United Kingdom | Scotland
February 18, 2008
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1981, Wednesday 12 August: Overnight Train to Skye

Kyle of Lochalsh station, Scotland, 12 August 1981.
I remember vividly this old rattle-trap train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh for Skye.

The previous evening I had taken the overnight express from London Euston to Inverness. Still a schoolboy, money had been tight (ie. next to non-existant), so I had been forced to sit the journey out on the bench seats of a crowded compartment, getting little sleep. After a couple of hours in Inverness I made my connection and sat gazing out of the window as the town receeded. It was a sunny, hot day, and with air-conditioned coaches still a couple of decades away, I fought a running battle with my drooping eyelids as I tried to drink in the heroic scenery. It was my first taste of the Scottish Highlands (excepting a trip to the Outer Hebrides in early childhood) and I was transfixed. The landscape was so imposing and empty - and, above all, savage. It was hard to accept this was still the same island as the crowded, busy and thoroughly tame Home Counties with which I was familiar.

Any last vestiges of sleepfulness were swept away as the train reached Loch Carron and the west coast. Suddenly, the austerity of the interior was replaced by a Mediterranean blue sea and gay little villages strung out along the lochside, while the majesty of the heights above, if anything, increased. After the train trundled to a halt at Kyle of Lochalsh, I alighted alive with anticipation - and a degree of apprehension: these mountains were quite unlike anything I'd tackled before. I just had time to snatch this photo before being swept across the bridge by the summer throng of backpackers, walkers and holidaymakers surging towards the pier for the ferry over the sea to Skye. (This was, of course, years before they built a bridge.)

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