Sunday, 30 August 2009

Kyle of Lochalsh and Eilean Donan Castle

6th August 2009

No trip to the Highlands would be complete without a journey on the stunning Kyle Railway. The four trains a day service takes two and a half hours to make the journey from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh on the west coast of Scotland. The vast majority of passengers who use the service during the summer months do so for tourism, but don't forget this is a normal train service which provides a vital link to Inverness for many small towns (with nearly unpronounceable Gaelic names) as well.

We decided to catch the first train of the day - the 0900hrs! This was great as it gave us a bit of a lie in! We got to the station and bought our staff tickets for a bargain return fare of £4.30 each.

The weather was perfect again and we had fantastic views over the miles of wilderness that the train passes through.

Eventually the mountains give way and the sea starts to appear. As we got nearer to Plockton we were surprised to see a llama out for a mid morning stroll on the beach!

We arrived in Kyle of Lochalsh on time and set about maximimising the time we had. A trip over the Loch to the Isle of Skye would have been nice but would have meant that we would waste a lot of time waiting for buses etc. We decided that we would take a boat trip and then head off to the nearby Eilean Donan Castle.

We bought tickets for a 90 minute trip on the Sea Probe Atlantis and waited for it to come to the harbour to collect us. Soon afterwards we were at 'sea' and being shown the local common seal colony, a salmon farm, things of interest on the sea bed thanks to the glass bottom of the boat and the interesting wreck of HMS Port Napier which caught fire whilst loaded with mines in 1940 and was towed to the other side of the Loch before exploding and sending her bridge onto the shoreline hundreds of metres away!

Eventually we made our way back to dry land and treated ourselves to some fish and chips. As you might guess the fish was fantastic, probably swimming around in the same Loch that very morning.

Next up was a trip to the nearby Eilean Donan Castle, star of many films including Highlander and The World is Not Enough. We made the journey by local bus and 15 minutes after departing we had arrived. The castle is simply magnificent and testament to the labours of Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap who returned the ancient seat of the Clan Macrae to its former glory between 1911 and 1932 following 200 years of ruin.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs inside the castle so you will just have to take our word for it that it is well worth a visit. The castle is still owned privately by the MacRae-Gilstrap family and they still retain and use a set of private apartments there. If you are ever passing we can highly recommend a visit, just watch out for the couple of strangely dressed individuals that Elaine ran into on out way out!

Unfortunately the last bus service back to Kyle of Lochalsh does not connect with the last train of the day to Inverness so we had already booked a taxi. Eventually (20 minutes late) the taxi arrived and we made our connection with a whole 5 minutes to spare, not stressful at all!!!

The journey back was every bit as enjoyable as it had been earlier in the day and Elaine finally got to see some Highland Cattle, she just LOVES cows! The following photograph is copyright of Russell Cheyne/Reuters and can be accessed on the Internet at The Guardian's Environmental Gallery here.

We were shattered when we got back to the B&B so we popped round the corner for something to eat and were in bed before midnight. Another good day in Scotland!

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