I decided to head up to the Isle of Skye a couple of days early, to spend time with my dad. As we're down to only one car (and to be quite honest, we only really need one car) I thought I'd try and take public transport up to Skye. Traditionally, its been a painful 5-6 hour drive across the whole of Scotland, over hill and glen. Very pretty, but quite tiring. This time, as I've a shedload of work to catch up on, I thought I'd take the train. It is supposed to be the most beautiful run in Scotland, between Kyle and Inverness.
There are two alternatives - a 6am start or a 2.30pm start. The later train also had the apparent benefit of short connection times in Aberdeen, Inverness, and Kyle, so I plumped for that. This might yet turn out to be a mistake - the incoming train to Aberdeen was a few minutes late, as was the next stage. The train to Kyle is now 20 minutes late, which might rather destroy my previous 10 minute connection.
Hint number one: Go for 30 minute connections and you have a far higher chance of it all working.
I even got power on the Aberdeen to Inverness section, which mean that I *had* to finally reconcile my bank and invoice ledgers. Done. And here on the train to Kyle, as its made of the same bits I came from Aberdeen on, I also have a first class seat and power. No internet, but hey, you can have everyhing. Bear in mind on the Inverness to Kyle section, there are 'on demand' staion halts. And precious little mobile phone coverage. 3G ? That was back in Aberdeen, some 120 miles behind us. Welcome to the Highlands. Offline and replication rules here.
Strangely enough, this train departs from Inverness, goes north to Dingwall and splits into two. One part heads further north to Wick - right at the tip of Scotland and home to the Dounrae reactor, and my bit heads to the westmost part - Kyle of Lochalsh. And this train in its current form is too long for most of the platforms - so you'd better have been paying attention to the conductors earlier..
So how pretty is the route ? We head through Plockton - the filming location for Hamish Macbeth (where Robert 'Begsbie' Carlyle breaks typecasting and DOESNT play a psychopathic killer). And seriously pretty. On the way back, I get it in daylight. Righ now, all I can see is perhaps the prettiest pitch dark view in the world. But hey.
And what of the 'Pains' in the title ? The last part of this 8 hour journey is by Bus. Now, the busses to Skye used to be ran by Skye-ways. Even Porsche drivers had difficulty keeping up with Skyeways busses, such was their drivers' skills. Woe betide the poor car with one of those clamped to its bumper. Nowadays, its owned by Stagecoach, and so it takes an hour between Kyle of Lochalsh, where the bridge is, and Portree. Something any self-respecting Skyeways driver (and perhaps Lewis Hamilton) might do in 40 minutes.
We shall see..
Meanwhile, the joys of a working power supply, a soft seat, a beer, the Police on the iPod and the ramblings of Raving Robert McNeil on the Hootsman. Bliss.
Update: The train heating didnt work for two hours, so I was glad to unfold myself from my frozen seat, and warmed myself outside. Four of us shared a taxi to Portree last night and I landed in the Isles hotel, listening to the world famous Ardmore Celidh Band (Andy and my Father) playing till midnight - in the audience three girls from Queens - and copy editors too - enjoying themselves. Small world.
And so this afternoon I surface, suffering from 'Skye Head'..