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Its amazing how underused these lines are during the winter. The West Highland Lines are perhaps the most scenic avaliable in the UK as well as probably the most unique and quirky and provide plenty of scope of the day tripper or visitor alike. Let me set the scene.
Operating from Glasgow Queen Street, you set off to one of three main destinations - Oban, Fort William and Mallaig. The train to Mallaig is actually via Fort William.
I have done both lines and feel they show Scotrail at its best - supporting remote local communities in some pretty remote terrain.
The first line - Glasgow to Oban, departs from Glasgow Queen Street. Passing through stations such as Dumbarton, Helensburgh (where the line officially starts), Gareloch head and the first stop at Ardlui. This stop allows the train coming in the opposite direction to pass, so you get a nice leg stretching there. The views are stunning from Helensburgh onwards as the line rises high up into the hills. You pass through some other very quaint wee stations which are great for walkers and bikers alike, such as Dalmally, Connel Ferry and finally Oban. Oban itself is great for days out, with onward connections to Mull and loads to see and do in Oban itself. The journey takes about 3 1/2 hours.
The Second Line - Glasgow to Ft William / Mallaig follows the same route as the train to Oban. At Crianlarich, the train splits into two, one half proceeds to Oban, the other half to Mallaig. You get a nice stop at Crianlarich while the trains split, and theres a nice little tea room there to grab a cheese roll while you wait! You them proceed via such stations as Tyndrum Upper, The wilderness of Rannoch Moor, Tulloch and Spean Bridge before stopping at Fort William, After a 10 minute break, the train redeparts onwards to Mallaig, through Corpach, Glenfinnan with the viaduct of Harry Potter fame, Beasdale, Arasaig and finally to Mallaig. The line rises even hiher still before descending down into the sea side village. Mallaig itself is a small village, with a few little walks and nice coffee shops and a couple of bars. But the length of the journey means a day trip onky gives you just over 2 hours in Mallaig, but the scenery on the journey is the best part as opposed to the destination. The Journey to Mallaig takes about 5 hours 10 minutes.
The trains used on the route are 156's, good old stock, comfortable, with toilet and buffet trolley. But it would be nice to have some more modern trains to luxuriate in on the length of journey. And they really should produce a small guide for the line to tell you what you are seeing for those who are maybe not that local!
Full route details are avaliable on the scotrail website. Trains run at a frequency of about 3 / 4 times a day, except on a Sunday. But of you want a day trip to Mallaig there is only one or two possible combination to ensure you get back on the same day! There is a bit more choice for Oban, but if you want a decent length of day trip, its always best to get the earliest train and the latest back.
Of course those who are entitled to a Highland Railcard (see my review of that) can get these day trips for Half Price, meaning in the winter timetable at least, Day Trips to Oban are £9.50 and Mallaig an embarrasingly cheap £12!
So, to sum up - Scotrail must run these lines at a loss at least during the winter but they are an absolute flagship for the rail company. The ease and sheer pleasure of these day trips on the West Highland Lines from Glasgow cannot be underestimated. My only concern is that Scotrail should maybe stick some newer stock on these lines to enhance the pleasure trip aspect of the journey, as the old 156's as good as they are, do not do justice to the route.
So if you are visiting Glasgow and want a day out - try these. I guarntee you will not be dissapointed!
Good opinion - having lived in the west coast for most of my life I admit I have never really used this train service. Im still getting over the fact that the west coast train from Gourock is a clean efficient service. It takes time getting used to but the trains in general in Scotland are much better than the trains in London! Nar
maidstone_fox 22.04.2004 01:25
Good read - interesting op. Well written. I recently had a bad experience with trains.... was considering writing an op about it but still a little too worked up about it at the moment! Anyway, good op. James : )