That day, we took the Jacobite train from Fort Williams to Mallaig (return journey), to experience what I thought would be one of the greatest railway journey of my life (maybe I’m a bit dramatic here but you get the idea ;-)).
I’ve read so many good reviews about the Jacobite train while I was planning my trip to Scotland that I got intrigued ! It was a bit pricey (£34 for a 82 miles journey per person) but everyone seemed so enthusiastic about it that I thought it was worth the price. I really wanted to see the Glenfinnan viaduct that was featured in the Harry Potter films and in their website, it was described as the highlight of the journey. That sealed the deal !
We arrived at the station in the morning and the train was waiting for us. It was very exciting as we could visit the locomotive and take some pictures. The weather was not that great but the weather forecast looked promising for the afternoon.
We entered in the train and I faced my first disappointment of the day. The carriage was filthy, old, crowded and…. the windows were so dirty and scratched that it would have been impossible to take pictures during the journey. I tried to stay positive as I saw it was possible to open a window in the in-between carriage compartment. That was my plan b.
While waiting for the viaduct to come into sight, I soon realised that it was not going to be a tour and that we were not going to get any information about the viaduct, the train or the landscape or whatsoever. It was just a train journey that we paid twice the price of a regular journey. Did I feel bitter ? Yes.
The viaduct came into sight and everyone in the compartment got the same idea as me and rushed to the in-between carriage compartment. It was ridiculous, people were angry and packed in a 2 metres square cold and windy place and everyone wanted to get a shot of the viaduct. I was not too disappointed as we were really close to the Glennfinnan train station and I was hoping to have more opportunities to take pictures over there. How wrong I was.
We arrived a few minutes later at the Glenfinnan station for a 40 minutes break. It took us 15 minutes to get off the train (don’t ask me why I’m still clueless) before realising that we couldn’t see or walk to the viaduct from there as it was too far away. EXCUSE ME ? I was starting to become very fed up with this, and had that unpleasant feeling that we had been tricked into one of these huge tourist trap. There was just NOTHING to do in this station.
Back in the train, I took a few pictures from the open window on our way to Mallaig. They haven’t lied, the landscape was very pretty despite the grey sky…. but we were basically following the main road.. nothing you couldn’t have seen if you we had taken our car. I was trying to stay positive, but everything was going wrong. Everything.
We arrived in Mallaig and we were determined to make the most of this disastrous trip. We rushed out of this train and started to explore the town. We climbed on top of the hill in order to have a good view of the town. It was very pretty, the sun was out and the water was so blue ! It really lift our spirits. But once again, there was really nothing to do over there.
After two hours spent over there and a comforting fish and chips, we took the train back to Fort Williams. I spent the whole journey next to the window in the in-between carriage compartment and tried to take a couple of pictures of the landscape.
Then it started raining again when we reached the Glenfinnan viaduct.
Back in Fort Williams, it was time for us to forget about that horrible day and drive to Isle Skye, our next stop.
I still wonder why no one mentioned in their reviews that you will get no information at all (it’s not a tour, it’s just a train journey), that it will be dirty, crowded, uncomfortable, smelly, noisy and that you won’t have a lot of opportunity to see the damn Glenfinnan viaduct !
If you want to go there, take your car, drive to the viaduct, have a little walk around and drive to Mallaig if you really want to check out the city (but it’s not that amazing). AVOID this tourist trap, seriously, it’s so bad. I think people are so annoyed to have paid so much for a train journey that they feel obliged to leave a good review, to pretend they have enjoyed themselves and have not wasted their money. That’s my explanation anyway unless people have really low expectation about everything. EVERYONE looks so disappointed in the carriage, everyone was expecting something else. But I’m sure at the end people will tell to others they had a great time.
Have you ever done that ? Being over enthusiastic about something because it was hard to admit that you didn’t enjoy yourself or that it was a mistake ? I think we all did. Maybe time helps to forget about bad trip memories. Today, I have to admit that it didn’t feel that bad, but this is the transcript of what I wrote in my travel journal. I wanted to write something that was close to how I felt when I visited it :-)