The Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig
The railway line from Fort William to Mallaig in Scotland passes through mindblowing landscapes. The Jacobite is described as the greatest railway journey in the world and it is easy to see why. Eighty four miles of pure beauty and indulgence.
Even before the train leaves the station the mountains are towering high. Ben Nevis, shrouded in cloud, the highest peak in Britain lurks above Fort William. This small town is at the southern end of the Great Glen. Running for 62 miles from Inverness in the north east to Form William in the south west this massive geological fault cuts Scotland in half. It is unique and it's resident monster, Nessy, brings tourists from around the world. Escaping the tourists is a challenge but even on a sunny day in August there are quiet corners and stunning vistas to be found.
As soon as the train leaves Fort William it begins to climb. Running along the shores of Loch Nevis, the deepest seawater Loch in Europe the mountains begin to creep closer to the tracks. Passing over the swing bridge and final locks of the Caledonian Canal it soon comes to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The hillsides around the viaduct are covered in people, walkers waiting to see the steam train pass over the viaduct. The viaduct, opened on 1st April 1901, with its 21 arches gently curves around the hillside all the time climbing further into the mountains. Excitement in the train can be felt. Harry Potter fans are not only on the "Hogwarts Express" but travelling over the viaduct that Harry and Ron fly the Weasley car above (honest, I haven't lost my marbles just yet!)
The landscape is tall and mountainous with lochs that are calm and reflective. Eventually though the mountains diminish and Arisaig station on the shore of Loch nan Ceall is visited. This is the most westerly mainland railway station in Britain. The Small Isles come in to view as the landscape slowly changes to a more gentle coastal scene. Hazy in the late afternoon sunshine Canna, Rum, Eigg, Muck and the tip of Skye blend into the sea and sky.
There are more "Harry Potter Moments" as the train passes filming locations on Loch Morar (the deepest freshwater loch in Britain at 310metres, deeper than its near neighbour Loch Ness). A final viaduct over the Morar River, the shortest river in Scotland ends the journey before the train slowly arrives in the small fishing village of Mallaig. Busy with tourists and travellers waiting for the ferry to Skye, this village is far from the fishing village founded in the 1840's by Lord Lovat, a local land owner.
The train with her deep red 1960's carriages fulfils the role on the West Highland Railway in style. A powerful engine that takes you through a spectacular landscape with impressive gradients with ease. The whole experience transports you back in time through a landscape which was probably similar when the engines and carriages were new and the line was recently opened.
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