Friday 30th August 2019
This tour starts with the Tour Manager, in this instance me, meeting the tourees at the first hotel, in Glasgow. So I have a relatively early start to get the train into London before catching my onward connection from Euston at 10:30.
During the four and a half hour journey up to Glasgow Central I spend the time working on the plans and arrangements for my next tour, in two weeks’ time, which is to the Isle of Man.
The Great Central Hotel is located at Glasgow Central and has an entrance in the station concourse as well as one on the road next to the main station entrance.
The hotel has been refurbished to very modern standards and features a champagne bar with views over the station concourse. And a spectacular chandelier, that reminds me of something.
Having arrived at the hotel and checked in at 15:00, I take a quick stroll in the pouring rain to familiarise myself with the 15 minute walk to Glasgow Queen Street: the route which I will be escorting the tourees along on the following morning.
When I get back to the station I first have to sort out an issue with the evening’s hotel booking.
From 16:00 to 18:00 I wait around in the hotel reception, meeting and greeting each of the tourees. This is the time when I can give them the evening dining arrangements and ensure that they have the special luggage labels for the next day’s porterage.
As a group we all eat in a private dinning area of the hotel called the Great Western Room at 19:00. Following dinner I get a chance to pop out into central Glasgow, for an hour, to visit a couple of bars.
Unbeknown to me, and entirely unrelated to my presence in the city, there was a big sectarian riot during the evening/night.
Saturday, 31st August 2019
Breakfast is an early one at 07:00 at the hotel. As we go down to breakfast we leave our luggage with the concierge as it is being transferred directly to our next hotel, by van, in Fort William.
After breakfast we leave the hotel at 07:45 to walk to Glasgow Queen Street Station. The walk, unencumbered by luggage, takes 15 minutes, some of the tourees opt to take taxis instead.
We take the extremely scenic ScotRail service to Glenfinnan at 08:23. Unfortunately, the heavy rain and mist obscures the views and limits the photographic opportunities.
Just before arriving at Glenfinnan Railway Station the train slows, the very obliging guard makes an announcement, and the train slowly crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct allowing film and photo opportunities. The viaduct is famous for the scene in the Harry Potter film when the Hogswart Express travels over it.
We arrive at Glenfinnan Railway Station at 12:45. Brian, from Shiel Coaches, is there, ready and waiting for us. After only about five minutes we stop at the Scottish National Trust’s Glenfinnan Monument & Visitor Centre. It was here, on 19th August 1745 that Prince Charles Edward Stuart [Bonnie Prince Charlie, to you and me] raised his standard to mark the start of the Jacobite uprising. His aim was to restore his father, James [the son of James II and VII] to the British crown. There is a monument to mark the spot [we’ll ignore the fact that the real spot is a bit further away up the coast.]
More people, however, now use the visitor’s centre carpark, to go and see the [Harry Potter] Glenfinnan Viaduct from a vantage point.
From here the coach takes us 25 minutes down the road to the outskirts of Fort William, at Banavie, so we can stop at the bottom of Neptune’s Staircase. Built by Thomas Telford, between 1803 and 1822, the locks are at the southern end of the Caledonia Canal.
Also here is the railway swing bridge. So with a canal and bridge to our front and Ben Nevis in the background . . .
. . . we had timed it perfectly to see the Jacobite steam train [running from Fort William to Mallaig] crossing the bridge [see video of the day, at the bottom of the blog].
After the train passes, the swing bridges of the road and railway move to allow the boats on the canal to pass through.
The coach then takes five minutes to the hotel in Fort William allowing us a 15:00 check-in.
At this point the tourees have free-time to discover Fort William. Since it was chucking it done with rain, very few do.
In the centre of Fort William is a life size bronze statue of a Model T Ford car. This is here to commemorate the first car, in 1911, to drive to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain.
Dinner was served in the excellent Brown’s restaurant, at the hotel, at 19:00.
Great Railway Journeys Tour Map:
Video of the day:
Selfie of the day:
- Welsh Highland Railway & Caernarfon
- Ffestiniog Railway & Portmeirion
- Passau and Home [via Köln]
- London to Munich [for Oktoberfest]