Kyle of Lochalsh

My room is beneath the first ‘L’ in Lochalsh and I am sat at the adjacent window, to the front, looking out on the Kyle as I type this post. If this was a postcard, I would scratch “I am here” in BIC biro.

The Lochalsh Hotel

It is now all too easy to pass by this hotel – once adjacent to the Isle of Skye ferry, it was at the centre of things as all vehicles bound for the island queued for anything up to five hours, but never on a Sunday. This little gem from Alan Whicker and the BBC Tonight programme, November 1964:

Sat at this window on April 24th 1973, I would have seen a dark blue Mitchell Van Hire, 18cwt Bedford CF, board the Skye ferry. The driver, dressed in a too-long purple jumper knitted by an earlier girlfriend, a pair of too-wide flared jeans, a straw hat and Mexican sandals made from old car tyres, we were heading for Glen Brittle and perfect Spring sunshine. How things have changed. The road now sweeps across the Skye Bridge, I have arrived by train, it is February and it is wet and very windy. It is an odd time of year to come to the Highlands.

Inverness Station – the Kyle of Lochalsh train

Arriving at Kyle of Lochalsh

I have always wanted to travel the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh railway, along with the Mallaig and Wick lines, some of the world’s most scenic railways. Up to end March it is possible to travel anywhere in Scotland on ScotRail for £17 return once you have purchased a £15 Club 50 card.

There was one slight flaw to my cunning plan – the journey north from Inverness was in complete darkness. I might as well have been travelling on the London Underground. Nevertheless, the journey south, tomorrow, starts at 12:08 so the landscape will be revealed in all its glory – assuming there is no mist.

To fill in time on a damp day, I took the bus from Kyle of Lochalsh to Elgol and Glasnakille, on the west coast of Skye. I was one of three passengers throughout the entire trip. The bus stops at Elgol for tea with the driver, Gordon, and immediately the BBC news comes on the radio at 1pm, we must get back on board and head for Glasnakille. It is timed like an Apollo launch.

Gordon

It was at Glasnakille that I was joined by a local lady bound for Broadford – she described it as a ‘course’ day. The conversation flowed from there, covering such diverse topics as Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull who once lived in nearby Strathaird House; the clearances; education – up to eleven there is a local school but thereafter children must board at Portree, the only secondary school on the island; the high volume of traffic in the summer; midges – you just have to out up with them and, the dreaded camper vans. By the time we reached Broadford, I felt like a local. Gordon would be back at 15:22, on the dot, to take her home.

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15 comments

  1. Sue · February 20

    Wow, what a trip!

    • northumbrianlight · February 21

      Despite the weather, it has been a grand trip, Sue. Now sat in a cafe in Kyle of Lochalsh waiting for the return train. My opinions of the trip may change if I don’t make all the connections 😎

  2. jelleybaby · February 20

    Awaiting Part 2.

    • northumbrianlight · February 21

      Not sure it will be that good – great views but impossible to photograph from a moving train, especially one with mucky windows 😦

  3. Aviationtrails · February 20

    I have fond memories of the old Skye ferry, and am now long overdue a return trip.

    • northumbrianlight · February 21

      The bridge has removed all the romance and made the island too accessible such that the Broadford to Portree road is like the M25 in summer. The lady on the bus thought the bridge ‘on balance’ a good thing but there is definitely a down side. Still worth a return trip though – especially out of season.

  4. northumbriahealers · February 20

    You look wonderful on the photo and I am  jealous of Jennie! x
    Sent from Samsung tablet.

  5. MART IN THE HILLS · February 20

    Happy memories, regretfully my first Skye trip was by the bridge. Love the video, hint of Wicker Man to the whole Sunday thing 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · February 21

      The other advantage of being an ancient teenager is that I remember when everything north of Kyle was single track – that same van crossed on the Kylesku ferry before another bridge removed all the excitement.

  6. restlessjo · February 21

    The lovely Alan Whicker! 🙂 🙂 I envy you that train trip. One I’ve always wanted to do too.

    • northumbrianlight · February 21

      Hi Jo – having now seen it in daylight, I can thoroughly recommend! 😀 All the best, R

  7. J.D. Riso · February 22

    What a voyage. I love going to these kinds of places in low season. Weather might be challenging, but you get a true feeling for a place. I can just imagine the atmosphere and hear Gordon’s accent, though I doubt I’d understand it.🙂

    • northumbrianlight · February 23

      It was a grand trip and the train journey south every bit as good as I had hoped:

      Gordon had that soft Highland accent which sounds almost Irish (to my untrained ear) – a Douglas should have no difficulty 😉

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