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The Highland Cheiftain

UK rail trip – 2022

Day 3 – 5th April, 2022

London King’s Cross (11:59)
LNER
8:03 (8:03)
Inverness (20:02)
1W16
934 km (934 km)

I checked out of my hostel. As I had plenty of time, I decided to walk to London King’s Cross rather than take the Underground. Carrying suitcases up and down stairs isn’t fun. This way, it’s flat and I get to see things on the way.

Camden Cycles
London St. Pancras in the background, London King’s Cross in the foreground.
A class 387 to the left and a class 800 to the right.
Three class 80x’s, all lined up.

Today, I was catching the The Highland Chieftain – the daily express train to Inverness. Not only that, but I was also going to be travelling on one of LNER’s new bi-modal powered class 800 Azuma trains. As well as being powered by overhead wires, these trains also have onboard diesel engines. This allows them to continue their journey once the wires end. The switchover can be done on the move, but it’s usually done at the station stop before the wires end.

Ready for boarding!
The interior of my standard class coach.

Weather-wise, it was fairly miserable. But it is April. I guess that’s where the phrase ‘April showers’ came from. Today’s trip is the first half of my journey to Kyle of Lochalsh. I’ve been wanting to visit Kyle ever since I watch Michael Palin’s episode of Great Railway Journeys of the World titled ‘Confessions of a Trainspotter’. The train left on time. Before long, we were racing through suburban London.

This was an express service, so the first station stop was to be York a couple of hours later. I made a mental note to visit York at some point. Not just to look around the city, but to also visit the National Railway Museum again. I last visited back in 2003 or 2004. There have probably been a few changes in that time.

It wasn’t long before the border with Scotland approached. Unlike England and Wales, Scotland still require you to wear masks in indoor settings and public transport. However, I believe this restriction will be relaxed in a couple of weeks’ time. As the train makes its way into Edinburgh, the imposing shape of Arthur’s Seat can be seen to the left. As I was on the left-hand side of the train, it was as plain as day. I am planning on visiting Edinburgh (rather than just passing through, as I am on this train), so hope to be able to take a walk up it – if the weather is favourable!

Before I booked this train, I assumed it would go over the Forth Railway Bridge. Unfortunately, after reading the timetable, I worked out that it wouldn’t be. No matter! I will just have to add that to the list when I visit Edinburgh properly. For the time being, everywhere on this train, past Edinburgh, is new to me.

The changeover from electric to diesel takes place at Dunblane, which results in a lower maximum speed. And much of the line also becomes single track. However, with plenty of snow still around, the scenery just gets better! Eight hours after leaving London King’s Cross, with plenty of rain and quite cold temperatures, the train arrives in Inverness.

Arrived at Inverness station.

This isn’t the end of my travels for the day, though. I still have to reach a little village called Kiltarlity, where I will be staying with a Couchsurfing host. However, the next bus isn’t for nearly another two hours. So, I decided to find a pub and have a pint – not to mention getting out of the windy, wet and cold weather! I walked into Blackfriars and ordered a pint.

Cheers! Much warmer in here!

After spending about an hour in the pub, I went back to the bus station to wait for the bus. I figured I’d have about half an hour to wait, but hoping it would turn up sooner. Thankfully it did after about 20 minutes.

A very, very cold night at Inverness bus station.

The bus ride out to Inverness was timetabled to take about half an hour. However, I think the driver must have thought he was on the grand prix circuit – which included some very narrow country lanes! Still, the bus reached Kiltarlity safely. I was greeted by my host, Al, who I found out that it was short for Alison – not Alan as I thought! That will teach me for not reading the basic parts of a profile first! Still, that was fine. Al was a gracious host, who waited up until after 23:00. After a cup of tea and some chatting, it was time to call it a night. Tomorrow, I’m off to Kyle of Lochalsh!

Kiltarlity
Couchsurfing
Al

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