This is a Wednesday to Saturday outing. Scenic views over two of the Great Railway Journeys of the World and a taste of Iona, Mull, Staffa, Fingals Cave, Oban and Glasgow. Wildlife and history.
To see the most in the day needs an early start from Derby ( or Burton 10 mins earlier ) station, so we get the following through train to Leeds
Derby dep 06:39
Leeds arr 07:52
Then.... the Famous Settle and Carlisle line
The 72 mile route from Settle to Carlisle takes you on a journey through the magnificent Yorkshire Dales, over the 24 arches of the Ribblehead Viaduct before plunging in to the longest tunnel on the line at Blea Moor. Emerging onto the side of Dentdale, the line leaves the Dales at Garsdale and makes it way through the gentle, lush rolling hills of the Eden Valley, with rural villages and market towns before arriving at the great border city of Carlisle. A number of the stations on the route have been restored to former glory – unusual for a line that is not run by enthusiasts.
Leeds dep 08:49
Carlisle arr 11:32
A quick coffee in the magnificent Victorian buffet, with star shaped skylights on Carlisle Station, and then over the Scottish Borders on a London to Glasgow express.
Carlisle dep 11:56
Glasgow Central arr 13:18
Put the luggage in the left luggage lockers at Glasgow Central Station and spend an afternoon in Glasgow, with lunch at ( say ) The Horseshoe Bar, a glass and brass Victorian Bar with lunches served at the bar counter whilst you sit on high stools. After lunch maybe a trip to one of the museums or galleries or just a stroll around the parks and a look at the architecture of John Renee Macintosh. Collect the bags from the left luggage locker and walk through the centre of Glasgow to Queen Street Station. Then, an evening trip on part of the West Highland Line.
Glasgow Queen Street dep 18:12
Oban arr 21:15
Pulling out of Glasgow over the same lines that haul commuter services east and north, the train grinds through the grotty Glasgow suburbs, and alongside the rubbish strewn River Clyde Estuary. After Craigendoran you veer to the right and on to the single track West Highland Line proper.
Helensburgh Upper is the last commuter station, and then it's the Highlands. At Garelochhead station there are panoramic view of the village and a breath of Highland air when the doors open for new passengers. Soon on the left, is Loch Long and its Oil terminal. To the east, as the hills become more like mountains is Glen Douglas, then the distinctive shape of Ben Arthur, known as 'The Cobbler', a favourite with mountaineers and walkers.
A few minutes beyond Arrochar and Tarbet station, Loch Lomond appears on the right, dominated by Ben Lomond. Across the loch is Inversnaid, the area once roamed by Rob Roy MacGregor. The train runs along the side of Ben Vorlich, high above is Loch Sloy - huge pipes carry the loch waters under the tracks to the electricity-generating house below. The line descends almost to the water's edge at Ardlui station, and then it's a hard 15 mile climb up to Glen Falloch. Inverarnan Water foams under the line. In the glen stand ancient Scots Pines, remnants of the Caledonian Forest which once covered the land. Crossing over the Dubh Eas Water on a viaduct we are about the same height above the water as the Forth Railway Bridge is over the sea. The Falls of Falloch appear on the right, and, after leaving Loch Lomond behind, the train stops in Crianlarich, where the line divides, where we take the southern branch west to Oban.
After Fillan Water, the Oban branch takes you through beautiful Glen Lochy to Dalmally, beyond which stands the ruin of Kilchurn Castle, ancient stronghold of Clan Campbell. We go around the head of Loch Awe and into the pass of Brander, which skirts the towering Ben Cruachan, within which is a power station. There is a wire fence here , which guards the line against landslides. Rocks striking the wires automatically set the signals to danger. To the left is the River Awe, setting for Sir Walter Scott's romance 'The Highland Widow'. Next is Taynuilt, a village on the shores of Loch Etive. Near Connel Ferry we can see the Falls of Laura, where the tidal waters flow over a ledge of rock at the narrow entrance to Loch Etive.
Into Glen Cruitten, and from the summit the line winds downhill. Enjoy the splendid views of Oban, now only a few minutes away. Oban Station is a sad modern platform, which replaced the splendid original station in the 1970s. But at least it is in the middle of the town, right by the ferry terminal.
Register at the B&B - 'Maridon House' Dunuaran Road, Oban 01631 562670 (http://www.west-scotland-tourism.com/maridon-house/Map.html), only 800 yards from the Station. An alternative guest house Briarbank, on Glencruitten Road Oban PA34 4DN (Contact: William Lockwood – a bit further and a climb up to the house – but nice people Phone: 01631 566549, http://www.oban.org.uk/cgi-local/accomdb/bandbmember.pl?briarbank). After finding accommodation, head out for a late evening meal in Mexican Pete's or the Curry House (well known for Scottish Cuisine!) – but usually the only places open for food at that time of night.
Oban is a small busy seaport that has a nice esplanade and was once a fashionable holiday resort. In Victorian times, the middle classes came from all over Europe to sample its delights. It has a wonderful folly called McCaigs tower – a replica of the Roman Coliseum. Today Oban is the place to get the ferries to all the Inner and Outer Hebrides islands.
Take the 9.00am Ferry to the Outer Hebrides ( http://www.calmac.co.uk ). However, staying on the Ferry all day only gives you 10 mins on the Outer Hebrides – so the idea is to get off at the Isle of Tiree at 12:20 and go for a walk. Sailing up the Sound of Mull at a sedate pace is a wonderful way to spend the morning, the peace and tranquillity of the Inner Hebrides heightened by the sound of the boat cutting smoothly though the clear, clean sea. Dolphin and porpoise entertaining those on deck taking the invigorating air. Tiree - Tir An Eorna - The Land Below the Waves is an enchanting flat Island, Twelve miles by One, with an excellent hike over to a stone age relic – the 'Ringing' stone on the other side of the island. Throw a rock at the ringing stone and you will hear a bell like 'ding'. No-one knows why.
The ferry picks you up again at 18:40, for dinner, drinks and a cruise round Mull, returning to Oban at 22:00. The pubs in Oban shut 3 hours later (just in case it is of interest)
Several Options – Option One. On to one of Bowman's excellent tours. This tour departs by ferry, crossing the Firth of Lorne to Craignure on The Isle of Mull where you join their coach. This takes the scenic route through the Isle of Mull is via Glen More to Fionnphort where you board the boat for Staffa. After landing on Staffa and visiting Fingal's Cave and seeing the Puffins, then we sail south to Iona. Take a leisurely stroll through the Benedictine nunnery and the Reilig Oran - the burial place of kings (Macbeth and pals) - on the route to Iona Abbey. Then ferry and bus and ferry back to Oban (http://www.bowmanstours.co.uk/).
Option Two – Same Ferry, but walk the 2 miles to the two castles on Mull, stroll the ornate gardens and have lunch in the local pub – Isle of Mull cheese a speciality.
Option three – Same Ferry, and then a Landrover tour of the wild places – see the Sea Eagles and Otters, if you are lucky(http://www.mullwildlife.co.uk/).
Option Four – Same Ferry and Service bus to Tobormoray, delightful Island capital and home to TV series Balamoray
Saturday morning around Oban – perhaps a tour of the distillery, and a walk along the Esplanade then home on the afternoon train.
The return is via Edinburgh - the line from Edinburgh to Newcastle is by the sea, with some nice views