Neptune's Staircase from the West Highland Line
As a photographer, I suppose my interest in railways is inevitably centred around their impact on the landscape, rather than on the rolling stock and motive power.
For me, therefore, the West Highland Line is ideal. The Jacobite Steam Train only run one or two steam engines and one rake of coaches on this line, but what a line: Starting in Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, the train runs though some of the most magnificent Scottish scenery to Mallaig on the west coast.
Immediately after leaving Fort William the line crosses over the foot of Neptuneʼs Staircase, the first flight of locks at the western end of the Caledonian Canal, the magnificent ship canal that runs right through the Great Glen.
On the way the West Highland Line crosses the 21 arch Glenfinnan Viaduct, previously best know for being the first concrete viaduct in the world, but now more famous for its appearances in the Harry Potter movies. From the viaduct there is a good view of the Glenfinnan Monument, which commemorates where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745, with Loch Shiel behind it. The train the stops at the station in Glenfinnan.
After leaving Glenfinnan, the line then twists and turns its way through Arisaig to Mallaig, a pretty little fishing village with plenty to discover, as well as being the starting point of the Isle of Skye Ferries.
Interestingly our train, which was packed full on the outward journey, was only about a third full for the return. It would seem that an awful lot of coach parties only travel one way, and then get back on their coaches.
Check the Jacobite Steam Trainʼs website for times, prices etc.