This month Kessock Books will launch a new series of entertaining, informative and practical companions to Highland rail travel.
Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh sets the tone for the series, taking the long-established tradition of guide books in a new direction, with a quirky yet honest account of the train journey experience for visitors and locals alike.
Next off the presses will be the guide to a very different and largely unsung railway – the cross-country route from Aberdeen to Elgin and Inverness. Not a scenic stunner in the typical Highland sense, but it traverses attractive countryside and boasts some gems of railway architecture. From the prosaic features of a traditional country station at Insch in Aberdeenshire to the grandeur of the former Great North of Scotland Railway station at Elgin – no longer the town’s station, but carefully conserved in its new role as a business centre. The guide links the earliest days of the railway to still-surviving operational characteristics in the 21st century.
Like our first guide, this will be illustrated with over 50 eye-catching black & white photos, bespoke hand-drawn maps and fine sketches of railway scenes.
The Highland rail network largely escaped the surgery of the ‘Beeching Axe’ in the 1960s, and that has left us with a group of scenic lines which rank among the best in Britain. The West Highland Line from Glasgow to Fort William regularly wins the accolade of ‘Top Rail Journey in the World’, so we will cast a critical eye over the journey experience to see if it lives up to that billing. The West Highland Line extension from Fort William to Mallaig needs little introduction, now that the Harry Potter phenomenon has spread word of the line’s magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct. But discerning passengers need to know rather more about the depth and breadth of the line’s history and the wonderful views from the window – and this we will aim to do.
A further branch of the West Highland Line runs from Crianlarich to Oban – the surviving remnant of the original Callander & Oban Railway. With a much-improved train service, this is an easy route to explore from Glasgow or Edinburgh. Like the rest of the series, for visitors who may not be familiar with local rail travel, there will be very practical chapters on preparing for the journey and making the most of the train trip.
Back on the rail network radiating from Inverness, there are two other contrasting routes with great appeal to the leisure traveller. The Highland Main Line to Perth is by far the most important rail route in the region, taking the train over Britain’s highest main-line rail summit at Druimuachdar. Newly refurbished ‘High Speed Trains’ are in the pipeline, and we will help to set the scene for probably the most dramatic change in the line’s train services for more than 30 years.
Stretching 168 miles from Inverness to Caithness, the Far North Line is by far the longest rural railway in Britain. Yet despite traversing a rich variety of coastal and inland landscapes, it is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the ‘classic’ tourist routes elsewhere in the Highlands. Our guide will put that right!
Find out more about The Insider Rail Guide: Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh