Scotland 2022 Part 1: A More Adventurous Than Expected Journey

I am on holiday in Scotland for a week, staying in a place called Acharacle, a small town on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, the westernmost part of mainland Britain. The cottage (actually a glorified caravan which I would be prepared to bet was moved to its current site on the back of a lorry) has a decent wifi connection, so I will to be able to at least some posting while I am here. This post deals with my travels and travails getting here yesterday.

A ROUTE OF MANY CHANGES

The plan was that I would travel from King’s Lynn to Fort William, where my parents would collect me. This is not the most straightforward of journeys and the ticket I booked involved four changes – King’s Lynn to Ely, Ely to Peterborough, Peterborough to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Glasgow, Glasgow to Fort William, and almost exactly 12 hours travel for the public transport leg of the journey. This would have been fine, but as you will see there was a rather major hitch.

A SMOOTH START

I got to King’s Lynn station in very good time for my train (indeed had I really hustled my way through the station I could have been on the earlier train, but decided there was little point). The train reached Ely very promptly, and I had the good fortune to get a quick onward connection to Peterborough (I accepted this piece of good fortune because although it meant more waiting at Peterborough for a train I had to be on, Peterborough like the majority of railway stations is less exposed than Ely). I found my seat on the train to Edinburgh without undue fuss, and enjoyed some excellent views between Newcastle and Edinburgh. Waverley proved not too difficult to negotiate and I was at the platform for my train to Glasgow in very good time.

The run to Glasgow was also smooth, and the train arrived at Glasgow Queen Street (low level) bang on schedule at 6:00, which in theory meant I had 23 minutes to get upstairs to the main station and find the platform for my train to Fort William. Unfortunately this was the cue for…

NIGHTMARE ON QUEEN STREET

I scanned the information screens for details of my train (on which I had a pre-booked seat – this leg of the journey was supposed to last three and three quarter hours) and found nothing. I sought assistance as departure time drew closer with no evidence of said train in site, only to discover that the service had been cancelled with no notification. After using my mobile phone to tell my parents about the problem I contacted my sister to see if she could help me find somewhere to stay overnight in Glasgow. As the evening wore on it became clear that that was not an option, and we settled on a taxi ride to Fort William station and a pick up from there by the parents. The taxi arrived in Fort William just after 11PM, and it still was not fully dark. The driver’s card reader failed to function due to how far we were from Glasgow, but my parents and I had enough cash between us to cover the fare (and every intention of getting the money back from Scotrail, the cause of the problem) and we settled up and set off for Acharacle. It was nearer one o’clock than 12 by the time we got there, meaning that I had been travelling for some 15 hours, with the only serious time spent other than on the move being the very antithesis of restful, so unsurprisingly I was exceedingly tired. The taxi windows were not big enough for taking photographs through, so in addition to everything else I was deprived of pictures of the most scenic part of the whole journey.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I do still have some photographs, some from the walk to the station and some from the most scenic sections of the parts of the train journey that actually happened…

Scotland 2021: Homeward Bound

The account of my homeward journey from my Scottish holiday.

This post concludes my coverage of my recent Scottish holiday (28th May to 5th June) by looking at the journey home.

A TRICKY START

I woke early on the morning of Saturday June 5th, and it was just as well that I did so. A check of my emails revealed on overnight message from thetrainline.com telling that the service I was due to be leaving Wick on at 8:02AM had been cancelled. Fortunately I was able to locate a bus service leaving Wick at 6:57 and arriving into Inverness at 9:58 giving me plenty of time to get back on track from there. Thus rather than £100s and almost certainly an overnight stay somewhere on the way home I was able to get round the problem for £22 and some seriously shredded nerves. It also meant missing breakfast which I had intended to be the main meal of the day for me as I expected opportunities to eat while travelling to be limited. I currently have a compensation claim with Scotrail awaiting resolution. They initially insisted that I destroy the ticket even though it was only ever valid for travel on June 5th and then claimed not to have received my image of the destroyed ticket – I uploaded it again today and tweeted their social media team as well.

WICK TO INVERNESS

The bus was ready precisely when it was supposed to be, and the journey to Inverness was accomplished with little difficulty. Getting from the bus station to the train station was slightly tricky – I had seen a sign pointing to the train station on the way in and aimed for that but it was only signing the station car park, which is actually a few minutes walk from the station itself. Once I had got into the station I discovered that there was a train to Edinburgh departing at 10:46, getting me comfortably back on track – indeed slightly ahead of schedule.

INVERNESS TO EDINBURGH

The train from Inverness to Edinburgh ran exactly according to schedule. The route is a scenic one. I had three hours at Edinburgh Waverley before my next train (on which I had a reserved seat) to Grantham was due to depart. This gave me an opportunity to consume some refreshments (and as it turned out was the last such I would have, not greatly to my surprise).

EDINBURGH TO HOME

The train to Grantham (terminating there – there were various problems afflicting the network) ran smoothly. At Grantham I had to board a replacement bus service from there to Peterborough, which arrived just a few minutes before the train for Ely was departing. At Ely I had one final change to the train to King’s Lynn, which fortunately went without incident. At 11:25PM this last train arrived at King’s Lynn. Then it just remained for me to walk home. Though there were a few nervy moments this last section of the journey from Edinburgh to my home in Norfolk went precisely as the itinerary had stated.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have photographs covering Wick to Edinburgh…

Scotland – Getting There

Post 2 in my Scottish holiday series (there will be more later today). This post describes the journey there.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the second post in my series about my holiday in Scotland. This one focusses on the first day, when I travelled from King’s Lynn to Kyle of Lochalsh and then walked across the bridge to Isle of Skye, where I stayed the night at Saucy Mary’s Lodge. 

THE FIRST LEG OF THE JOURNEY-
KING’S LYNN TO PETERBOROUGH

With my envisaged train for the next leg of the journey leaving Peterborough at 9:46 and the bus journey reckoned at 1 hour 20 minutes or thereabouts I decided that prudence dictated being on the 7:34 rather than the 8:04. The journey ran fairly smoothly and I arrived at Peterborough Train Station at just after nine o’clock. 

PETERBOROUGH TO EDINBURGH 

The 0:946 to Edinburgh Waverley, scheduled to get there at 13:20 arrived in time and was not absolutely packed, although it is clearly a popular service. I got a window seat in a designated quiet coach (both parts of which represent significant bonuses to me – the latter even more than the former). This was the start of the portion of the journey that is not so familiar to me, and also therefore represented the point at which the camera got pressed into service…

Spire
Taking photos through the windows of moving vehicles can be frustrating (and all bar a few taken when the train was at rest were taken thus)

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York Model Railway
On the approach to York, the first stop after Peterborough

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Darlington1
At Darlington, one terminus of the world’s first passenger carrying railway, the Stockton & Darlington.

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North Sea 1
A first glimpse of the sea just north of Newcastle

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Edinburgh Waverley
Edinburgh Waverley

EDINBURGH TO INVERNESS

A slightly late arrival at Edinburgh meant that I had to move fairly fast to make the change to the train to Inverness. A combination of the fact that some idiot at Scotrail (part of Abellio, the profit-making subsidiary of the Dutch state railway company) had deemed three carriages sufficient for this train and the heat of the day made this leg of the journey like travelling in an oven on wheels. However, neither of these factors kept me from taking photographs…

Edinburgh AirportEdinburgh Airport 2Bridge1Bridge2Bridge3Bridge4Bridge5Bridge6Bridge7Bridge8Scottish VillageScottish FactoryChurch - ScotlandCowsRenewable EnergyRenewable Energy2RiverRiver2River3River4River5PitlochryPitlochry PlaqueRiver through treesStony RiverRiver6River7River8River9River10River11River12River13River14River15River16River17River18River19River20River21CottagesRiver22Scottish TownScottish Town2

INVERNESS TO KYLE OF LOCHALSH

Arriving at Inverness over half an  hour late I then discovered that the train I had expected to catch to Kyle of Lochalsh was being replaced by a bus service. There were two different buses, and there was some confusion of who should go on which, but we set off at the appropriate time. I continued to ply my camera…

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My first sight of the Skye Bridge, and a by then very welcome sign that the journey was nearly complete. When I first travelled this way in 1994 there was no bridge, just a regular ferry crossing.

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The approach to Kyle of Lochalsh, with Kyleakin visible in the distance.

THE WALK TO SKYE

It was still pretty hot even at 8:45PM as I began the walk to Saucy Mary’s, which according to my instructions was 2.5 miles. The reason for this is that the bridge to Skye actually starts a good half-mile beyond Kyle of Lochalsh, is itself a longish crossing and then on the other side one has to go back along the Skye shore to Kyleakin which is directly opposite Kyle of Lochalsh. I arrived at Saucy Mary’s thoroughly exhausted and went straight to reception. There I was greeted with news that I had been relocated from my dorm bed to a room normally used only by staff. The reason for this was that the people who had booked the other four beds had revealed at the 11th hour, having not mentioned it while booking, that they were travelling with two babies, and the manager had decided that it was unacceptable to put me in the dorm room in that circumstance (absolutely right, and thankyou very much).