Inverness – Scottish Highlands – Kyle Line – Isle of Skye – dolphins – Mallaig – Hogwart’s Express – Glenfinnan Viaduct – Fort William – West Highland Railway – Glasgow
INV flights available from: London-Luton (Easyjet).
GLA flights available to: London-Luton (Easyjet); London-Gatwick (Easyjet); London-Stansted (Easyjet & Ryanair).
This trip can be made in either direction (ie from Glasgow to Inverness too), but I recommend making the trip in this direction (Inverness to Glasgow) for two main reasons: depending on your timings, you are more likely to spend your first night in Inverness (if you arrive late in the day), or on the Isle of Skye (if you arrive early in the day); and if you also want to include a trip on the Jacobite steam train (aka Hogwart’s Express), making the trip in this direction means that you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to do so (or even in the dark!). Remember, travel should be enjoyable and fun.
1. Inverness Airport to Inverness city centre.
Bus: Number 11 (Stagecoach JetBus). Duration: 25-28 minutes.
Taxi: Available from the airport terminal. To prebook, Tel: 01463 222222. Duration: 15 minutes.
Where to eat in Inverness? I have it on very good authority, that Platform 8 is the current place to eat, and is excellent. Both in the quality of the food, and in value for money.
2. Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh: The Kyle Line (train).
People continually rave about how the West Highland Line is the most beautiful railway in the UK. Well, having previously travelled on both that line and the Kyle Line, and in my humble opinion, these people are mistaken.
The Kyle Line, especially the western section, is way more beautiful. And because it is a wee bit harder to access, you will have as many seats, and as much space, as you would like.
Duration (between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh): 2 hours 40 minutes.
Tickets: You can buy your ticket, in advance, on the train operator’s (ScotRail) website: www.scotrail.co.uk
Tickets are usually also available from the ticket desk in Inverness Railway Station.
3. Kyle of Lochalsh to the Isle of Skye (bus).
It takes just minutes to reach the bus stop that you require (see the map above).
Just one bus (number 51) takes you from Kyle of Lochalsh to Armadale (where you catch the ferry). There is no need to prebook your bus journey, just pay the bus driver as you board.
However, this bus travels via Broadford, where you can connect to the Portree bus. And Broadford itself is a good base for your time on the Isle of Skye (especially for the Cuillin mountains which are located in the south of the island). Armadale is a VERY small place, so I would only head there when you are ready to take the ferry.
The entire bus journey between Kyle of Lochalsh and Armadale takes just 50 minutes (25 minutes to Broadford).
4. Isle of Skye (Armadale) to Mallaig (ferry).
It takes just minutes to walk between the bus stop and the ferry terminal (see the map above). Tickets for the ferry can be bought in the ferry terminal, or in advance via the ferry operator’s (Caledonian MacBrayne) website: www.calmac.co.uk
Booking your ticket in advance, which you print at home and just show as you board the ferry, is a good idea – as it is just one less thing to do on the day.
Duration: The ferry crossing takes just 30 minutes And you can always see the land, the majestically beautiful land, on either side at all times.
This is actually a pretty spectacular way to leave, or arrive on, the Isle of Skye. With the Cuillin mountains as a backdrop. Also keep an eye out for dolphins during the crossing, as they like to swim in the bow-wake of the ferry.
Mallaig is a pretty little fishing port. And is the one place on this route that I would most recommend as a place to spend a night (or two).
5. Mallaig to Fort William (train – the first part of the West Highland Railway).
Jacobite steam train (aka Hogwart’s Express) or the “regular” ScotRail train.
There are two ways to make this spectacularly scenic journey by train.
Harry Potter fans just have to take the Jacobite (aka Hogwart’s Express) steam train. As does anyone else who just loves the romance of steam. Operated by West Coast Railways.
The other, and cheaper, option is to take the “regular” ScotRail train.
6. Fort William to Glasgow (train – the second part of the West Highland Railway).
There’s a good reason why this railway line is regarded as, not just one of the most amazing railway journeys in the UK, but one of the most amazing railway journeys in the world.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the spectacle.
7. Glasgow city centre (Glasgow Queen Street Station to Glasgow Central Station) , and on to Glasgow Airport (GLA).
The train that will take you to Glasgow from Fort William on the West Highland Railway arrives in Glasgow at Glasgow Queen Street Station.
For onward travel to Glasgow Airport (GLA), you then have two options:
1. The first of these is by far the easiest. The number 500 shuttle bus.
This bus will take you directly to Glasgow Airport. And as the bus actually leaves from the nearby Buchanan Street Bus Station, it is a simple 5-minute walk. This is actually where the bus begins its journey, so you will not feel as rushed when you get on the bus, and will have plenty of time to choose a seat and get settled. For detailed walking directions please see the map above.
2. The other option is to travel, by train, to Paisley Gilmour Street. And take the bus from there.
However, you will end up having to take a bus anyway, so it makes more sense just to take the 500 bus from Buchanan Street Bus Station.
There is another reason why Option 1 is easier. The train that will take you to Paisley Gilmour Street train station, actually leaves Glasgow from Glasgow Central Station. So you will need to transfer between both Glasgow train stations. Admittedly, there is not a huge distance between Glasgow Queen Street station and Glasgow Central station, and it is a very easy walk (although if you have any sizeable luggage, I would definitely spend a few pounds and take a taxi). But I would always recommend that you simply take the 500 bus directly from Buchanan Street Bus Station.
These “virtual” journeys are just my way of continuing to see the world, now that the progression of my ataxia means that lengthy travel is no longer a possibility for me. Hence the detail. By planning the journey in such detail, I end up knowing the route so well that I feel like I have been on it myself.
So if this article has inspired you, saved you some valuable time (or even just saved you a few pounds/euros/dollars), please show your appreciation by making a donation to Ataxia UK (registered charity), by following this link:
100% of your donation goes directly, and immediately, to Ataxia UK (plus an additional 25% if you are a UK-taxpayer and have ticked the “Gift Aid” box).
And a personal request?
Share a photograph, that you take at some point on your journey, with me on Twitter. Not necessarily your “best” photograph, but the one photograph that will forever remind you of your journey.
That way I can live a little piece of the journey through your eyes.