Having spent the night in Glasgow, we were back at the shiny and new Queen Street station bright and early ready to continue our journey north to Fort William. Covering almost two thirds of the picturesque West Highland Line, the journey was due to take us just shy of 4 hours along what has been voted the top rail journey in the world.
Initially taking us through the Glasgow suburbs, the morning gloom had us concerned we weren’t going to be able to see much at all on the journey, however after stopping at Dalmuir the fog started to lift and we were treated to great views over the Clyde as we approached Dumbarton. The line heads slightly inland whilst heading round Dumbarton before heading back to the hug the north bank of the Clyde as far as Helensburgh.
North of Helensburgh, towards the top of Gare Loch, is Faslane and the Clyde Naval Base, home to the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet. After a short stop at Garelochhead, we crossed the small strip of land between Gare Loch and Loch Long before following the latter to the northeast. Loch Long is a sea loch approximately 20 miles in length, which has been/is used for various military and industrial purposes such as testing torpedoes in WW2.
Having followed the remainder of Loch Long and then the top section of Loch Lomond, we reached the nine or so mile stretch of railway that follows the beautiful River Falloch and not so beautiful A82. At the northern end of this stretch is the junction station of Crainlarich, where most of the trains from Glasgow divide with a section heading west to Oban and the other continuing north to Fort William and Mallaig, as we were doing.
In terms of distance and time, we weren’t quite halfway at this point and as we headed north the already stunning scenery got more and more amazing. It is so hard to put into words, but we were both genuinely open jawed (behind our masks) at how every time we thought the scenery had peaked, we’d turn a corner and it’d get even better.
The railway continues to follow the A82 (or vice-versa) until just north of Bridge of Orchy station where the railway continues to climb higher and higher between the mountains. Rannoch station marks the edge of civilisation for the line as it continues across the remoteness of Rannoch Moor to the famous station of Corrour!
Corrour is Britain’s highest and most remote railway station and although our visit was just a minute or so as we headed north, we were booked to stay for two nights in the restored signal cabin later in the holiday (keep tuned for that blog!). The station, signal box and station house are 20 miles from the nearest road and the remoteness is just astounding.
North of Corrour the railway follows along Loch Treig, providing more stunning views across the water of the surrounding mountains. From the peak height of 1350 feet above sea level at Corrour summit, the railway starts to descend and head west as it approaches Tulloch station. From Tulloch to Spean Bridge the line follows the curves of the River Spean, before actually turning to the southwest to head into Fort William.
Our journey along this part of the West Highland Line came to an end in Fort William’s platform 1 almost four hours after we left Glasgow. Here, trains reverse to continue the journey northwest to both the terminus at the coastal town of Mallaig and the western most station in Britain at Arisaig.
By the end of our trip to Scotland we’d have travelled over the entirety of the West Highland Line, but the Glasgow to Fort William stretch we had completed was just amazing. Hopefully the photos I’ve included will give you a bit of an idea of how beautiful the line is, but in all honesty photos will never do it justice. If you’re able to, make sure you take a journey on the West Highland Line.