Unless you're on the 8.15am to Charing Cross on a Monday morning then there's always something relaxing about a train ride – no traffic jams, no car sickness and no 50mph sections to contend with make it a much more civilised mode of transport. And taking a train journey can be an easy – not to mention economical - way to enjoy some of Scotland's beautiful and diverse landscapes. Here are three of the best...
The West Highland Line - Glasgow to Mallaig
The West Highlands of Scotland are one of the most dramatically beautiful regions of the UK – so much so that driving through them can be a frustrating experience when you want to admire the view but have to keep your eyes on the road. However if you let the train take the strain you'll be treated to spectacular panoramas for around five and a half hours as the loco hauls you out of Scotland's biggest city and along the banks of Loch Lomond, before breaking into the bigger hills to the north and then across the desolate splendour of Rannoch Moor.
From here it climbs through the highest station on the British rail network – Corrour at 1,383ft of elevation – and then through Fort William to the stunning Monessie Gorge. The Glenfinnan Viaduct follows – which you may recognise from movies such as Harry Potter – and then there are views over sea lochs to the isles of Muck, Eigg and Rum before the terminus at Mallaig is reached. After that journey it would be rude not to stay over and enjoy the tranquility of this magical region before heading back to the big city.
The Borders Railway – Edinburgh to Tweedbank
This is a complete contrast to the previous journey, both in terms of distance and the scenery involved. Opening this month (September 2015), the route starts from Edinburgh's Waverley Station and heads out through the eastern side of the breathtakingly handsome city – soon reaching the green, open countryside around Dalkeith. The former industrial heartlands of the country now appear scenic and peaceful as the train passes through old mining villages such as Newtongrange and Gorebridge – then its flat farmland until the hills of the borders are reached. After a stop at Galashiels it's straight on to Tweedbank – the final destination. The relatively short journey (the whole route takes less than an hour) means that the pleasant, genteel Borders are an easily do-able day trip from Edinburgh – or indeed vice versa.
The Kyle Line – Inverness to Kyle Of Lochalsh
While the West Highland Line shows off some of the most-famous views in Scotland to spectacular effect, the Kyle Line a bit further north offers a less well-travelled – but equally impressive – view of the Highlands. Leaving Inverness, the line heads along the bank of the Beauly Firth before darting off into the countryside, where undulating hills and farmland is the order of the day rather than big mountains.
Dingwall gives way to the Victorian spa town of Strathpeffer and the scenery gets more remote and wild as the line passes Loch Luichart and heads into the mountains. Heading west, it passes south of the iconic and ancient Torridon peaks, which can be glimpsed from the stretch through Achnashellach and Coulags. The train then heads south along the banks of beautiful Loch Carron and west past Loch Alsh before reaching the final destination – which also happens to be the embarkation point for the Isle of Skye. The journey takes less than three hours – so could be done as a day trip, or with a stopover at the western end to enjoy the changing light in this achingly beautiful part of the world.
Check ScotRail's website for train timetables and ticket prices.
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