There are those railway lines I’ve travelled on countless times, some only once and a very small number I haven’t managed to traverse. Sadly it’s quite rare for me to do a new piece of line (in fact there’s only one line left south of Birmingham). The North Highland lines had so far managed to elude me, so I recently took the opportunity to head north, visit a few distilleries and take a ride. First up was the line to Kyle of Lochalsch, just over the water from the Isle of Skye.
The line opened in three stages: Inverness to Dingwall (1862), Dingwall to Stromeferry (1870) and was extended to Kyle of Lochalsch in 1897. Comprising 17 stations (of which six are request stops), the line winds its way through the Inverness-shire countryside for around 80 miles.
Currently (as of the 2014 timetable), there are four return trains per day on Mondays to Saturdays and one on Sundays (with an extra return on Sundays between May and September)
Starting from Inverness, the line takes a circuitous route around the Beauly Firth to the town of Dingwall (with the rather longer Gaelic name of Inbhirpheofharain), where the Wick line forks off to the right.
Passing through the hamlet of Fodderty, the train doesn’t stop, but this was the location where the now-closed branch line to the spa town of Strathpeffer diverged from the main line until 1946. The line continues to twist and turn passing alongside Loch Garve and then Loch Luichart, calling at the eponymous station.
The line then follows the routes of the A832 and A890 roads until Stromeferry, where the road heads south and the railway line caresses the southern shore of Loch Carron so that it can serve the picturesque village of Plockton.
Finally the line turns south to reach the end of the line, Kyle of Lochalsch, a village which sits on Loch Alsh, overlooking the village of Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye.
I’ll be honest, there isn’t much to do in Kyle, but it’s well worth the one and a half mile walk over the Skye bridge (built to replace the ferry in 1995) – the views are magnificent, even though I’m, told it’s almost constantly raining.
Distilleries on/near the route:
Glen Ord – 0.7 miles from Muir Of Ord
Top Tip: Most (if not all) trains on the line have a first class section, but this is declassified on the route, so enjoy five hours of first class travel for less than £25 (day return price as of 2014)