Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Rail (or Coach?) Discoveries Day 2

First, the well known chorus ...

Sure by Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go
By heather tracks wi' heaven in their wiles.
If it's thinkin' in your inner heart the braggart's in my step
You've never smelled the tangle o' the Isles.
Oh the far Cuillins are puttin' love on me
As step I wi' my cromach to the Isles.

... and a couple of the verses.

It's by Shiel water the track is to the west
By Ailort and by Morar to the sea
The cool cresses I am thinkin' of for pluck
And bracken for a wink on Mother´s knee.

The blue islands are pullin' me away
Their laughter puts the leap upon the lame
The blue islands from the Skerries to the Lews
Wi' heather honey taste upon each name.

braggart - one who boasts
cromach - walking stick
cress - a plant of the cabbage family
pluck - part of an animal's innards (see Haggis)

But the fbb's didn't go that way! The singer went north to Perth, then Pitlochry before turning due west via Lochs Tummel and Rannoch ...
... before crossing Rannoch Moor on a path not replaced by a road. He probably trudged happily onwards where the Blackwater Reservoir now sits, then along to north shores of Loch Leven before turning north to Forth Willam.
But that is not the way the fbb's went (or came back)

On their trip out by coach (and, later, back by train) the route was west from Glasgow ...
... with the coach travelling along the western shores of Loch Lomond ...
... whilst the rail route is via Helensburgh, the Gareloch and Loch Long. The routes meet again at Tarbet** before parting again ...
... north of Tyndrum (pronounced Tine-drum). Here the fbb's had a PNB/cuppa break at the "Green Wellie" caff ...
... which was really lovely ...
... and just what the fbbs enjoy - NOT!

The train traverses the wild and desolate Rannoch Moor  (of which more later) crossing the musical Road to The Isles near Rannoch Station! Our modern road to Morar is hinted at in the first verse quoted above. Here road and rail routes run more or less together.
All of which prepares us for:-

 Dateline Tuesday 26th September 

On a wet and cold Tuesday morning a coach arrived at the Morar Hotel ...
... to take the happy holidaymakers on the short journey into Mallaig. Sheil coaches are the only bus service and coach operator in the Lochaber area offering private hire ...
... to which has been added the whole of Stagecoach's bus business in Fort William. According to Bill, the driver of the day, the company is well pleased with its much expanded remit!

Once at Mallaig, the fbbs made a serious logistical mistake. To keep dry they visited the excellent Heritage Centre next to the station.
Whilst the fbb's were inside, the Jacobite Steam train arrived from Fort William and disgorged its passengers into the typical Scottish weather. They all rushed to the various caffs (one of which was closed down, another simply closed for stocktaking) which meant that there were no seats available for the chubby one and his Mrs!

They did, eventually, find a sit-down bar-stool cuppa and trudged back to the station for their Steam hauled ride in the rain.
The loco is a Stanier "Black 5" ...
... but all is not what it seems. The engine is actually no 45407, rebranded as "The Glasgow Highlander" to celebrate the 150th anniversary of that regiment.
There is no longer a turntable at Mallaig, to the loco "runs round" and draws the train to Fort William tender first. fbb was amused by the electronic departure screen ...
... which additionally revealed that it would be stopping at "Charter train"! The confuser that wiggles the screens clearly wants nothing to do with a train that, despite technology, is properly timetabled and in Scotrail's printed leaflet. Steam, what's that?
The train does two round trips in the peak summer and one on the "shoulders" of the season. It would be good to say that the views were "glorious" (indeed they weren't bad at all) but photographs of misty bens and lochs through a rain streaked carriage window do lack a certain photogenic quality!

Here is Glenfinnan Viaduct!
Which brings us neatly to a certain H Potter and his chums.
The crowds of potty Potter fans wishing to watch the train (without the red painted GWR "Olton Hall") cross the viaduct ...
... have brought extra business to the area, more visitors to the Glenfinnan monument ...
... and huge traffic problems every time the train is scheduled.
Bridge? Trust the press to get it wrong!

So far the Scottish Tourist authorities have not been able to find a cost effective way of dangling a Ford Anglia over the viaduct complete with a Rupert Grint waxwork hanging from the open door - but once tourist numbers start flagging ...

...who knows?

fbb could have bought Potty souvenirs from the on-board shop - he didn't - but did enjoy the leaflet (NOT) ...
... and sustained the inner man with a cardboard cuppa and a packet of haggis flavoured crisps.
Yet another disappointment; the snack was well flavoured with cracked black pepper but with no sign of the offally distinct taste of the genuine locally caught haggis.
The rail discoveries coach was waiting at Fort William** station ...
... to take the party back to the Glenfinnan visitor centre and Glenfinnan station.
The latter was a special delight and will feature later. 

So back to the Hotel, travelling the Road to The Isles for the third time. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day and the gang are off (by ferry and coach, there being no trains) for a tour of the Isle of Skye ... 
... and will enjoy the Cuillins as they are "puttin' love" all over the place whilst the gang "step oot with a cromach"! (?). The main visit is to the fabulous Dunvegan Castle.
Only it didn't happen!

Find out why and what did happen tomorrow!

** Notes to the text above:-

TARBET (or TARBERT) : a narrow stretch of land between two bodies of water. there are many Tarbe(r)ts in Scotland.

AN GEARASDAN : sometimes it is possible to unravel the Gaelic. Our coach driver pointed out that "gerasdan", said after a few drams of drambuie, might sound like its English equivalent, viz "garrison". Because "William" (of Orange) oppressed the locals, (and doubtless slaughtered a few) his name is rightly omitted from the Gaelic version of the town's name. The full name is An Gearasdan Ionbharlochaid - the Garrison of Inverlochy.

STÈISEAN RÈILE : one for you to guess.

Talking of William (this time No III) reminds us of the appalling slaughter of Glencoe (look it up!). The A82 runs via Glen Coe and here are some on-line pictures of the route taken by the fbb's non train.

Delay Repay Part 2
Off to South Western Railway yesterday via e-mail.
10 days? Virgin were back in three. Bearing in mind last Saturday's bodge-up will have affected zillions of people, SWR may be allowed to take a little longer.

 Next Rail Coach Discoveries blog : Wednesday 3rd October 


  1. It's Shiel Buses and 'The Jacobite' isn't run by Scotrai

  2. Andrew Kleissner2 October 2018 at 10:42

    I think the weather you encountered is known as "Scotch Mist". In Ireland it would be "A Soft Day".

    No, the "Jacobite" isn't Scotrail - fbb said as much. But you'd have thought they'd put it on the displays correctly, seeing it's a regular service and listed in the Scotrail timetable.

  3. It appeared properly last time I used it, including the glenfinnan stop.

  4. As the link provided yesterday by Shieldsman shows, I was wrong to refer to the South Yorkshire Combined Authority - it is the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority which SYPTE is accountable to. Bizarrely the Sheffield City Region extends as far south as Sudbury in the Derbyshire Dales district. Sudbury is nearer to Birmingham than it is to Sheffield so I don't imagine its residents have much interest in Supertram.

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