Adventures with Kyle

August 22nd, 2010 by Murray Barnes | Posted in Photography, Railways, Travel, Trip Report

My job sucks. There are many reasons that it sucks, from the pay to the hours to the people treating you as sub-human because you’re only a cleaner. One of my least favourite parts of the job is that I only get one day off a week. This makes it difficult to plan holidays (28 days holiday is just over 4 weeks when you work 6 days a week, whereas it’s nearly 6 weeks when you work a normal 5 day week), but it also makes it difficult to actually do anything.

I mean, let’s imagine there’s a friend who would like to meet up with me. First, I have to hope they’re free on a Tuesday, then I have to make sure I’m not booked. One friend recently had an appointment for lunch and hanging out that we’d made about a month or so in advance, as it was the only time I was free. It’s difficult.

So, imagine my surprise late one Sunday night when I realised I had nothing doing on the upcoming Tuesday. I started to think of ways to fill that day knowing that if I didn’t have anything to do I would sleep until 4 PM, then sit on Reddit until 5 AM. It’s not good.

I took into consideration a few things before a plan formed in my mind. First, I’d been on quite a number of trains in the previous month. I’d been up to Aberdeen, to catch a ferry to Shetland. I’d been to Glasgow, to watch Toy Story 3 at the IMAX with Paul, and I’d been to Edinburgh to catch up with the too posh to be my friend but still inexplicably my friend, Karen. If you look at a map of Scottish railway lines you’d notice that there’s only one line from Perth I’d not taken that month, the one to Inverness.

Train to nowhere (Aberdeen is now officially nowhere)

Choo choo! I like trains.

I tried to think of ways of incorporating a train trip up to Inverness into my day off. It couldn’t be as simple as a day trip to Inverness, because I don’t like Inverness very much. Kind of boring, really. Maybe something like train to Dalwhinnie, cycle to Inverness then train home? Maybe, but the weather was promising me heavy rain and thunder, so it didn’t sound too appealing.

Then the light bulb above my head came on. I remembered the absolutely incredible trip report by a Mr. Seat 2A, 6 Trains on 6 Continents ~ Connected by 44 Flights on 14 Airlines, Part 1 here and Part 2 here. In many ways, I like to live vicariously through the trip reports on FlyerTalk, and Seat 2A not only goes on some of the best adventures, he is one of the best at writing them up afterwards. Man’s got some serious writing skills is what I’m saying. And while I may never fly Cathay Pacific First Class between San Francisco and Johannesburg, there is at least one part of this report I might just manage to copy.

The man flies from San Francisco to London and takes the ScotRail Sleeper train to Inverness just to travel on the Kyle of Lochalsh line. Not even to go to Kyle of Lochalsh, because he spent an hour there before turning back around to Inverness. Read about it here, his pictures are wonderful. I might not manage the flying from San Francisco, nor even the train trip from London, but I can certainly go up to Kyle of Lochalsh for the day. So I went on-line and booked me some tickets, £34 for a young person railcard anytime return from Perth to Kyle.

0804 - 1029, Perth to Inverness
1101 - 1326, Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh
1715 - 1949, Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness
2015 - 2229, Inverness to Perth

I must admit, I was anxious about how long a day it was going to be. I’d have to be up about half six and wouldn’t be home until eleven that night. Combined with my normally not sleeping until two or three in the morning at the earliest and I knew I was going to be tired, but I figured it would be worth it. Besides, there’s a reason they invented Red Bull.

From this point on, this post is going to be mostly photographs. These photographs are not necessarily good enough for me to post on my Flickr account, as I try to reserve that for photos that not only I would enjoy but are actually, you know, half decent photographs. Unfortunately taking half decent pictures from a train is not easy. Many of the 284 photos I took that day have reflections of the train interior superimposed on the fantastic scenery, and while that is OK for showing what to expect when taking a train trip, I don’t consider it good enough for Flickr. Nevertheless, clicking any of the pictures will open them up in Picasa Web Albums if you want to see it bigger.

The train line from Perth to Kyle. Direct route, huh? Larger map view.

A standard Class 170 Turbostar to haul us up to Inverness.

Weather was certainly looking lovely as we got just north of Dunkeld.

Luckily the weather cleared up remarkably by Inverness.

During my 30 minute layover in Inverness, I went for a walk and saw a unicorn being hassled by seagulls

I also had breakfast. It’s not often I travel 118 miles for breakfast.

The Beauly Firth, I think.

Passing over the Caledonian Canal.

Usually you can see the connection between the English place name and the Gaelic one. Not so much wth Dingwall.

We’ve now split from the Far North Line. Let’s go west!

Loch Luichart, maybe? It’s man made, believe it or not.

Now we start to approach Loch Carron, where the line goes from being “Well, that’s nice and all” to “Holy poop batman, this is incredible”.

When I arrived in Kyle, I had a few hours to kill. A lady had gotten on the train at Achnasheen selling souvenir maps to gullible tourists like me. With the map came free entry to the friends of Kyle railway museum, so I did that. I’d heard there was a local viewpoint, so went a-wandering up to there to get some pictures, bought some lunch from the Co-op, and walked across the Skye bridge to Skye, before turning round again and taking a train back home. Here are some more pictures.

This picnic area is built on what used to be gun emplacements during the second world war. A rather ingenius re-use.

The mountains of Skye in the background.

A Stevenson family Lighthouse, on Eilean Bàn, a sort of intermediate island the bridge crosses on its way to Skye.

Just got up to the Isle of Skye, no very big and I’m awfy shy. The lassies shout as I go by, “Murray, whaurs yer troosers?”.

My promised heavy rain and thunderstorm never appeared. Almost a pity, except I had weather like this all day.

Ready to head home again, sigh.

After that, it got too dark to photograph. Although the day was long and tiring and I had to get up at 6.30 in the morning, it was an incredible opportunity. The weather glorious, the scenery fantastic. Seriously, if you’re bored and anywhere north of Scotland’s central belt, you can do this trip in a day, and I really think you should do so.

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