Spirit of Scotland Rover 9-12th May 2016

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Kendalian

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Apologies for the delay in posting, been busy recently!

Cost - £134 (4 days in 8) + £7.50 advance single Preston-Carlisle +£41 1st Advance Glasgow-Preston (see below!)

Always fancied doing one of these great value tickets and finally had the opportunity. If you've the time there's also the 8 days in 15 version for £179.70. Basically any train in Scotland, including Carlisle and Berwick. Not valid before 0915 M-F but no restrictions on the West Highland, Kyle and Far North lines.

9th May.
Mrs Kendalian dropped me off at Preston and off I go! Caught the 0815 Preston to Glasgow C (9 car 390) using an advance ticket as far as Carlisle then onto Glasgow on the rover. Arrived Glasgow on time.
Then caught the 1125 Glasgow Central to Inverness (170). Really seemed to crawl along through the suburbs via Coatbridge and Cumbernauld before joining the normal route south of Larbert. Then a lovely run in the sun over Drumochter (still with snow on the hills) and Slochd. Into Inverness on time at 1523. Off to hotel (really nice Premier Inn overlooking the river, with a great view of the castle out of the window) then had a walk round the city centre and took a few photos around the station. Plenty of activity with 158's coming and going with the odd 170.

10th May.
Big fill up at breakfast ready for a long day on the rails!
10 min walk to the station, again plenty of stock around. 158's on Kyle, Aberdeen and ECS, with 170 waiting for Glasgow. Watched the sleeper arrive on time (still 67 hauled then) and boarded the 0855 to Kyle of Lochalsh.
Sun was just coming out as we headed out of Inverness. The scenery to Kyle was amazing that day, especially liked the stretch west of Achnasheen and of course the loch side run after Strathcarron. Arrived at Kyle about 10 min late (not sure why, no apparent hold up). Quick walk round Kyle and back on board for 1208 return to Inverness. Again a great run in the sun! Held at Strathcarron about 15 min awaiting the delayed 1100 Inverness-Kyle, which looked pretty full. A treat then at Achnasheen where we crossed the Royal Scotsman (which I hadn't expected). Rather envious of the passengers tucking into lunch in the restaurant car.
About 10 min late into Inverness which meant we missed the connection with the 1447 Glasgow train, to the annoyance of a few customers! Quick pint in the station bar, stocked up on provisions in WHSmiths, then boarded the quite well loaded 170 forming the 1551 to Edinburgh. Cracking run back over the hills to Perth and on to Edinburgh over the Forth Bridge. I love going on the HML, perhaps not quite as scenic as the Kyle and West Highland lines, but I love going through the hills at speed, rather than trundling along as you do on the other 2 lines.
Into Edinburgh on time about 1920 and 5 min walk over to the Premier Inn Hub nearby (which I reported on elsewhere in this section).

11th May.
Slightly hindered today by the 0915 restriction, but not unduly. Caught the next available train to Glasgow which was about 0920 via Bathgate/Airdrie, double 334. Into Queen St Low Level about 1030 and headed to Buchanan Galleries Centre to get some views of the Queen Street redevelopments.
Headed to George Square to relax and watch the world go by for a while. There were people sunbathing. Yes, sunbathing in Glasgow in May; probably a once in 10 year event :D
Couldn't relax too long as soon had to head back into the depths of Queen Street Low Level to catch the 1219 Oban/Mallaig. Duly arrived just after 1210 which was just as well as it was well loaded, especially the Oban portion. 3x156's which is a surprisingly long train and only just fitted the platform. Front 156 for Oban, middle for Fort William and rear for FW and Mallaig.
An amazing run in the sun again through the west Highlands. Crossed the 1010 Mallaig/1210 Oban at Ardlui, then the Oban portion split away at Crianlarich. Slowed up near Upper Tyndrum by a line side fire but not delayed much. Crossed a 66 with aluminium tanks at Rannoch. Great views of Ben Nevis between Spean Bridge and Fort William. Got in Fort Bill on time at 1609 and headed to the Premier Inn about 5 min away. Got a lovely room facing Ben Nevis and the railway.

12th May.
Last day of the Scottish adventure and the day the travel plans almost unravelled!
Headed over to the station to catch the 0830 to Mallaig (no time restrictions on the WHL). Another lovely clear sunny day and the scenery all the way to Mallaig was great. I especially like the Loch Eilt stretch so made a point of sitting on the right hand side of the train (2x 156's). Into Mallaig on time at 0953.
Stretched my legs on the platform then back in same seat for the 5.5 hr run to Glasgow (or so I thought!). Left on time at 1010 and crossed the Jacobite at Glenfinnan. All going nicely till we got to Corpach, when the conductor announced the swing bridge was stuck open at Banavie and we were stuck!
Perhaps this is a frequent occurrence, as 2 coaches soon turned up and before long we were away by road to Fort William (about 10 min only). Sure enough passing the bridge at Banavie it was wide open, with several Network Rail staff in attendance and a lot of head scratching going on.
Now I'd already worked out the morning train from Glasgow, due into FW at 1209 should be terminated at FW and so it was. We boarded this at FW and the passengers from Glasgow were transferred by coach to Corpach.
Left FW at 1235 so 55 min late. Another glorious run over Rannoch Moor etc; the driver really put his foot down climbing to Corrour!
Arrived at Crianlarich to find the Oban portion waiting and passengers out on the platform, having been held for nearly an hour.
Good run through to Glasgow and made up a lot of time along the electrified stretch, so we were only 30 min late arriving into Queen Street.
Negotiating people and traffic walking over to Central, it struck me how amazing the WHL train is, how a couple of hours earlier you're in some of the most remote scenery in Europe, but you get off in the middle of Scotland's biggest city.
I had treated myself to a 1st class journey back to Preston and was booked on the 1730 Euston. I entered the 1st Class lounge, put my bag down just as the hostess came in asking if anyone was booked on the 1730 Euston or 1740 Birmingham. These were both heavily delayed due to speed restrictions so anyone with 1st class tickets for these was allowed to travel on the 1640 Euston.
So having thought I might miss the 1730 when I got stuck at Corpach, I ended up back at Preston an hour earlier than planned. Next day I got an email saying I was getting a 100% refund as the 1730 was over an hour late...so home an hour early on a free 1st class journey...accompanied by a nice plate of pasta washed down with a couple of very generous glasses of red, courtesy of Tricky Dicky :D

So that was it. Back home Thursday evening after 4 great days of weather and travel. Hard to pick a highlight to be honest, it was all great. Perhaps the run down to Kyle as the scenery was so good in the sunshine.

Do it again? Is the Pope religious.....?

Recommend - absolutely.


Video link from Youtube - going along the sea loch stretch to Kyle - 10/5/16 0855 Inverness-Kyle
https://youtu.be/hjhI5X-0XcM

Another video - climbing to Corrour Summit/station - 12/5/16 1235 Fort William-Glasgow (through train 1010 Mallaig-Glasgow cancelled at Corpach)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=100b5EQCQ9w&feature=youtu.be
 
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fishquinn

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Sounds like a great time! You were very lucky with that refund at the end too!
 

Kite159

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Sounded like a good little holiday, although I dare say some of those Premier inns must have been on the costly side (Inverness & Fort William)
 

Kendalian

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Sounded like a good little holiday, although I dare say some of those Premier inns must have been on the costly side (Inverness & Fort William)

Sadly, yes. With breakfast they were about £120 each. I could have saved about £10-£15 a night if I had paid up front non-refundable.
The Hub at Edinburgh was only £52 plus breakfast, but the room was about 1/3 the size. Fine for one night though.
Don't usually get the cheap £35 Premier Inns in the Highlands!
 

Techniquest

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Wow what a beast of a trip that was! Oh boy don't I want to get back to the WHL now, love that line and it's been way too long since my last visit to that part of the world. It may have to be done in 2017...
 

Kristofferson

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Fantastic stuff! I thought the HML was stunning when I did the Chieftain earlier this year :)

Mrs Kris and I are actually planning to do the WHL in the next year or so, having had to cancel a booked rail tour on it this year.

The plan for us is to fly to Glasgow (Mrs Kris has never been on a plane before!) then take in the full WHL.

Is it a 156 for the entire duration? It could be a long 5.5 hours if so..!


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Techniquest

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It is 156s all the way Kris aye. Unless you do the Cally Insomnie to/from Fort William of course. Make sure you factor in the Mallaig extension, the scenery is amazing!
 

Kendalian

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Fantastic stuff! I thought the HML was stunning when I did the Chieftain earlier this year :)

Mrs Kris and I are actually planning to do the WHL in the next year or so, having had to cancel a booked rail tour on it this year.

The plan for us is to fly to Glasgow (Mrs Kris has never been on a plane before!) then take in the full WHL.

Is it a 156 for the entire duration? It could be a long 5.5 hours if so..!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

The scenery is so amazing you forget all about being on a 156.

Big step up in comfort though when the 158's take over in 2018.
 

backontrack

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Sounds like a great trip Kendalian, except for the delays.

On the Kyle and Wick lines?

Out of 309 weekdays of operation on the Far North Line last year, services ran on time all day on merely 49 occasions.

It's that stretch of track between Inverness and Muir of Ord - which is why the Lentran Long Loop is so important.

The refurbished 158s are great, however, and the scenery is pretty darn good too.
 
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