For those that take to the rails on a daily basis for the wearying commute to work, the phrase “rail holidays UK” probably doesn’t evoke especially romantic or enticing images. It’s more likely to conjure a memory of that tubby man sitting opposite that snores like a dyspeptic hippo, or the young fella sitting adjacent listening to his iPod at such a volume that anyone within earshot is treated to a barrage of nerve-shredding white noise (think of a bottle full of miniature marbles being shaken interminably). But thankfully, there’s a cure – taking a rail trip through the breathtaking landscapes of Inverness.
Here are some reasons why a railway journey through Inverness can restore the pleasures of letting the train take the strain, as that old TV ad used to put it.
1. Travelling to Inverness by rail is a delight. No snoring commuters or young men trying to deafen themselves, just comfortable seats and enchanting vistas as your train speeds through spectacular scenery on its way to the most northerly city in Scotland. Driving such distances simply mars the experience; it’s tiring. But who cares if a little spontaneous shut-eye is called for when one’s derrière is nestled warmly on a comfy train seat?
2. The delights continue upon arrival. This is a real chance for hemmed-in, scrunched-up, stressed-out urban refugees to experience the almost astounding vastness and grandeur of the Scottish Highlands. Why not see some of it by booking a seat on the Kyle Line? The 63 miles of railway running from Dingwall to the Kyle of Lochalsh coveys the spellbound passenger through no fewer than 31 tunnels carved through solid rock, and over 29 bridges offering jaw-dropping views of the Highlands en route. A train runs to and from Inverness three to four times a day and the Kyle Line itself is occasionally graced by visits from glorious old-timers such as the Orient Express and the Flying Scotsman.
3. Inverness itself is a potent cure for anyone who experiences commuter-induced stress upon seeing or hearing the phrase “rail holidays UK.” There are fabulous walks along the River Ness, a bleakly beautiful Iron Age fort atop Craig Phadraig, and a mesmerisingly beautiful glen, the legendary Glen Affric, which dwarfs and humbles the human observer in its immense wilderness.
4. But there’s more to Inverness than hauntingly beautiful wilderness. There’s also excellent shopping for those who suffer cold turkey if deprived of retail therapy for too long. There are dozens of independent shops selling jewellery, clothing and gifts, ranging from the quaint to the voguish, and a charming Victorian market slap bang in the heart of the city centre.
5. No trip to Inverness could be complete for anyone with even a vestigial interest in whether Nessie exists or not. Take a day trip to the sublimely beautiful Loch Ness and put that scepticism to the test. Even if the great beastie doesn’t make an appearance, the trip will have been entirely worthwhile; it’s one of those places that remain achingly beautiful even on a grey, rainy day.
So, these are five reasons to take a railway journey through Inverness. And that’s without mentioning the magnificent West Highland Line, voted “Best Rail Journey” in 2009 by the Wanderlust Travel Awards for its incomparable beauty and spectacle.
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