West Highland Line


Click for larger image

The West Highland Line was voted the world’s best train journey by Wanderlust Magazine. The trip runs through the scenic Scottish highlands and across the Glenfinnan Viaduct to Mallaig on the coast north of Oban. The Glenfinnan Viaduct is the dramatic span crossed by the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies. We had wonderfully clear weather for the trip and very much enjoyed the views and our stops for lunch in Mallaig and dinner in Fort William. We had also planned to visit the underground power station at the Falls of Cruachan, but our train the next day was disabled after hitting a boulder on the track, so we did a little more touring in Glasgow instead.

Trip highlights from July 18th and 19th, 2017 follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps

7/18/2017
Click for larger image
Tickets

We’ve got a swack of tickets for a somewhat complex two-day train trip. From nearby Cartsdyke station we’ll take a tain to Glasgow Central Station, then transfer to Queen St. Station for Fort William. We’ll change seats in Fort William on to Mallaig, the most beautiful part of the trip, then return to spend the night in Fort William. The next day we’ll travel from Fort William to Crianlarich and transfer to the Oban line to visit the underground power station at the Falls of Cruachan. Finally, we’ll travel return to Cartsdyke station via Glasgow. We have separate tickets for almost every leg and picked them up while we were in Glasgow over the weekend.
Click for larger image
James Watt Dock

We’re lucky to have a beautiful sunny day for our trip through the West Highlands.
Click for larger image
Cartsdyke Station

At Cartsdyke station to take the train into Glasgow.
Click for larger image
Departures

At Queen St. Station, the departure platform isn’t announced until about five minutes before the train leaves. Our train is third from the left, departing at 8:21am for Mallaig.
Click for larger image
Forth and Clyde Canal

The railway runs alongside the old Forth and Clyde Canal for a bit, visible at lower left. The 35-mile canal opened in 1790 between the River Clyde at Bowling and the River Carron at Grangemouth. The canal initially was successful, but fell into disuse as oceangoing vessels were built larger and could no longer pass through. The advent of rail also reduced traffic. The canal was closed in the 1960s, but reopened in the early 21st century. A narrowboat today can be run from Bowling, on the River Clyde about ten miles east of Greenock, east through the Falkirk Wheel and into the Union Canal and another 31 miles to Edinburgh.
Click for larger image
River Clyde

Looking south to a large navigation marker along the River Clyde. The river is navigable in Dirona until the Science Center just west of the Glasgow central core where several low fixed bridges block further progress. Plans are in place to build a new marina complex there.
Click for larger image
Crossing

Crossing the River Levern.
Click for larger image
Greenock

Cruise ships in Greenock to our southwest. James Watt Dock Marina where we are moored is just out of the picture on the left.
Click for larger image
Loch Goil

Drymsynie House Hotel on Loch Goil.
Click for larger image
Coach

Our coach on the West Highland Line.
Click for larger image
Semaphore

Most of the signalling on the West Highland Line is radio-controlled but the line around Fort William is still semaphore-controlled. The signs say “Obtain Token and Permission To Proceed”.
Click for larger image
Horseshoe Curve

When the railway was built in the late 1800s, the builders couldn’t afford to run a viaduct across the mouth of a broad valley. They instead created the famous ‘horseshoe curve’ where the line follows the foothills of the several mountains around the valley. We’ll turn right and eastward, then curve left and northward to cross the viaduct visible in the center of the photo (click image for a larger view) and continue the curve westward along the left side of the picture and finally turn right again to continue north.
Click for larger image
West Highland Way

The West Highland Way is a popular hiking trail running 96 miles from Mingavie north of Glasgow to Fort William. We saw lots and lots of hikers en route.
Click for larger image
Moor of Ranoch

Passing through an area of bogs, streams and lakes called the Moor of Ranoch.
Click for larger image
Corrour

Corrour is one of the most remote train stations in Britain—the nearest road is a ten-mile walk along a hill track. The station was featured in the movie Trainspotting. You can see them walk past the semaphore signs in the going for a walk scene.
Click for larger image
Loch Treig

The train runs along beautiful Loch Treig for several miles.
Click for larger image
Fort William Station

At Fort William, the largest town on the West Highland Line.
Click for larger image
Neptune’s Staircase

Just outside Fort William we cross over the Caledonian Canal at Neptune’s Staircase, the longest staircase lock in Britain. A series of eight locks carry boats up or down 64 feet. We’ll be passing through southbound likely some time in October after cruising the west and north coast of Scotland and the Orkney Islands.
Click for larger image
Ben Nevis

Looking southeast across saltwater Loch Eil to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 4,411 ft (1,345 m) above sea level.
Click for larger image
Glenfinnan Viaduct

A highlight of the West Highland Line is passing over Glenfinnan Viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films. Built in 1901, it was one of the first viaducts built of concrete.
Click for larger image
Glenfinnan Station

Glenfinnan Station has a museum and you can even spend the night in a converted rail car.
Click for larger image
Loch Eilt

Loch Eilt is one of the most picturesque lochs along the route, with many tree-covered islets.
Click for larger image
Church of Our Lady of the Braes

The Church of Our Lady of the Braes was featured in the film Local Hero.
Click for larger image
Rapids

Crossing a small rapid over the River Morar.
Click for larger image
Mallaig

The end of the line in Mallaig.
Click for larger image
Mallaig Harbor

It was nearly 2pm by the time we arrived in Mallaig, but we wanted stretched our legs a bit and check out the town before stopping for lunch. Mallaig has a busy commercial harbour with ferries and tour boats constantly arriving and departing.
Click for larger image
Lunch

An excellent lunch overlooking the harbor at The Fishmarket.
Click for larger image
RNLI

The Mallaig RNLI lifeboat.
Click for larger image
Fishboats

Fishboats rafted in the harbor.
Click for larger image
Fish Feed

This warehouse had bags and bags of fish feed for the local fish farms.
Click for larger image
View

After lunch we walked up to the top of a hill where a radio tower was mounted for sweeping views of the area. You can see one large ferry loading on the right and another arriving farther out.
Click for larger image
Glenfinnan Monument

On the return run to Fort William, we got a good view to the Glenfinnan Monument south of the tracks. The monument was erected in 1815 to commemorate Bonnie Prince Charlie raising his standard here in August 1745.
Click for larger image
Viaduct From West

The view to the Glenfinnan Viaduct from the west.
Click for larger image
Loch Eil

Beacon marking the entrance to the Caledonian Canal on saltwater Loch Eil.
Click for larger image
Caledonian Canal

Boats moored for the night at the bottom of Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal.
Click for larger image
Duncansburgh MacIntosh Parish Church

We checked in and dropped our bags off at the hotel then went for a walk around Fort William. Near our hotel is the Duncansburgh MacIntosh Parish Church, opened in 1882.
Click for larger image
High Street

High Street in Fort William had a great selection of bars and restaurants. This time of year, the town is busy with tourists, many who hiked the West Highland Way. We had a good meal overlooking the water at the Ben Nevis restaurant, then stopped in for an after-dinner drink at the Grog and Gruel.
7/19/2017
Click for larger image
Change of Plans

We took the 7:44am train from Fort William with plans to visit the underground power station at the Falls of Cruachan. Unfortunately the train hit a boulder near the south end of Loch Trieg, punctured a fuel tank, and disabled the train. The train limped backward to the previous station at 5 miles per hour, were we would be bussed out.
Click for larger image
Tulloch Station

The train backed up at 5 miles per hour, stopping every ten minutes or so. It took about ten minutes to reach the south end of Loch Trieg this morning after passing Tulloch Station and nearly two hours to slowly limp backward to it. Surprisingly, ScotRail never made an announcement to explain where we were going or how we were getting there. Everyone just got off at the station when the train stopped.
Click for larger image
Buses

Buses were waiting for us at the station. We eventually asked someone what the plan was and were told the buses would take us to Fort William and perhaps Glasgow, but no still no announcement was made.
Click for larger image
Loch Leven

Crossing the bridge over Loch Leven south of Fort William. The bus didn’t stop in Fort William, which was a surprise to a couple of passengers who wanted to get off there. The driver let them out, but they had to walk several miles back into town. We still had no idea where we were going and eventually asked the driver, who told us we’d be going straight to Glasgow with a brief stop at Crianlarich. One person got very upset at the train station, but otherwise all the passengers seemed to just take the whole thing in stride and didn’t seem bothered by the lack of information. We did get a refund for all of today’s train tickets.
Click for larger image
Scenery

The road follows a different route from the the train track, so we got some different views of the mountain scenery on the bus trip back.
Click for larger image
Aonach Eagach

The Aonach Eagach ridge extends for 6 miles.
Click for larger image
Tyndrum Inn

The Tyndrum Inn near Tyndrum station.
Click for larger image
Lunch

After arriving back into Glasgow, we treated ourselves to a fabulous late lunch/early dinner at the Atlantic Brasserie to make up for our lost day.
Click for larger image
The Lighthouse

We’d wanted to visit The Lighthouse on our first trip to Glasgow, but it had closed for the day by the time we got there, so we took the opportunity to visit today instead. Renowned Scottish artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed The Lighthouse in 1893 as the striking new headquarters for the Glasgow Herald. It was the first building Mackintosh designed and now houses Scotland’s Center for Architecture and Design.
Click for larger image
Rooftop View

The top floor of The Lighthouse is an open-air balcony with a 360-degree rooftop view of the city. Typically a viewpoint like that will be caged or glassed in–it was wonderful to be just out there in the open and feel that you could almost reach out and touch the surrounding buildings.
Click for larger image
Museum

After the balcony, we spent some time in a small museum detailing Mackintosh’ life and work.
Click for larger image
Toilets

We loved the toilet signs in the Center for Architecture and Design, with all the figures looking a little desperate to find the loo.
Click for larger image
Lower Observation Deck

A modern observation deck gave a slightly different view to the city. This is looking back up the the open-air balcony (on the left) that we were on earlier.
Click for larger image
Crew

A documentary crew was at the observation deck taking footage. One of them was from Canada and had even gone to the University of Victoria where James and I met. Small world.
Click for larger image
The James Watt

We stopped for a cider at the James Watt pub in Greenock before returning home. The day hadn’t gone according to plan, but we had a great time anyway.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


If your comment doesn't show up right away, send us email and we'll dredge it out of the spam filter.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *