Fort William - all aboard the Jacobite for the greatest railway journey in the world

Something special in Fort William

Changing from petrol to steam power!

With our time on Mull over, it was time to relax and enjoy the scenic ferry trip back over to Oban on the mainland of Scotland. Sad to be leaving Mull in many ways, but exciting times ahead, more to explore and do on the next phase of our road trip adventure.

a fond farewell to the magnificent Isle of Mull
a fond farewell to the magnificent Isle of Mull

First stop Fort William

Once we landed in Oban, we looked for a petrol station to fill up. Always a good idea before setting off for a new destination. Today it would be a short 40+ mile trip up the West Highland coastline of Scotland to Fort William. Tonight we would be trading our normal beachfront wild camping for something a little bit more urban. In fact, strange as it may seem, but we were choosing to stop over by a railway station…

plenty of train enthusiasts at Fort William to make the most of the opportunity to travel the route
plenty of train enthusiasts at Fort William to make the most of the opportunity to travel the route

On our little road trip to the Highlands of Scotland, we were mostly playing things by ear in terms of where we would go or stay each night. This however, had been our one exception to that. We had heard about some incredible rail journeys in the Highlands, and wanted to experience one for ourselves! Make sure you check out my video at the end to get a sense of the journey…

Fort William - all aboard the Jacobite for the greatest railway journey in the world
Fort William – all aboard the Jacobite for the greatest railway journey in the world

It was definitely going to be better than my typical commute to London on the train, that’s for sure! 🙂 We had managed to book a fairly last-minute pair of seats on the West Coast Railways Fort William to Mallaig Jacobite steam train, hence our ‘urban’ stopover in Fort William. This meant we were ready first thing in the morning to walk to the station ready for the journey on board the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig.

travelling in First Class style on the Jacobite train
travelling in First Class style on the Jacobite train

First-class experience

The journey from Fort William to Mallaig has been called one of the greatest railway journeys in the world. Quite some claim! It’s an 84-mile round trip that begins in Fort William near Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in Britain) and works its way through some of Scotlands most scenic and beautiful countryside. 

First class travel picnic benefits
First-class travel picnic benefits

It passes through Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig. Then past the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the silvery beaches used in the films ‘Highlander’ and ‘Local Hero’ as well as the shortest river in Britain, River Morar. All this before finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis! Not bad for a single train trip! 

The Glenfinnan Viaduct (of Harry Potter fame!)

The journey was popular with all sorts of people. From steam or railway enthusiasts, tourists, to of course fans of J.K. Rowling’s book and film creation, Harry Potter. The famous 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct (a location made famous in the Harry Potter films) overlooks Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument. I do love a good bridge, and although not as crazy high as the one I drove over in Miallu, this was still pretty impressive!

crossing the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct from the Harry Potter films
crossing the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct from the Harry Potter films

End of the line, all change

The journey terminates at the small town of Mallaig where we had a short break of an hour and a half to look around and grab a bite to eat. Mallaig is a fishing port and ferry terminal with services to Skye and the Small Isles.

Mallaig harbour
Mallaig harbour

Not having our kitchen on wheels (the bus) with us today, we found a great place to stop for lunch. I got to try a fantastic bowl of Cullen skink, a thick Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. Apparently, this soup is a local speciality, from the town of Cullen in Moray, on the northeast coast of Scotland. Have to say it was delicious! 🙂

the famous 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films
the famous 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films

The Jacobite Train back to Fort William

It’s not often we plan special events or experiences in advance, but this made a really great day out. Neither of us had ever travelled on a full-sized steam train like this before. The train itself is pretty amazing, the route and countryside you pass through even more so! Check out the video below to get a small sense of the experience…

It was not something you do every day, and that’s what makes it special. This whole road trip is all about making memories, seeing new horizons, sharing new experiences. Today just added to that big time! 🙂

 

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