May 22, 2012
This was our official rest day, so we had booked a trip on the Jacobite steam train, to while away the day. Since the train was scheduled to leave at 10:15 am, we didn’t have to rush. We had breakfast, organized lunch stuff, and walked the short distance over to the train station, arriving with about an hour to spare. This turned out to be good in that there were not many people around the steam engine, and it was easier to take photos.
We were booked into the last car of the train and would be riding backwards. In addition our seats turned out to be on the landward side of the train, where the views were not as good. The route took us out of Fort William and through the industrial suburbs before we reached the Caledonian Canal and the Neptune Locks. Following the coastline we meandered along past farms and through tunnels and eventually came to Glenfinnan, after passing the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct which featured in one of the Harry Potter movies and also adorns the Scottish £10 note. It was difficult to get a good picture of the viaduct from where we were seated, so we planned to find a better position for the return trip.
At Glenfinnan we had a stop for about 20 minutes. Here we saw one of the old dining cars complete with the original woodwork and an old railway snowplow. There was a piper playing on the platform for our entertainment, too.
Back on the train we went past what we thought might be mussel farms in one of the lochs, more sheep and lambs, and beautiful wild scenery. We arrived in Mallaig at 12:15 and made our way to the centre of town, by the port. There were a few benches there which were already occupied, but an older couple who were sitting on one of the benches moved over and allowed us to share it with them. As we were eating our lunch we noticed a lot of people looking at a motorcycle bearing the “Long Way Down” logo, and guessed that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman might be planning a new show. We didn’t see either of them, but we did recognize one of the film crew.
After lunch we bought ice cream and wandered around the town. Climbing up the side of the hill we could see over to the Isle of Skye and also to many of the smaller islands. We stopped in at the ferry terminal and picked up their brochure, thinking that a holiday on Skye might be an interesting thing to plan.
The train left Mallaig at 2:15 pm and got back to Fort William at 4 pm. This time our seats were on the ocean side of the train, but we still dozed for part of the time. However we did manage to get some good photos of the viaduct from the platform between the cars. When we arrived at the Fort William station we were greeted by one of the WHW walkers who we hadn’t seen for several days. He and his wife had arrived in Fort William today and, being a train fan, he really wanted to see the train arrive. He was hoping to get tickets for tomorrow’s trip, but would have to line up very early in the morning to have a chance.
Before we headed back to our room we walked down to the official end of the WHW to get some photos, then stopped in a few shops. We bought a table protector (like a big rectangular coaster – we don’t know its name) which had a picture of a Highland cow on it. Then we stopped in the used book shop to see if they had a copy of “Glencoe” by John Prebble, a book which had been recommended to us by yet another WHW walker. The owner was surprised to find that he didn’t have one, but he called the museum, who did have a copy. We were hoping not to pay full price, but since the museum people knew we were coming we would have felt guilty if we didn’t buy their copy.
Then we went to the Tesco to buy food for dinner and also for our upcoming Great Glen Way walk. At the hostel we cooked up all the sausages we had bought, and had some of them along with boiled potatoes and coleslaw for dinner. For dessert we had fresh strawberries and bananas, with yogurt on top. It was nice making our own meal for a change. Sitting in the lounge we updated the blog and chatted to some of the other residents. Tomorrow would be the start of the Great Glen Way, so tonight we would have to get organized.