We’ll be uploading a new Cottage of the Week tomorrow, but in the meantime, here’s Kath’s final blog from Scotland – including a trip along the bewitching Jacobite railway…
After ‘the’ best night’s sleep in the cottage from my cycle ride (push!) yesterday we had planned a much more relaxing day today. The Jacobite is regarded and voted as one of the Great Railway Journeys of the World and heads west over to Mallaig. We headed down to the station in Fort William for 8.45am to buy our tickets. You can book them online but we weren’t that organised. It didn’t matter… if you can get down to the station early you can buy on the day, though in high season this is a risky move. I queued with at least 30 other people even on a wet day on the platform so if you can book ahead I would recommend it. Another thing to note is that tickets can only be purchased for good old-fashioned cash or cheques so go prepared. Also plentiful parking is available in the long stay car park for £1.50 per day – bargain!
With our tickets purchased we headed for breakfast in the station cafe: bacon sandwiches washed down with a huge pot of tea. The sandwiches were excellent and the service by two very busy ladies was welcoming. It’s a long time since I have had breakfast brought to me with a pot of tea with proper tea leaves and a strainer provided!
Full as eggs we headed to the platform 20 minutes before the train was due to depart. We wanted to get some pics of the engine, which was now in full steam. This is not a big station you understand but even if it was you could smell your way to the right place. That familiar whiff of sulphur and the white billowing steam led us to the engine at the top of platform 3.
There were of course lots of people taking pics – dedicated steam lovers, Japanese tourists and lots of children because of course this is the line, and indeed the engine, that featured in the Harry Potter films. Harry and his colleagues were filmed travelling on the Hogwarts Express in the same carriages that we were to sit in over the now infamous Glenfinnan Viaduct on this the Jacobite line.
We rattled forwards the engine full steam ahead, on which was to be a fantastic experience. The familiar sound of the iron wheels on the track from my childhood train journeys, the smell of second hand coal and the bouncy sprung seats in individual carriage compartments. Soon we arrived at Glenfinnan Viaduct – the most famous part of the line thanks to Harry Potter. Our carriage was set well back and looking out of the window we enjoyed seeing the engine curl round and hug the magnificent stone structure as we forged forwards. I could almost imagine the famous scene from the film where the Ford Anglia flies overhead…
The rest of the journey took us along ‘the’ most stunning scenery on the 84 mile round trip… Britain’s highest mountain, deepest loch, shortest river and most westerly station and we also sighted deer in the glens.
Our arrival in to Mallaig was dead on time and after alighting we headed to the small coastal town to explore. Mallaig is a small fishing port overlooking the Sound of Sleat which separates the mainland from the Isle of Skye. We had a couple of hours before our journey back so we wandered and weighed up the best place for lunch. The Cornerstone Restaurant caught our eye but rather than opting for a sit down lunch we bobbed round to the back door where they serve take away fish and chips. Not the cheapest I have to say but boy were they good. We ate them overlooking the harbour with a few gulls to keep us company… I got the impression that they were experts at begging for chips!
We had been instructed that the train would leave on time… it waits for no man! In fear of getting stranded we were back early and sat on the train ready for our journey back. As I sat and waited for the engine to pull away from the station I noted the excitement I was feeling… it seems just about the whole world and his wife loves a steam train. People stop their cars to take pics when we pass roadside, men working by the line stop to watch and traffic at level crossings wave enthusiastically and we wave back feeling a tinge of royalty.
The journey back doesn’t stop at Glenfinnan so you need to be ready having passed through this station with your camera to get that all important shot of the engine passing over the viaduct. I was by the window prepared with my camera long before the station as others huffed and puffed knowing they had lost their opportunity. I got my shot but it wasn’t without its anxious moments – sticking your head out of a window in the wake of a steam train means you get hot coal particles from the chimney chucked back at you. Getting back in to the safety of my seat I picked numerous pieces of warm coal from my hair and my face was grey from the smoke to say the least – all part of the fun though when you get ‘the’ shot!
Our arrival back in to Fort William was again on time to the minute and we collected the car and headed home to our cottage with a tinge of disappointment, the like you get after something truly fantastic. What a day, one of the best trips I’ve ever experienced, I have to say. Back at the cottage the sun was shining and as we were on the last day of our holiday we got out the bikes and had a run in to town to buy wine for supper. We stopped via one of the many vibrant bars in town to ‘fuel’ our way back you understand. The best end to a perfect day!
Tomorrow we are heading home a day early so this is my last blog… all in all I’ve had a great week. Fort William proved to be a great base for our pretty active break, this part of the world is just a joy and I’m sure I will be hard pushed to find such absolutely beyond stunning scenery anywhere else in the UK. Thank you Scotland for what can only be described as a fantastic week!!
If you’d like more info, or to make a booking, please visit the property’s listing on cottages4you.