Western Scotland

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On a trip to lesser-known territory of the U.K, Sept. 11-24, ’04 (April ’05, pg. 16), my travels took me to western Scotland.

I made the journey from Douglas, Isle of Man, to Belfast, Northern Ireland, by the Steam Packet Company fast catamaran at a prebooked fare of £14.70 (near $28). Since I had no prebooked hotel reservation, I was given a list of hotels to call from the Belfast ferry terminal and ended up at the Days Hotel (40 Hope St., Belfast, Northern Ireland BT12 5EE) for the rate of £59.95 ($115). It was a new hotel but of the bare-bones variety and was pretty filled with tour groups of young people (who spilled all over the streets on a Saturday night).

Although breakfast at the hotel was included, I was scheduled to be at the Stena Line (www.stenaline.co.uk) ferry terminal at 6:15 a.m. for the 7:15 sailing to Stranraer, Scotland. This ferry is reputed to be the largest catamaran ferry in the world, carrying 375 cars and up to 1,500 passengers. The senior citizen prebooked Internet fare was £16. I had an excellent multicourse Continental breakfast on board for £6.95.

When we arrived in Stranraer, the train station was within 50 feet of the ferry terminal, with a train waiting. Again through the Internet, I had purchased a Scottish Freedom Pass from ScotRail (www.scotrail.co.uk) for $145 for four days of travel within an 8-day period. Once my ticket was validated, I boarded the train for Glasgow.

My Internet research showed I had 13 minutes in Glasgow to change trains, but I had neglected to note that my departing train left from the Queen Street station and I was arriving at Glasgow Central station. I dashed through the station and found a taxi to take me to the other station, making that train with only two minutes to spare. Naturally, after all my worries, it departed five minutes late!

The West Highland Line train ride from Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig is reputed to be among the most scenic in the British Isles, and the trip certainly lived up to its billing. I purposely rode only as far as Fort William so that I could ride the Jacobite Steam Train (www.steamtrain.info) the next day from there to Mallaig.

Arriving without hotel reservations, I quickly found that three hotels were full before I visited the tourist office in search of a hotel. With five minutes left before closing, they booked me into the West End Hotel (Achintore Rd., Fort William, Inverness-shire PH33 6ED, Scotland; e-mail westend- hotel.co.uk) at the rate of £45 ($87) for one night.

This hotel would appeal to those who are driving around Scotland because it is easily accessible to main roads yet located at the beginning of the central part of town. It did have dated Scottish country charm but was in need of renovation. For me, at least it was an easy walk with rolling luggage. However, the tourist office also informed me that the Jacobite Steam Train’s last run had been the previous Sunday.

The next morning, I researched the first train to Mallaig but was concerned about the routing from there to Kyle of Lochalsh, where I was to take another scenic train to Inverness. It was a windy, rainy day, and as I walked past the bus station I noted a City Link bus leaving shortly for Kyle of Lochalsh, so, problem solved, I boarded the bus for the 2-hour journey.

We passed through some beautiful scenery (seen through wind-driven rain). The bus stopped at a makeshift terminal near the new Isle of Skye bridge. A short 6-minute walk brought me to the train station which, on a Sunday, was totally closed (the ticket office, restaurant, rest rooms and any kind of shelter). Fortunately, the building’s roof had an overhang and there were benches on a leeward side away from the wind and rain for my almost 3-hour outdoor wait.

Arriving at Inverness in late afternoon, I followed my directions for the 8-minute walk to the MacDougall Clansman Hotel (103 Church St., Inverness IV1 1ES, Scotland; e-mail macdougallhotel@aol.com), prebooked through the Internet for £35 for a single with bath and breakfast. This was just a comfortable hotel in an excellent central location.

Walking about the windy and rainy city, I came across the River House Restaurant (1 Greig St., Inverness), which had an innovative 2-course menu for £15 with pan-fried scallops as a starter and an entrée of grilled mullet. The friendly staff and excellent food made this a most enjoyable evening.

Back on the train at midday the next day, I was headed for Thurso, one of the most northern cities in the British Isles. My hotel that night was the Waterside Guest House (3 Janet St., Thurso, Caithness, KW14 7AR, Scotland; e-mail enquiries@watersidehouse.info), which I had booked through the Internet at the rate of £17 for a shared bath and breakfast. Credit cards were not accepted, but the friendly innkeeper did prepare a take-away breakfast, seeing as I was to leave on the 6 a.m. ferry the next day.

Although I was under the impression that the guest house was within walking distance of the ferry, it turned out that the ferry actually left from Scrabster, a 10-minute taxi ride away. The next morning, I would sail for the Orkney and Shetland islands. (To be covered next month. — Editor)

ROBERT PELLETIER
Hollywood, FL

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

On a trip to lesser-known territory of the U.K, Sept. 11-24, ’04 (April ’05, pg. 16), my travels took me to western Scotland.

I made the journey from Douglas, Isle of Man, to Belfast, Northern Ireland, by the Steam Packet Company fast catamaran at a prebooked fare of £14.70 (near $28). Since I had no prebooked hotel reservation, I was given a list of hotels to call from the Belfast ferry terminal and ended up at the Days Hotel (40 Hope St., Belfast, Northern Ireland BT12 5EE) for the rate of £59.95 ($115). It was a new hotel but of the bare-bones variety and was pretty filled with tour groups of young people (who spilled all over the streets on a Saturday night).

Although breakfast at the hotel was included, I was scheduled to be at the Stena Line (www.stenaline.co.uk) ferry terminal at 6:15 a.m. for the 7:15 sailing to Stranraer, Scotland. This ferry is reputed to be the largest catamaran ferry in the world, carrying 375 cars and up to 1,500 passengers. The senior citizen prebooked Internet fare was £16. I had an excellent multicourse Continental breakfast on board for £6.95.

When we arrived in Stranraer, the train station was within 50 feet of the ferry terminal, with a train waiting. Again through the Internet, I had purchased a Scottish Freedom Pass from ScotRail (www.scotrail.co.uk) for $145 for four days of travel within an 8-day period. Once my ticket was validated, I boarded the train for Glasgow.

My Internet research showed I had 13 minutes in Glasgow to change trains, but I had neglected to note that my departing train left from the Queen Street station and I was arriving at Glasgow Central station. I dashed through the station and found a taxi to take me to the other station, making that train with only two minutes to spare. Naturally, after all my worries, it departed five minutes late!

The West Highland Line train ride from Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig is reputed to be among the most scenic in the British Isles, and the trip certainly lived up to its billing. I purposely rode only as far as Fort William so that I could ride the Jacobite Steam Train (www.steamtrain.info) the next day from there to Mallaig.

Arriving without hotel reservations, I quickly found that three hotels were full before I visited the tourist office in search of a hotel. With five minutes left before closing, they booked me into the West End Hotel (Achintore Rd., Fort William, Inverness-shire PH33 6ED, Scotland; e-mail westend- hotel.co.uk) at the rate of £45 ($87) for one night.

This hotel would appeal to those who are driving around Scotland because it is easily accessible to main roads yet located at the beginning of the central part of town. It did have dated Scottish country charm but was in need of renovation. For me, at least it was an easy walk with rolling luggage. However, the tourist office also informed me that the Jacobite Steam Train’s last run had been the previous Sunday.

The next morning, I researched the first train to Mallaig but was concerned about the routing from there to Kyle of Lochalsh, where I was to take another scenic train to Inverness. It was a windy, rainy day, and as I walked past the bus station I noted a City Link bus leaving shortly for Kyle of Lochalsh, so, problem solved, I boarded the bus for the 2-hour journey.

We passed through some beautiful scenery (seen through wind-driven rain). The bus stopped at a makeshift terminal near the new Isle of Skye bridge. A short 6-minute walk brought me to the train station which, on a Sunday, was totally closed (the ticket office, restaurant, rest rooms and any kind of shelter). Fortunately, the building’s roof had an overhang and there were benches on a leeward side away from the wind and rain for my almost 3-hour outdoor wait.

Arriving at Inverness in late afternoon, I followed my directions for the 8-minute walk to the MacDougall Clansman Hotel (103 Church St., Inverness IV1 1ES, Scotland; e-mail macdougallhotel@aol.com), prebooked through the Internet for £35 for a single with bath and breakfast. This was just a comfortable hotel in an excellent central location.

Walking about the windy and rainy city, I came across the River House Restaurant (1 Greig St., Inverness), which had an innovative 2-course menu for £15 with pan-fried scallops as a starter and an entrée of grilled mullet. The friendly staff and excellent food made this a most enjoyable evening.

Back on the train at midday the next day, I was headed for Thurso, one of the most northern cities in the British Isles. My hotel that night was the Waterside Guest House (3 Janet St., Thurso, Caithness, KW14 7AR, Scotland; e-mail enquiries@watersidehouse.info), which I had booked through the Internet at the rate of £17 for a shared bath and breakfast. Credit cards were not accepted, but the friendly innkeeper did prepare a take-away breakfast, seeing as I was to leave on the 6 a.m. ferry the next day.

Although I was under the impression that the guest house was within walking distance of the ferry, it turned out that the ferry actually left from Scrabster, a 10-minute taxi ride away. The next morning, I would sail for the Orkney and Shetland islands. (To be covered next month. — Editor)

ROBERT PELLETIER
Hollywood, FL