So what to do after a meeting in Glasgow? Drive to the airport and fly home, or take a train to Pitlochry, climb to a little loch beneath the summit of Ben Vrackie, then catch the sleeper at 22.50, arriving back into London just before 8.00 next morning?
Most business people chose the former. They are probably tired after that 4am start to get to an airport, the waiting, the security checks, the cramped seats and more queues once they got to Scotland. They’ll have seen nothing of the wonderful Scottish scenery and by the time they get home will be ready for bed. What a day!
Last Friday I chose the latter. Meetings finished in Glasgow, I caught a train to Stirling, popped into the city for a bite to eat then boarded The Highland Chieftain on its long journey from Kings Cross to Inverness. As usual the train was busy, carrying a wide range of passengers on journeys long and short. An hour’s ride passing mountains, woods and rivers took us to the wonderfully situated Perthshire town of Pitlochry.
At the town’s attractive station another alighting passenger called out a loud greeting to his friend on the platform, only to be prodded by his embarrassed wife and told that he was looking at a stranger and the chap meeting them was further down the platform. Such incidents add to the variety of rail travel.
Stopping only to buy an ice cream (raspberry ripple – a long lost flavour that seems to have just been rediscovered) I followed a lane past one of our most beautifully situated golf clubs and was soon at the foot of the mountain. Negotiating a steep path through woods alongside a fast flowing stream and pausing only to bruise my leg on a hidden fence post, in less than an hour I was on the open mountain.
This is the best of Scotland; mountain air, wonderful views and great walking. Another mile or so of stony footpath took me to one of my favourite places – Loch a Choire below the summit of Ben Vrackie. It was the fourth time I’d walked here and whether sun, rain, daytime or evening, the still water nestling beneath the mountain top has a special atmosphere. I was the only person here and probably the only one left on the mountain.
Descent was faster than ascent and I was back in Pitlochry by ten. Time for a quick takeaway and wander down to the station. Dusk was falling as half a dozen passengers waited for our overnight train to London. I chatted to a gentleman from France who was here to take photos. His interest is sleeper trains and he’d travelled on them all over Europe. Sadly many are being axed but our wonderful Caledonian Sleepers seem safe with their own franchise and new stock under construction. Asleep by Perth, I woke as we approached Euston and was home by nine. Why would I want to fly?