The iron road to the Highlands

Early yesterday morning I caught the train for Inverness to cover a brand-new comics convention for the FPI blog. Crossing over the mighty Forth Bridge (I can’t remember going over that since I was a kid, usually I’m going over the nearby road bridge) the train went along the Fife coast to begin with, curving around past Burntisland, giving great views right across the Firth of Forth where you could see all of Edinburgh in profile, the Pentland Hills behind the city dusted with snow and an orange glow behind them as the early morning winter sun struggled to rise above the hills. As the train turned further inland the rolling hills of Fife were sprinkled with snow too, while the rich farmland between them was mostly snow (although not ice) free.

(click the pics to see the full size version on the Woolamaloo Flickr stream)

However, as I got further north, heading up past Perth, Pitlochry and further, the snow went from a light sprinkle to deeper, purer, whiter. As we got up into the Highlands proper and the Cairngorms national park it got colder and ever more spectacular. The view from the train window was quite simply spectacular: snowbound forests (fallen trees with their skinny, snow-covered branches looked like the skeletons of some long-spined creature), rivers swollen and fast-running with recent rain and snow runoff from the mountains, except where the water had frozen fast into ice.

Deer ran lightly through the snow; as the train past one field I saw a young buck, couldn’t have been more than two years old, bouncing through the snow and off into the treeline. There were a number of football fans, all loaded up with beer, on the train (I think their match ended up cancelled because of the weather) but even they grew quiet, totally taken in with the astonishing beauty of the Scottish Highlands passing outside their window to the clickety-clack, clickety-clack beat of the train on its rails. You can feel the pressure on your ears as the train begins to climb steeply – it isn’t as clear from the view but your body can feel it as the train pulls you ever higher into the land of mountains.

I haven’t been up that far north in years, not since going on a few ski trips many moons ago and that was driving so you don’t get to appreciate the view quite so much. Sitting on a train with a great big window you could just watch all of this slip past, one of most scenic parts of the whole of Europe just sliding past my window. God we’re so lucky to live in this country – next time any of us moan about our weather we should think about these scenes then realise just how utterly beautiful our mountain kingdom is.