Discover Scotland by Rail

1 August 2017

Join guest blogger Hazel Bonner (from the Association of Community Rail Partnerships) as she explores the rugged landscapes of scenic Scotland by rail.

By Hazel Bonner

We began our journey on a sunny spring morning in March with a hearty breakfast in Huddersfield Station Buffet. We changed trains at Manchester Piccadilly and continued on to Glasgow to begin our Scottish adventure.

As we headed north the urban greyness gradually turned into increasingly picturesque scenes, a theme that was to continue throughout our two day visit.

Glasgow Central. By Edward at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons Public Domain
Glasgow Central Station

The wonder of Scotland began to unfold for us when we arrived at Glasgow Central Station. As soon as we stepped off the train we spotted the stunning curved wooden buildings and the wonderful glass roof.

The glass fronted viaduct over Argyle Street known as Hielanman's Umbrella is simply magnificent.

After enjoying lunch in the bustling Scottish city we took the train to Wemyss Bay, a beautiful terminal station built in 1903 to carry passengers for the ferry to Rothesay on the isle of Bute. This was yet another picturesque route with wonderful views across the River Clyde.

However, I don't think any of us were ready for the impact that Wemyss Bay station would have on us. As we disembarked, a curving swathe of girders and glass led us down the platform to the main concourse where the elegant glass canopy radiated in all directions before sweeping down to the ferry pier. For me - it was love at first sight.

This station is a masterpiece of Edwardian architecture which is lovingly tended by the Friends of Wemyss Bay Station. Planters adorn the concourse and platforms and not a scrap of litter can be seen.

Ticket office at Wemyss Bay Station, Scotland
Ticket office at Wemyss Bay Station.

The Friends have created their own mini nursery where they grow their own plants and run a bookshop and gallery in one of the renovated buildings. Click here to find more about this wonderful jewel on the Scottish network.

With smiles on all our faces and a warm glow in our hearts we headed back to Glasgow for supper and an early night, ready to catch the 8.21 to Oban the next morning.

The following day we left Glasgow Queen Street travelling along the West Highland Line to Oban. Yet it wasn't the destination that we'd come to experience, but the whole journey.

ScotRail Train travelling along the West Highland Line with Connel Bridge in the background.
Train travelling along the impressive West Highland Line.

This has to be one of the most stunning lines in Britain, if not the world. We rode through glens, alongside lochs and through mountain passes.

Loch Long really is just that, it stretches for 20 miles but it still isn't the longest.

That title goes to Loch Awe at a staggering 25 miles long. I couldn't put my camera down, there was so much to see with incredible views of the rugged landscapes, impressive lochs and striking castles.

We were all awestruck by the spectacular scenery which meant that as the journey progressed there was a real buzz in our coach. We all scampered from one side to the other drinking in the natural beauty that this train journey takes you through.

The line splits at Crianlarich and so did our train. We continued west toward Oban whilst the rear coaches headed north to Fort William and Mallaig. The entire journey took just over three hours but it felt like a fraction of the time. At Oban, where the train connects with the ferry service to the Western Isles, we had thirty minutes to grab some lunch before getting back on the train for the return journey.

One of the most memorable parts of the trip was at Crianlarich where many passengers disembarked, standing on the platform to watch the Fort William & Mallaig train approach and couple up to the back of ours. There was a real feeling of anticipation and a sense of occasion. Even though this procedure is a daily event, to the passengers it's exciting – as it was for me!

The rest of the return journey was just as interesting and awe inspiring as the outward journey had been because we got to see the same sights but from different approaches and angles.

It was an absolute delight to make this journey, in fact it wasn't a journey it was an experience and I would urge anybody who hasn't already been along the West Highland Line to make sure it is on their list of things to do! It really is one of the most stunning train journeys you will ever make.

Inspired by Hazel's journey? Click here to discover for yourself the stunning railway lines that stretch across Scotland...

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