Rail Holiday in Scotland Autumn 2016
Norwich to Dumfries a mere 17.50, destination eight days of Freedom of Scotland.
Our journey via London was around 100 cheaper than my preferred route via Settle, so that was some compensation. The train departed The Fine City a minute late, and reached Liverpool Street some three minutes late, this due entirely to our venturing on the slow line from Ilford through Stratford.
Nevertheless, we reached Euston in good time for a cup of coffee and the 1230 departure. This was full and the carriages had a claustrophobic feel, not helped by our facing the wrong direction, despite my requesting the opposite. The perils of cheap travel I suppose! Despite the fast journey, Carlisle was reached late at 1551, though we still had plenty of time for our connection to Dumfries. Here we dined royally (at Morrisons) before catching the local to the small town of Sanquhar arriving at 1900.

Next morning, our Scotrail train turned up on time at Sanquhar, enabling us to spend the morning in Glasgow. Alas it was pouring! From Glasgow Central we walked to Queen Street from where I had planned to catch the 1441 through train all the way to Nairn, but the miserable conditions, and the fact that my shoes were leaking, made us leave a couple of hours earlier, and after a change at Aberdeen, we made it on a crowded ex-Great North of Scotland line to Nairn promptly at 17.28.

After a rest day, literally at the crack of dawn, we were up and about, breakfastless, on the early morning 0702 departure from Inverness. The plan had been to get some sustenance on the train but the advertised refreshment facilities were nowhere to be found. Not surprising considering there were so few passengers. The train up here in the Highlands is slower even than the coach. However promptly at 11 am, after a four hour marathon over bleak and sometimes impressive countryside, we had reached Thurso. The 1600 departure from Wick began the long long interminable trek back to Inverness, arriving 2010. At least there were refreshments on sale on the train.

It was Saturday, and we had time for breakfast before the 0855 train from Inverness. The first shock was that it was crowded, almost full. Perversely, refreshements were being offered when today we had no need of them. But the scenery was wonderful compensation, forested mountains, lochs shining in the morning sunshine, a soothing journey to the immortal Kyle of Lochalsh.

So far everything had gone so smoothly to plan, but on Monday mroning the winds were howling over Skye. Would the ferry to mainland Mallaig be running? If not it would be absolutely impossible to reach our next haven. The hotel owner drove us to the ferry, and fortunately we could see the ship on its way, battling against the foaming waves. A minute early the 08.30 ferry departed for Mallaig taking only five minutes longer for its journey than it should have done. From here the train left on time at 10.10.
We had brief time to admire the steam special travelling westwards at Glenfinnan (photo at Fort William). The problem of single line running was exemplified when we were delayed ten minutes at Spean Bridge for the "northbound train" which perversely at that point is actually travelling southwards. Still, I am quoting the train guard, who also tipped us off that we might like to stretch our legs on the platform for a wee while. Thus we were fourteen minutes late at Crianlarich, but no matter, a fifty minute wait for our connection was ahead of us.
We whiled away the time by counting the apparently newly installed pimples on the platform designed to help blind people. Our estimates as to the total of these proved considerably inadequate, when we recalculated and found over twenty seven thousand of the things were installed. Calculation of the cost of this was curtailed by the arrival of the train, inevitably fourteen minutes late, delayed by our last train which had been delayed by the previous northbound train. Eventually Oban was reached thirteen minutes late, in time for the 1600 ferry across to Mull.

After an inspiring night on Iona, we went by bus along Loch Ness, delayed by a Japanese tourist who needed the loo. Our worst delay of the week, a mere 15 minutes, which still allowed us enough time to catch the Inverness train departure on time at 1253. Passing through more breathtaking bare scenery, and leaving Haymarket two minutes early I decided we might, with a rush, improve our schedule.
But then spent four minutes waiting outside Edinburgh until the correct time of 1624. By some nifty footwork, we avoided the advertised connection and nipped on to the East Coast Express departing at 1630 to reach a sunny Berwick on Tweed nearly forty minutes ahead of what I had planned. There was just time to enjoy sunset over The Border Bridge.

The final day saw us say farewell to Berwick at 0812, too early for a full English, or maybe it would have been a Scottish breakfast? No matter. We travelled first class for only a few pounds more, and grabbed a free cooked meal. The only snag was that as the first class was unusually at the rear of the southbound service, we spent an interesting time after quitting Newcastle by reversing and travelling via the High Level Bridge to regain the correct route. The delay meant we were late enough at York to be in danger of missing our quick connection to Peterborough. No worry! Once aboard this stopping service, there was some compensation when we could have had a Second Breakfast on our connecting service. However we decided that might be a little too greedy!
Eventually we reached Norwich 5 minutes ahead of time, after an exhausting and enjoyable holiday, not a single serious delay all week.

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