Scotland: Fort William

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West Highland train line sounds:

15 – 17 June 2009

Train trip to Fort William

The train from Stirling to Glasgow left at 11:21am on Monday (15 June) morning so we had breakfast at a coffee shop before making our way to the train station. After the 40 minute trip to Glasgow, we changed to the 12:21pm train to Fort William. The first hour of this 3 hour 40 minute journey was spent going along the Clyde River and ocean inlets, past ports and old shipyards.

The train then turned inland and along the upper part of Loch Lomand before reaching the desolate West Highlands. The ride continued past many lochs (lakes) and it began to rain as we passed through the Moor of Rannoch. We reached Fort William at 4:06pm and were able to walk the 20 minutes from the train station to our bed and breakfast without getting too wet. The weather cleared up as we settled in and then walked back into town to look around. We had an early dinner at a seafood restaurant on the banks of Lake Linnhe.

Day Hike in Glen Nevis

The weather on Tuesday was more promising than the forecast for Wednesday, so we decided to take a day hike in the Glen Nevis area, about a three mile walk from the center of town. We were interested in going to Steall Meadows and a 100 meter high bride veil waterfall. It looked to be three miles round trip from the visitor center parking lot. However, we discovered that it was the wrong parking lot and the hike began from another one five miles down the road. Fortunately a public bus was able to take us most of the way to the trail head and we were able to enjoy a nice hike along a beautiful river and then a somewhat challenging rocky path through a small gorge. Once we reached the meadow and waterfall we relaxed and enjoyed the peacefulness of the area as there were only a handful of people there.

We thought we would be able to walk back to the trail head and pick up the public bus all the way back to Fort William. Because it was a school day the buses were not running as often as we thought so we ended up having to walk an extra 2 1/2 miles to the youth hostel to call a taxi. We figure we ended up walking about 11 miles in all but enjoyed the hike and scenery.

Once back in Fort William we opted for a 90 minute boat cruise around Loch Linnhe where we were treated to views of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK at 4,409 feet (1,344m). We also passed several salmon farms in the lake. After the boat cruise was over we went to a pub for dinner.

Train Trip to Mallaig and Ferry Ride to Isle of Skye

On Wednesday (17 June) the weather was cold and rainy but nevertheless we decided to make our way on the 8:30am train to Mallaig. This train trip is considered to be one of the most scenic in Europe and has the added bonus of passing along the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is a famous bridge featured in the Harry Potter films. As the train moved closer to Mallaig during the 80 minute journey, highland views gave away to ocean inlets and coastline. We reached Mallaig a little before 10am and went to get a cup of hot tea to warm us up as it was cold, rainy and windy.

We decided to go to the Isle of Skye for a few hours as there were castle ruins and a museum to visit. The 25 minute ferry crossing was great, even though it was still rainy and cold. This ferry held numerous cars on its lower deck and had a nice indoor area to sit in when we weren’t out taking pictures. Once in Armadale, on the Isle of Skye, it was a half mile walk to the Armadale Castle ruins and the Museum of the Isles. The weather was better here and we enjoyed the gardens adjacent to the castle as well as learning about Clan Donald and Scottish history at the museum.

After some lunch next to the pier we boarded the 2:25pm ferry back to Mallaig. We had about an hour to walk around the city and hike up a hill for some nice ocean views. The train back to Fort William left at 4:05pm and the weather was much better than the trip in the morning, which allowed us to take some pictures from the train window. Once we were back in Fort William, we celebrated our last night there with dinner at an Indian restaurant.


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