A different kind of travelogue. As an avid young traveller I often wondered what would it would be like when I got older, gathered commitments, created children and accrued debt. This is what it's like.
Traveling with kids is primarily about the kids. There are things that my kids won’t do. There are things Mrs LessBaggage won’t do. Sleeping in a tent on top of a mountain in dodgy weather is something I love in practice, my son loves in theory, my daughter has no love for at all and Mrs LessBaggage has a profound dislike for. (If coldness is possible that option is impossible.)
There have been numerous times that a route was calling me, keeping me awake at night but it had to be ignored. For example I found myself in Lombok with my beautiful family just a few hours hike away from this;
Credit to these guys for that photo. (Hence the plug.)
Much as I loved cruising around the Highlands of Scotland in a car I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the most scenic parts of the trip were close to a train line. In fact we ran parallel to one of the worlds most beautiful train journeys. Driving a car requires some small amount of concentration. Riding a train requires less, thus allowing more brain to soak up the scenery. The scenery in Scotland was epic in proportions so I wish I had more brain available.
Out came the maps. A little scheming and dreaming was done. Thus I have dreamt up a route that I am sure is covered in its seperate parts by specialist bloggers on Highland/Island Walking and Train Travel nerds. I am both.
Here is the route. It is a loop requiring only public transport from any major airport in the UK. If you are not in Scotland get to Scotland. Get to Glasgow or Edinburgh. Take a train to Mallaig with all your walking kit. Get the ferry across to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. Go on an epic walk of your own design. Finish your walk at the Kyle of Lochalsh. Take another ridiculously beautiful train journey back to Glasgow or Edinburgh from Kyle of Lochalsh via Inverness.
If it has something to do with a train I always go to www.Seat61.com (This man is some sort of travel legend.) It was there that I found out that half the route I was interested in is actually considered by many to be the best train journey anywhere.
Better than Darjeeling, better than the Ghan, better than the trip to Machu Pichu?
A few years back Wanderlust have voted the Glasgow to Mallaig Train journey the worlds best. For children the famous “Harry Potter Viaduct” at Glenfinnan might be enough to justify the whole thing.
Once you make it to Mallaig and the walking starts there are multiple options. You could build a very comfortable route doing day walks and staying at proper accommodation with baths and showers and whisky and hot food. Or you could create a huge multiday walk and try to avoid all civilisation. This would be my choice but it is not a walk to be taken lightly and there is almost no way to take Scottish weather lightly. You will need good skills, good kit, good planning and you’ll need to be good and fit. Obviously there are a million different shades of in between so pick the options that work for you. For a taste look at this Guardian article of a few short walks you could try. It has good little maps too like this;
To get quality information on Highland Walks in general I cannot find anything better than walk highlands.co.uk. There is a section on there about Skye and, even better, there is a link to a sererate mini-site about Skye and the Skyetrail.
Here is a map from the skytrail website and I would be tempted to build in a series of the other Skye walks (or self designed detours) to create a loop of the entire island with only a minimum of road crossings or village visits for re-supply.
When you read about the suggested sections there are also good maps available. In fact you get a series of options about ways to access maps. This is the internet doing what it should do. Information for free. Even better I have yet to find any pictures of cats on WalkHighlands.co.uk
I can smell the sea from here. I think I need a co-conspirator.