Monday, 5 September 2011

Achieved - ride the Jacobite Steam Train

Its a few weeks ago now, but I recently achieved a couple more things from my travel wish list during my week in Scotland. Today I thought I would talk about riding the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig.

I've been to Scotland a few times now, and the scenery still takes my breath away. There's no denying that it's a beautiful part of the world. Having said all that, I think the Highlands are particularly beautiful. And, for me, there's no better way to appreciate it than taking a train ride - the normal ScotRail service passes through some amazing scenery.

You can take the normal ScotRail service from Glasgow all the way to Mallaig all year round. During the summer months (from May to October), West Coast Railways runs a steam train along the same route. The trip takes roughly 2 hours in each direction, and you get approximately 1.5 hours in Mallaig for lunch. West Coast Railways provided the steam trains that were used in the Harry Potter films, and the train passes over the Glenfinnan viaduct - a stunning piece of engineering (in my opinion), and a very recognisable landmark from the movies.

Some photos from the day:

The Jacobite at Fort William train station

one of the lochs we passed on the way to Mallaig

crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct

more beautiful scenery on the way to Mallaig


crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct on the way back to Fort Willam

view from the Glenfinnan viaduct
The weather was pretty rubbish the day I took the train (wet, cold and rainy), but the views were still amazing. For anybody thinking of taking this trip, a few hints:

  • Book early. The train is often full. You might be able to get a ticket on the day before the train leaves, but no guarantees.
  • Try and get a window seat if you can. The views are stunning regardless, but the window seat would have made it a bit easier to take photos.
  • The best viewpoint/vantage point for photos when the train is crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct is on the left side (direction of travel) of the train going to Mallaig, and on the right side of the train coming back to Fort William. If you aren't sitting on that side, get up early to get a spot by one of the doors to take photos.
  • If you are travelling to Fort William by train, you'll have to (generally) arrive the night before you want to ride the Jacobite. There's a variety of things to do in and around Fort Willam, a couple I would recommend: visit the West Highland Museum in the main square and, if you are there on a Tuesday or Thursday night, go and listen to the local high school pipe band in the main square - they're really good.
For more information about the Jacobite steam train, visit this website

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