Where do you suppose the best railway journey in the world is located ? Through the Alps in Switzerland ? Across the Canadian Rockies ? From Moscow to Siberia ? In fact the West Highland Line from Glasgow to Fort William and on to Mallaig has been voted the world's best in the Wanderlust Travel Awards for the last three years running.
I'd been waiting for the opportunity to take the Jacobite steam train for some years and finally got my chance recently. You can read more about my trip on my blog.
The Jacobite steam train – aka the ‘Hogwarts Express’ – runs twice daily during the summer months. The engine pulls 1950s British Railways Mark 1 carriages so you really get a good sense of what train travel was like in the days of steam. Deservedly, it's a big attraction for tourists and locals alike. The journey takes in some spectacular views of the mountains, lochs and white sand beaches of Morar, with the islands of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna beyond.
The steam train puffed along at a decent rate in between stations, hooting its whistle every so often. The line twists in among the mountains, cutting through tunnels occasionally then with the views opening out on to lochs on both sides of the track. Those Victorian engineers must have been really skilled to have found a suitable route.
The outward journey (from Fort William to Mallaig) stops at Glenfinnan Station for 20 minutes, time enough for people to get out and stretch their legs. However on the return journey there’s just a few minutes’ pause while the engine lets off steam (literally !). It’s then just a short distance to the most famous landmark on the line, the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct which overlooks Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument. The train doubled as the Hogwarts Express in the ‘Harry Potter’ films and was filmed crossing the famous curved viaduct. This is also the prime place to take photos, looking in front to the engine or to the carriages behind.
Unfortunately the weather wasn't at its best the day I took the trip - my nephew and I were returning from a cycling tour around Mull and Ardnamurchan - but we had a fantastic time anyway.
Highly recommended !