Back in 2013 I was planning on making a trip to Scotland with a colleague as we were both fascinated by travelling by train and where interested in making one through the birth nation of trains. We decided to head through England all the way up north to the rugged terrain of Scotland.
Unfortunately the colleague I was planning this trip wasn’t able to make the voyage and this is where Timothy came into the picture. Even though he just joined the company and barely knew me, he took the plunge when I asked him to join me on a trip to Scotland. Little did we know this would only be the very first chapter in a whole range of travel adventures together.
Our trip started (as usual) in our hometown of Antwerp where we took an “ordinary” IC train to Brussels to join our Eurostar for London. We were travelling quite early and enjoyed a typical Eurostar Standard Premier breakfast when crossing under the channel.
After alighting in London St Pancras we just had to cross the street towards the neighbouring station of London Kings Cross, where the East Coast Mainline trains towards the North of England and Scotland start their journeys from. It is best known for featuring in the Harry Potter novels (and movies) as the starting point of the Hogwarts Express towards the Magic school of Hogwarts. There is a cart smashed into a wall decorated as platform 9 ¾ where you can have your picture taken (for a fee).
Our train however wasn’t the Hogwarts Express nor leaving from platform 9 ¾ , we joined a more mundane Intercity 125 High Speed Train set taking us all the way up into the Scottish Highlands.
The service is also nicknamed ‘The Highland Chieftain’ and is one of the longest train journeys in the UK, at the time the train was operated by the state own East Coast Railway Company after the previous privatised operator ‘National Express’ handed in the towel as they couldn’t make the revenues they anticipated.
A few years later the line would be taken over by Virgin East Coast, but as history repeats itself they also threw in the towel and now the line is once again state operated under the historic LNER brand.
What has changed however is that the old iconic Intercity 125 trains have been replaced by new Bi-Mode Azuma trains (which we are keen to try out for ourselves in the future). For people preferring to sleep their journey up north there is also the option of Travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper, leaving from London Euston along the West Coast Mainline a bit further down the road.
We however opted for the day service to see the changing scenery as we headed up the English east coast along cities like York and Newcastle before crossing into Scotland at Berwick.
The reason this service was operated by a Diesel train is that after exiting Edinburgh the overhead catenary stops and travelling along the Highland mainline through the centre of the highlands requires a diesel (or steam) powered train.
Even though it was a train from the mid 1970’s, still equipped with manual doors (something train staff in continental Europe would scream in agony about) the recent ‘Mallard’ style refurbishment still gave the train a very comfortable and up to date interior.
We also raided the bar coach located in between first and standard class to kept our selves fed and watered.
Upon our arrival into Inverness the sun started to set and under the cover of darkness we strolled around the historic city centre, had an Irnbru and turned in for the night at our cosy B&B.
The next day we would continue our journey and head back south, but this time along the coast to the city of Aberdeen, but more on that in the next installment.
Would you say yes or no when someone you just recently met asked you to go on a trip? Let us know in the comments below!