Eurotrip: West Highland Railway

Day 17 on the road and this is singularly the most incredible part of my trip so far. I mean, going to the squat party in London where people were smoking marijuana and going crazy all around me was interesting, and wandering through the perfectly manicured lawns and streams of Cambridge was great, as was walking in the rolling hills of the rural Cotswolds, but now, on a train journey up the West Highland Way between Glasgow and Mallaig, its just unbelievable.

This is perhaps the first time I’ve seen such magnificent, breath-taking scenery. I mean, Mount Fuji in Japan was excellent and so was the volcano in Bali, Indonesia, but the scenery along the West Highland Way is completely in a new league of its own. Its so magnificent, immense and awe-inspiring, it has to be the best I’ve seen so far. My eyes aren’t accustomed to such beauty!

Let me put you in my state of mind right now. I’m drinking a cup of hot coffee, munching on a chocolate biscuit, and looking out of the windows. Bright sunlight is streaming through the windows, and as the train chugs, puffs and hums its way in an incredibly loveable manner, I gaze in awe at the landscape we’re passing through.

Its the kind of scenery that makes you feel glad to be alive. Its the kind of scenery that’s worth enduring almost anything in life for, and travelling any arduous route or distance for. Its the kind of scenery that reminds you why you travel. Its also the kind of scenery that makes you appreciate the vastness of nature and the planet we call home.

I’m so lost in the moment and captivated by what’s before my eyes that there really is no way to describe the scenery that will do it justice, but here’s a good-natured attempt anyway.

Craggy, snow-capped steep rocky ridges rise sharply out of marshlands covered with short, yellow grass, dotted with bare, leafless trees, their branches taking on a reddish hue, as well as majestic green oaks; adding a varied autumn tone of red and green to the scenery.

Large tracts of the valley floor are covered with melting snow that gives rise to streams that wind through the landscape and the ponds and lakes that dot the land. Wide rivers carve their way across the marsh, their waters an incredibly deep, clear blue, so clear that the varied hues and tones of the mountains above are reflected in perfect synchrony and colours. Mostly its unfrozen, clear water but sometimes portions of the river are frozen so solid that ripples are etched into the ice, such that it’s not just one frozen block of water, but intricately-patterned ice floating on its surface. The sky is a light shade of blue, dotted with puffs of harmless white clouds, and occasionally streaked with the smoke trails of airplanes above.

Most of all, it is immense, and it is the scale of it all that makes it so breathtaking. This train journey is five hours long, and after the first half-hour or so of suburban Glasgow crap, the landscape becomes increasingly rural and rugged until I suddenly found myself immersed in a beautiful, untouched land. So for over four hours, the train is journeying through a huge pristine wilderness area, and every second of it is beautiful. You don’t just glimpse spectacular scenes as the train makes a turn; on the other hand, such gorgeous scenery is before your eyes at every second of the journey. Whatever angle the train is turning towards, there is always a picturesque view unfolding before you - for four hours straight.

Sigh. The Scots really are a blessed people, aren’t they? Somehow Mother Nature decided to give them a disproportionate amount of beautiful scenery, leaving England with largely boring, rolling lowlands.

What else can I say? I know I’ll be back, and the next time I want to walk/cycle the West Highland Way instead, and see it all again.

Ahhhhhhh. But for the moment, I’m still on this train, and I’m going to enjoy it all I can.

Best part of my trip so far – Day 17, on the West Highland Way between Glasgow and Mallaig.