12.10.2011 - 12.10.2011 14 °C
I’m staying in Glen Nevis at the base of Ben Nevis, the largest mountain in Scotland. Glen Nevis is about a 5 min drive outside Fort William and is just beautiful. The Glen is as described, a glen! I’m staying in the valley of Ben Nevis, which has at its base a gorgeous waterfall (although this isn’t too exciting…. there are waterfalls everywhere in the Highlands!).
My plan for today was to not going hiking up the mountain (which is what many tourists do who come to Fort William). I actually came to this town to ride on the Hogwart’s Express (the train is actually called the Jacobite but hey it is the train from the movie so..)! Yup, the train that was used in the movies is the steam train that runs from Fort William to Maillag (about an hour and half each way). So I got myself up very early and hot footed it down to the train station to buy a ticket. (This train ride is super popular and all of the online tickets had sold out so the only way I could get a ticket was to try and get a last minute one on the platform an hour before the train departs). Luckily for me they had reserved fifty tickets for ‘day trippers’ and as I was the third person in line I got one easily (I even scored a window seat!)
I have to say that there is something really exciting about taking a steam train! For starters, they look so much better than regular trains do and they make such a satisfying “woosher, woosher, choo, choo” noise.. I’ve only been on one other steam train (that I can recall) and to be frank I don’t recall too much of that trip so I was super excited about taking this train. As we were leaving the station the announcement came over for everyone to ensure that “they kept their heads inside the train” which was pretty funny because I think it was the first thing we all did—stick our heads out!
I spent the whole trip not sitting in my allotted window seat but standing at the end of the carriage snapping pickies! I’ve been on some spectacular train rides.. Flam railway springs immediately to mind.. but I have to say that I think this one tops it!! The first half hour or so is travelling out to Glenn Finnian so the train follows this series of lochs. Today there is not a breath of wind and the reflection off the Loch is just stunning. Absolutely incredible! The highlight of the journey is the Glenn Finnian viaduct. It is this huge stone bridge that spans this small river but very steep valley. It is the viaduct that was shown in nearly all of the movies of “on the way to Hogwarts”. You can also clearly see the Glenn Finnian monument from the viaduct, something I’ll have to go and see tomorrow cause I’m not going to get a chance today!
Like I said before, I can’t really recall what it is like to be on a steam train (from my last trip) so I had forgotten or didn’t quite realise how choking the old coal smoke is, when you go through a tunnel! I swear that I am still covered in soot even after having a shower this evening! The smoke is really quite awful and really does make you cough! The other thing I hadn’t realised is that when you do stick your head out (normally accompanied by my camera for a photo) you often get hit on the head with a piece of flying coal.. Its not super pleasant when you get some coal in your eye let me tell you! But all of that aside I had a really top journey out to Maillag.
We stopped for an hour and a bit in Maillag to have a bite to eat and a stretch of the legs. I had brought my lunch along with me so I found myself an out of the way place on the pier to eat my lunch and soak up the view of the offshore isles (not sure which ones). The wind had picked up so it wasn’t overly pleasant sitting outside so I soon retired to a coffee shop to thaw out and wait out my time til the train returned to Fort William. (Maillag is a fishing village so there really wasn’t much site seeing to do.. It was a case of ‘ten minutes and you’ve walked from one end to the other!’)
The trip back was just as picturesque as the trip to Maillag. I spent the time sitting in my chair chatting away to the other passengers in my little area. They were a nice elderly couple from England who had come up for a holiday with their granddaughter. He was a steam engine buff so he was regaling me with all of the steam train trips I could possibly do in the future.. the train buffs crack me up!
The train pulled in at about 4pm and so I spent the remainder of the arvo catching up on some reading and doing my laundry as my clothes really needed a good wash after being covered in coal dust!