Thurso or Wick?

Discussion in 'Trip Planning & Reports' started by Gathursty, 6 Apr 2015.

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  1. Gathursty

    Gathursty Established Member

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    I will be on the Far North Line on Thursday, letting the train take the strain for a change. I will be looking to stretch my legs but I have no idea which 'terminus' to spend an hour or more at. Somewhere photogenic, with a range of cafes, shelter if the weather is awful and good views. Bonus if there's interesting museums or features like a castle or single mid-twenty females. :P

    Thurso or Wick?
     
  2. me123

    me123 Established Member

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    Neither town is a sprawling metropolis, but both are reasonably significant centres for the Far North and do have cafes and the like - there's probably more in here than in similar towns further South, purely because they are relatively very important to the area, but there's still overall not that much. Both are coastal and if it's a nice day you'll have nice scenery and walking options.

    There are quite a few things to do up there, but not much in the towns themselves, and as a rail user for the day it'd be hard to get to any of the attractions.

    If you're going for the purpose of "bashing"/"covering" the track, I'd point out that the train goes to Thurso before Wick, and visits Thurso from Wick on the way South, so go to Wick if you want to cover the full line.
     
  3. Lee_Again

    Lee_Again Member

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    Or......get off at Thurso and take a taxi (£50 prebooked) via Dunnet Head and John O'groats to Wick. Still gives about 30 min in Wick at a café before returning.

    Did this about 2012. There's a trip report on here somewhere.
     
  4. les.

    les. Member

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    When I did the tour of The Highlands I staying in Wick. As mentioned though the train goes up to Thurso first from Georgemas Junction before returning to Georgemas Junction before going up to Wick.

    I also enjoy a Wetherspoons breakfast on my travels and was able to visit the UK's most northerly Wetherspoons, "The Alexander Bain" whilst in Wick.

    As has been said though, there's not that much to do in either Town and just an overnight stay is your best bet.
     
    Last edited: 8 Apr 2015
  5. PHILIPE

    PHILIPE Established Member

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    I called in the Wetherspoons in Wick back in 2003 when it had just opened and during a 'Spoons Beer Festival. Unfortunately the pub had been drunk dry of proper beer (Real Ale) so had to tolerate "fizz". Wick, as we were told, is rather remote to get fresh supplies in a hurry. We travelled up from Inverness at 11xx (Via Thurso) with about an hour available before the train returned back down.
     
  6. davetheguard

    davetheguard Member

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    I think Thurso can look a bit grim when you first arrive, later tempered by some views out to sea of Orkney. A lot of pebble-dashed houses, slabs of the local stone used as garden fences.

    And if like a drop of real ale, then Wick is probably a better bet. That said, Thurso is the most northerly station in the UK, so if you've got any sort of plan to visit the geographically furthest stations of the British rail system, then to travel to Thurso is a must!

    That will just leave Penzance, Lowestoft, and Arisaig to do.......
     
  7. Western Lord

    Western Lord Member

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    As has been pointed out earlier, travel to Thurso is a must as all trains to Wick run via there!
     
  8. IanD

    IanD Established Member

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    You could alight at Georgemas and await the trains return from Thurso.
     
  9. Greenback

    Greenback Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've been to both towns and I preferred Thurso. Maybe that's because the weather was absolutely atrocious when I went to Wick, I'm talking snow and high winds, and that might have coloured my view of the place a bit!
     
  10. les.

    les. Member

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    Would that be allowed if you had a ticket to Wick from wherever you were traveling from?
     
  11. fishquinn

    fishquinn Established Member Quizmaster

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    Why don't SR have double 158s on these and split them at Georgemas, one going to Thurso and the other going to Wick. Like they did in the old days (but with locos then)?
     
  12. CallySleeper

    CallySleeper Established Member

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    Probably not really worth it especially considering the 158 could be better utilised down south
     
  13. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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    Less expensive but giving some variety, go through to Wick and take the bus south along the coastal road as far as Helmsdale, if the timetable allows.
     
  14. tsr

    tsr Established Member

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    As a (Northern-Scotland-related) off-topic note, Arisaig is particularly pleasant for a spring or summertime visit by train, at least for a few hours. There are a couple of decent pubs/restaurants, and a nice marina and seafront.
     
  15. Gathursty

    Gathursty Established Member

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    I set off from Inverness at 0702 on Thursday with a packed lunch consisting of ham and cheese croissants and yoghurt from the great B&B (The Gatehouse, Old Edinburgh Road) I stayed at.

    The train left on time with about 5 of us. I was in the first carriage with another who I assume was a commuter as they left at Dingwall. More people joined at Beauly, Muir of Ord and Conon Bridge but many had left by Tain.

    The day was hazy to start with but by the time we passed Dingwall the sun cleared the sky below and left the oil platforms of Nigg Bay and the various vessels buffeted by the clearest blue water I've seen in a while.

    Turning inward past Fearn, the train continued to trundle but I did think had travelled fairly slowly up until this point, considering it is a 4.5 hour journey. However, there was great distraction in the scenery as Carbisdale Castle appeared just past Culrain which we slowly pushed through as no-one wanted to use it. A similar story with Invershin.

    I was surprised with the ascent to Lairg as when I had driven to Lairg a couple of years back, I didn't recall climbing up so much. It was a brilliant drop to the glistening river below. So far we had passed a train at Dingwall, Ardgay and now Lairg which made me ponder how the drivers and guards work the line and where they are based. Lairg was where most of the time was lost as we arrived into Thurso about 10 down.

    I was impressed with collection of trains and memorabilia at Rogart and didn't realise there was more than one compartment coach up there nor that it was 2-platformed. The journey down the valley was brisk and I tried to look for remaining signs of the old railway near The Mound as we passed under the A9 again.

    I needed to replace my old photo of Golspie station as my flash had failed last time and the picture was so dark as to be very hard to make out where it was. I didn't get a brilliant picture on this first pass but made up for it on the return journey.

    I'll jump forward to Kildonan as I was really interested in seeing this part of the world in daylight and seeing if there were as many deer here as there was when I drove up the nearby road after midnight. I think the noise of train clearly makes them scarper for miles but there were some passengers in Caithness. Two were picked up at Kinbrace bound for Thurso and at Forsinard there were people getting on and off at both platforms as there was yet another southbound service.

    The most interesting feature about the journey is the double-back to Thurso before getting to Wick. This must be a peeve to those who just want to go to Wick but the branch just takes 20 minutes to go to and from Georgemas Junction where the massive crane for the nuclear traffic and sidings are. It has now been built since when I was here last and looks impressive, almost like it's never been touched.

    I opted to spend an hour at Wick and that was plenty of time to walk around the river to the Harbour, buy some more sweets and take pictures. The weather was lovely, about 15 degrees with a slight breeze. I get the impression that if you live here, you know everyone else who lives here as to quote Dorothy, you are a long way from Kansas or anywhere else for that matter. Arriving back at the station ready to depart, I noticed just one more passenger for the 1234 to Inverness.

    The driver and guard stayed at the platform as we set off and deciding to make the most of the weather, I broke my journey at Georgemas Junction cause everyone to look as I waved them off, even the engineer who was just waiting for no apparent reason before driving off and shortly a group of 4 engineers came in another vehicle. I tried in earnest to get my arms a bit browner but 30 minutes at Georgemas is not enough. The other reason for breaking here is that I wouldn't be able to stretch my legs until Inverness, 4 hours away.

    As I got back on the train, I noticed our new driver was a new driver according to a conversation I overheard. A girl about my age who had worked her way up from the trolley service to get what I think is the best job, driving Wick-Inverness-Wick with the return being the last one of the day. I was impressed with the quality of drive and braking into stations. Also the driver wasn't shy about putting her foot down after the Flow Country section.

    Coming back was just as great with me sat on the left hand side, anticipating pictures of the sparkling North Sea coast from Helmsdale to Brora. The Northbound trains passed us at Forsinard, then nothing until Ardgay and again at Dingwall. Arriving in Inverness on time rounded off a very good day and a thoroughly recommended journey.
     
  16. PHILIPE

    PHILIPE Established Member

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    The line is shared by Inverness and Wick traincrews with a mixture of through working and changing over en route.
     
  17. 306024

    306024 Established Member

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    Work out the economics in terms of unit mileage, fuel and crew costs and I guess you'll have your answer.

    The Wetherspoons in Wick was the last place I had a pint for under £1. £0.99 in 2010 :P
     
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