This trip has been on the cards for some time, but things happened, and we had to wait a bit before we could go and visit our friends in their new home (and business) on the Isle of Skye. All of a sudden we had some funds and decided to go in the first week of the Easter hols – I think from making the decision to getting on the train took about three weeks (I do this, I plan stuff to death, or I just do it, there seems to be no in-between setting). That was another reason for getting the train, flights were really pretty expensive by then. Thinking a long daytime train journey might be a bit painful with a nine year old I checked out the Sleeper service – it’s long been an ambition of mine to travel on it anyway – and booked it.
We left Euston at 9.15pm on the Longest Train I Have Ever Seen, going to Fort William. Coach Z must have been a quarter of a mile from the gate. Accommodation is a bit snug on board (especially when one of your party is a very tall husband) we were glad of the spare bunk we had for the bags. It is comfortable enough though – you can LIE DOWN, I mean, this is travelling nirvana for me. I think all journeys of greater than two hours should be done in a bed, until we have actual TARDIS-es or similar to deliver ourselves and our stuff to the place we’re going.
We ordered bacon rolls and drinks for the morning (each carriage has a host to look after you) and travelled though the night. The train starts off as a huge train, and then splits into three at Edinburgh – I think this happens at about 1 or 2am, I recall some jolting and mechanical noises at some point. Then I must have dozed off properly as the next thing I knew was a frantic hammering on the interconnecting door, “I didn’t know if I’d be in more trouble for waking you up, or for you missing Loch Lomond, so I woke you up!” said my husband. I clambered down from my top bunk – they are very high – and managed to get the blind up to a beautiful view of the highlands.
We had our breakfast in the buffet lounge. We were on with some regulars, including a Mum who had apparently almost given birth on the train at Christmas – they were fully expecting the buffet car manager to have to assist in the delivery, but I think she got to an ambulance just in time! It’s all going to be in a book anyway, so you can read about it there.
The train stops at all the little stations along the stretch up to Fort William, where it terminates. We had a couple of hours to hang out of the window and take in the scenery, it is really breathtaking, especially when almost the last time you looked out properly it was to see Watford or Crewe station. We arrived in Fort William on time, and reasonably un-tired. We had another train journey and a ferry to go, so we had some more coffee and then went for a slightly noisy (wheelie bags are noisy) wander round Fort William, a number of locals stopped us to ask if we were lost, and for a chat I think, they were all very lovely anyway.
The next train took us to Mallaig, over the world famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, star of Harry Potter films and so quite a draw for the travelling Harry Potter fan, such as our boy. As we approached it the cameras came out, and I’m surprised the train didn’t lurch over to one side. It is a great piece of engineering, and you get a good long view of it as it sweeps round across the valley, There were no flying cars around today (we may have to photoshop one on later).
We got to Mallaig with five minutes to get from the train to the ferry, this involved a slight obstacle course of pavement, slopes and zebra crossing, and a sprint across the port – it’s all very laid back, not at all like the channel ports! – to get on the ferry. It was quite a little ship for this crossing, me and the boy braved the deck for all of about 5 minutes before we had to go back in – the whole crossing is only 20 minutes anyway – and sit in the warm. We arrived on time, and our friend was waiting – we knew this because she’d texted me to say ‘I can see you!!!’ just after the ferry set off, “Get the kettle on then” may have been my reply.
The whole journey took almost a day, door to door. I know – we can get to Australia in the same amount of time. We could have flown, rented a car and been there in a few hours, but I spend my whole life rushing about from place to place, this made a nice change. We could make it even slower by going in the camper van, that could be anything between two days and a week! However, I wouldn’t have missed the experience this time, it was such a different way to travel, and thing ticked off my list!