trains are usually okay and they operate on time but do not expect any of the amenities available on other European trains such as in Switzerland and France. I would recommend you pack your own food and drinks as there is no restaurant car but only a food tray (and only in some of the trains not all). Otherwise, the trains are fairly clean and comfortable.
Fort William, perfect base-town to explore the Scottish Highlands
Fort William is a mid-sized town with a good selection of bed and breakfasts and a limited range of restaurants. I stayed one night at Brevins Guest House and one night at Valtos Guest House. The first one had a more modern feeling whereas the latter felt truly British (with single bed room options substantially reducing the price). If you are traveling in the summer, I recommend that you book both your accommodation and dinners well in advance as I had very difficult time finding a place to eat and stay even for a single person.
The biggest draw of Fort William is its proximity to Glencoe (about 30 minutes on a bus) – one of the most beautiful regions in Scotland. You can do many walks on your own and experience for yourself what the famous Scottish rain is all about! There are numerous public buses running between Fort William and Glencoe but there is no train link. As expected, there is limited service on Sundays.
Famous Fort William – Mallaig Line through Glenfinnan Viaduct
After hanging out in Fort William and Glencoe area for two days, I, on the last day of my trip, took the famous Fort William – Mallaig line for the amazing views. I was very lucky that there was sunshine for the entire day and I did not get bored even for a minute during my entire train journey of ten hours including the return leg to London. Along the way – you also pass over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct – I have not seen it but I have been told that the viaduct is featured on Harry Potter movies.
The photos during this trip were captured with my new camera – the Fuji X-Pro 2. It is a very good camera and much lighter than my Canon 5D Mark II but I am not yet at that stage of fully dropping the full frame experience (as many do) and entirely switching to a mirrorless system.
End of the train trip in Scottish Highlands
Train trip from Scotland back to London is also very pleasant with amazing English countryside views. The Virgin trains operating between London and Glasgow are very comfortable and also have a food car. I recommend that you book your seat in advance not due to the potential availability problems but to secure a window seat.
I really enjoyed my trip to Scotland and my occasional chats with amazingly friendly Scottish people (though I could only understand at best half of they were saying).