Our last day in Scotland we were up bright and early to have breakfast and board our coach for the 66 mile journey to Fort William railway station to catch the train to Mallaig.
Fort William Station
Of course the most famous site at Fort William is Ben Nevis, which is the highest mountain in Great Britain. As is common for many Scottish mountains, it is known both to locals and visitors as simply The Ben. It attracts an estimated 100,000 ascents a year, around three-quarters of which are made using the well-constructed Pony Track from Glen Nevis on the south side of the mountain. For climbers and mountaineers the main attraction lies in the 700-metre (2,300 ft) high cliffs of the north face; among the highest cliffs in the United Kingdom, they harbour some classic scrambles and rock climbs of all difficulties, and are one of the principal locations in the UK for ice climbing.
The summit, at 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) above sea level, features the ruins of an observatory, which was permanently staffed between 1883 and 1904. The meteorological data collected during this period are still important for understanding Scottish mountain weather. C. T. R. Wilson was inspired to invent the cloud chamber after a period spent working at the observatory.
Fort William is at the southern end of the Caledonian Canal which slices through the Great Glen. This majestic canal is considered by many as one of the greatest waterways of the world. Four natural lochs – Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, the famous Loch Ness and Loch Dochfour – all lie in near perfect alignment between Fort William and Inverness making up 38 of the 60 mile coast to coast channel. The remaining 22 miles being man-made canal linking these four lochs together. One of the features of the Fort William end of the Caledonian Canal is Neptune's Staircase, which is a staircase lock comprising eight locks on the Caledonian Canal. It is the longest staircase lock in the United Kingdom, and lifts boats 64 feet (19.5 metres). The locks were originally hand-powered, but have been converted to hydraulic operation. The base plinths of the original capstans are still present, although the capstans themselves are now gone.
The train took us from Fort William via Loch Eil up to Glennfinnan across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, where the Hogwarts Express was filmed. Glenfinnan Viaduct is at the head of Loch Shiel.
The 21-arch single track viaduct was one of the largest engineering undertakings using concrete without reinforcing when it was built by Sir Robert McAlpine.
According to myth, during construction a cart-horse and driver were killed when they fell into one of the piers while dumping their load, and were buried in the concrete. Recent research has shown that the incident happened at Loch Nan Uamh Viaduct, further down the line, near Arisaig, and the driver survived. Memorial plaques are at the latter viaduct and at Glenfinnan Station Museum.
I've put together a slide show of shots taken from the train on the journey from Fort William to Malliag.
We arrived at Mallaig Station and saw The Jacobite Steam Train (see photo in slide show below), which belongs to West Coast Railways, who provided the actual Hogwarts Express used in the Harry Potter films. We took some snaps as we headed towards the sea to look across at the Isle of Skye (again).
The view across to the Isle of Skye was beautiful, here's MWM and I with that view in the background.
This leg of the journey took us through Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum (where MWM and I stayed approximately 28 years ago on our first visit to Scotland), Crianlarich, down through the Trossachs on the west bank of Loch Lomond heading towards the Erskine Bridge and Glasgow.
Crossing the Firth of Clyde over the Erskine Bridge
We picked up the motorway which took us through Glasgow onto the M74, where we stopped at Bothwell Services for a much needed break and some food. Twenty six of us decended on these tiny services to find only two staff working - a lady serving and a young man cooking when we only had 45 minutes before we had to set off again. These two stars managed to cook us all a meal of Fish and Chips in that short time and we were on our way again for the 160 mile journey to Lancaster, where we had to change ,then onto Rochdale, our destination, where we arrived at 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning. We had travelled over 369 since we left the hotel at 9.30 a.m. on Monday morning. After a short taxi ride home and a cup of tea we went to bed. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
I hope you enjoyed our visit to Scotland, we sure did.