Tuesday 2 August 2011

All Aboard the Hogwart's Express

Hello Everyone

Apologies for the delay in putting this post together - my legs have been giving me a bad time over the weekend but I'm perking up again now. As promised here's some photos taken on our Highland trip - warning: this is a photo heavy post so you may want to skip it.

The Jacobite Express, aka The Hogwart's Express
When not starring in the Harry Potter films the the Hogwart's Express can be found working as the Jacobite Express and travelling up and down the West Highland Way, from Fort William to Mallaig. To get to Fort William our route took us by Loch Lomond.

We stopped off at the little picturesque village of Luss, on the shores of Loch Lomond. Luss is famed for being the setting for the television series, Take the High Road. We had lunch at the Coach House, served in Luss tartan crockery - that's the EM tucking in :)

Our next stop was Glencoe where I just had to take a photograph of this remote cottage - one of only a handful in the glen. We've had a watercolour in our house for years so it was lovely to see the real thing.

Above left is the view from our room at the guest house we stayed at in Spean Bridge and that's Ben Nevis in the photo on the right.

Here's Alan on board the train and eager to get going. Our travelling companions were a charming and entertaining couple from the Netherlands, Leo and Ineke Kamphorst, who were touring Scotland in their campervan.

The West Highland train line, opened in 1901, is 41 miles long and has been voted THE great railway journey of the world, not only because of the spectacular scenery it passes through, but for the awe-inspiring viaducts, bridges and tunnels that were engineered to make the line possible. Here are just a few of the photographs we took along the way.

One of the first, and last, sights we saw was the magnificent lock structures at Banavie known as 'Neptune's Staircase' (in Gaelic - Staidhre Neptune). This is a series of eight locks that connect the Caledonian Canal and at this point the train passes over a swing bridge, which along with the road swing bridge, are opened to allow canal traffic to sail up and down it's length from Loch Linnhe to Loch Ness.

The above photographs are just a sampling of the scenery the train passes through on it's way to Mallaig. Passed are mountains, lochs, salmon farms, islands (Eigg,  Rum & Skye) the silver sands of Morar (the beach on which 'Local Hero' was filmed), and Loch Morar itself - rumoured to have it's very own monster.

The most amazing sight has got to be the Glenfinnan Viaduct - here comes the stats: 1248 feet in length, 100 feet high, 21 spans of 50 feet each, built wholly of concrete (made of cement and crushed rock quarried from deep cuttings through which the line passes at either end of the viaduct.)  This photo was taken on the outward journey. I posted the shot taken on the homeward journey in a previous post - see here

The right hand photo gives you some idea of the length of the train - it seats about 150 passengers and it was full. When I booked in February for 20th July, the first class seats had all sold out, and there was only a handful of second class tickets left - it's that popular! More information for the enthusiast: the locomotive is an ex LMS Black - the Great Marquess - normally running chimney first out of Fort William and returning tender first because there is no turntable at Mallaig.

Here's a couple of photos for the real train spotters amongst you. Yes, Alan really was invited to step up into the locomotive and feast his eyes on the engine in all its glory : )

Destination, Mallaig. We went off to the harbour there and I was lucky enought to find the Mallaig Lifeboat was moored up. Alan was not so lucky, however. This Mallaig, or should that be Malicious, gull, eyed up our picnic and eventually, when no titbits were forthcoming, decided to leave his calling card on Alan's jacket!! I was able to check my email and blog comments at the visitor centre you can see behind Mally the Gull - Mallaig has the Internet :)

For the map lovers amongst us, here's one of the journey and for those who are interested there is a  very informative little booklet entitled The Mallaig Railway available from Northern Books. 

These are just some of the highlights of the journey I've picked out from the huge number of photographs we took. There is so much more to see than I can possibly show you in a blogpost - blogger would go on strike otherwise - but I do hope you've enjoyed looking at those chosen.

Before we left Spean Bridge for home we had to visit the Commando Memorial and pay our respects. Just a short distance away is a small memorial garden where it saddened me to see that, alongside tributes to those that died in WWII, there were photographs of and tributes to men who have died the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Goodnight Everyone,


Jackie said...

Wonderful photographs Elizabeth, it must have been a fantastic holiday :o)
Jackie xx

Ciska said...

Great photos Elizabeth, it's such a coincidence because we did the same train journey a few weeks back as well during our holiday in Scotland, many familiar sights! Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did :)

CraftygasheadZo said...

Fab pictures, Elizabeth. I'm a big Harry Potter fan so love seeing your pics of the train. Am so jealous. Thanks for sharing. Zo x

Angie said...

What a great journey ...loved the post and the photos ... in my mind I had got the train going in a totally different direction lol.... I think this is something for the wish list ...along with a Hot Air Balloon ride. I think we both do a better job on making Scotland sound an interesting place to visit ...maybe we should get the job doing it. lol.
Thanks for the link.xx

annesyme said...

Gorgeous photo's Elizabeth. I started of my honeymoon from Mallaig (back in '69) Walked from Mallaig to Arisaig. It was lovely but very very hot and by the 3rd day I was ready for jumping on a train and going home. I would love to do it now staying in a hotel rather than a tent tho' lol!
Anne x

lisa said...

Great photos, Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing your lovely trip with us. I haven't been to Glencoe for over 30 years but it left a beautiful impression on me and we must go back.
Hugs Lisax

Shell Shearer Swinscoe said...

Oh sooooooooooo jealous!! Just shown our girls & hubby says gonna have look see about going not next year the year after as we are all booked up for hols next year! Also so it will be our 15th wedding anni then as well...
Thank you so much for the link hun
hugs shell xx