Category Archives: Trains

Loch Ness, Isle of Skye and Speyside Steam Train

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

We had three full days before leaving our accommodation on Loch Ness this morning and making our way here to Edinburgh.

Driving down along the Loch Ness South Trail

Driving down along the Loch Ness South Trail

After our huge day out of Inverness on Thursday,(we didn’t get home until 9 pm) we had a relaxing morning, lunch at home, then drove around what they call the Loch Ness South trail. It has a stunning viewpoint about half was down the loch over another couple of other lochs and along the Great Glen. It’s a narrow little road, but with not much traffic on it, it was fine. We also took a detour of that road and visited the Falls of Foyer. It looked like it’d be a good walk to the bottom but we quit at the first lookout when it started rain.

Falls of Foyer  were much taller than they look

Falls of Foyer were much taller than they look

Saturday we set the alarm and got away pretty early (for us) to the Isle of Skye. It was only 57 miles from our accommodation on Loch Ness to the Bridge of Skye, then we did about 120 miles on the island and finally the 57 home.

Skye Bridge

Skye Bridge

It’s a really ruggedly beautiful place and it was hard not to stop every hundred metres for another photo. You get great views of the Hebrides, picture perfect villages with tiny whitewashed cottages, tall mountains covered in mist, waterfalls and of course the occasional castle ruin. We lunched at Columba 1400 in Staffin-it’s run to benefit kids in trouble and Russ’s burger and my pannini and soup were excellent .

Speyside steam railway for lunch

Speyside steam railway for lunch

Sunday we had booked ourselves lunch on a steam train that operates on a 10 mile stretch of track out of Aviemore (75 miles from Loch Ness). I wasn’t really holding great hope for the meal but was honestly surprised at the quality of food we got. Russ had Pate, roast beef and apple pie, I had lentil soup, poached salmon and apple pie. We got a side of veg with our mains and coffee and home made fudge to finish. It was lovely to have an Aussie couple beside us-two federal police from Canberra on holidays in Scotland and Ireland for 7 weeks.

Speyside steam railway for lunch

Speyside steam railway for lunch

After lunch, we drove out to a reindeer farm. In 1952 a Laplander came to the area on his honeymoon, discovered the local reindeer had been hunted to extinction so he and his wife and 8 reindeer moved to Aviemore. The herd is able to roam free in the alpine national park for a lot of the year but they are pretty well domesticated and easy to get up close to. It was a bit overpriced and quite a hike up to the holding yards, but I’m so pleased we did it.

Reindeers

Reindeers

Today we drove to Edinburgh where we’ll spend the next 4 nights. It was a nightmare finding our apartment and another nightmare finding our parking place when we’d unloaded our gear. The car is in a parking building about a mile from here! We had problems connecting to the internet and using the TV but it’s all sorted now and we’re relaxing with a bottle of bubbles before we have Chinese for dinner.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Leeds and on to the Lake District

Boatshed on Esthwaite Water

Boatshed on Esthwaite Water

Wednesday 27th, Iona, Simon and Lucy arrived home from their couple of nights away camping. It was Lucy’s first ever camping experience and I think she really (really) enjoyed it. Todd, Deb and Harry arrived Thursday so we vacated our bed and headed to a nearby Travelodge for the night so we could spend some time with them (it was the first time we’d caught up with Todd). We had lunch at a very posh fish and chip place (chandeliers hanging from the ceilings) then had a light dinner at Iona and Simon’s that night, then breakfast there before we headed to Bowness in the Lake District where we’d booked for a week.

Looking back from Kirkstone Pass to Bowness on WIndemere

Looking back from Kirkstone Pass to Bowness on WIndemere

On Saturday morning, we headed up and over Kirkstone Pass (lucky me got to drive that one) passing Brother’s Water and Ullswater as we made our way to Haddrian’s Wall at Birdoswald Roman Ruins. That part of the wall is one of the most intact and also has the ruins of a Roman fort and a Victorian farmhouse on the same site.It was all really interesting and so easy to visit all three. On the way home, we stopped off at the Lanercost Priory. Quite interesting, but when you’ve seen one priory…….

Standing on Hadrian's Wall

Standing on Hadrian’s Wall

Sunday morning, I woke thinking I might be able to hear drums, they got louder and louder and finally we realised it was a pipe band that had come down the hill from us and gone on by. We did see them later down at the pier here in Bowness, but stopping on impulse and parking is almost impossible around here-parking is at an expensive premium no matter where you go! The band looked amazing-tall bearskin hats, the long beautiful tartans and jackets-like they’d stepped out of an old painting.

The band got us up and going for our day out which started at the Stott Park bobbin mill on a little beck just off Lake Windermere. Another English Heritage property, it was really interesting and it was well worth taking the hour or so guided tour of it. The young bloke that showed us around was really good at his job and brought it alive. The fact that it’s all in working order is great too!

Stott Park Bobbin Mill Lake Windemere

Stott Park Bobbin Mill Lake Windemere

We had lunch at a pub in Ulverstone which turned out to be the worst meal of my stay so far. My first choice of steak and ale pie wasn’t available, and as it was close to end of service, I ordered scampi and chips and salad. No scampi killed, in fact, none were harmed, in the making of my lunch I’m sure, and one cherry tomato quartered, three slices of cuc and some shredded iceberg lettuce do no a summer salad make!

Haverigg Harbour

Haverigg Harbour

On we went to the heavy horses (mostly Clydesdale crosses) riding centre thinking a beach ride on one of these big things would be great. But at 100 pounds each, it wasn’t to be! I almost BOUGHT a miniature pony in Tassie for $350 I wasn’t paying $200 to ride a horse lol. After a drive out to Haverigg harbour on the Irish Sea, we stopped again in Ulverstone to buy some meat for dinner. We were rapt to find a guinea fowl for 5 pounds and some delicious venison and pork sausages as well.

Herring gull by the boat

Herring gull by the boat

On Monday, we spent the morning in Windermere-Russ taking a look around while I used the wi-fi at the library to catch up with e-mails, bills and family and friends on Facebook. In the afternoon we took a boat cruise on Lake Windermere to Ambleside. From there, we took a steam train to Haverthwaite and back, then returned on another boat. What a wonderful way to see the biggest lake in Britain! We had our beautiful guinea fowl for dinner, stuffed with bits and pieces collected along the way (onion bread, craisins, pine nuts and mixed herbs etc). It was probably the best game bird I’ve ever eaten!

Guinea Fowl for dinner

Guinea Fowl for dinner

On Tuesday 2nd, we drove to Ambleside, then on to a number of lakes and waters including Grasmere, Thirlmere, Derwent and Bassenthwaite. Who knew that Derwent pencils were made in Derwent, and the pic on the pencil packet or tin was right there in front of us? I only wish now I’d gone to the pencil museum to find out more.At one of the lakes we were amazed to see jets from the local RAF base performing manoeuvers low over the lake right in front of us. We hear or see the jets and propeller driven fighter planes every day but this was amazing!

By Thirlmere Lake

By Thirlmere Lake

Yesterday, we crossed Lake Windermere on the vehicle ferry to visit Esthwaite water and Gizdale Forest Park (which is about to celebrate 15 years of the Gruffalo in the forest). Gizdale forest Park has an amazing zip line circuit of 7 zips and other various activities that you spend up to 3 hours on. It all comes at a very reasonable cost of 30 pounds but as we’d done it before in Thailand, we decided we didn’t need to do it again. They had an amazing photographic exhibition on display too, so we spent a good deal of time checking it out.

We came home via Coniston and the east (and extremely beautiful) side of Coniston Water and Newby Bridge. We made ourselves roast beef and yorkshire puds for a delicious dinner to end a great day! I should add-for anyone who remembers him, Sir Donald Bradman set his world water speed record on Coniston in Bluebird, then crashed and died there attempting it again. His body and the wreck of Bluebird were recovered from the lake in 2001.

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

Today is computer day. Russ has shopped and is now walking home to our lovely little apartment about 1.5 miles away while I sit here in the library .

Tomorrow we drive back to Manchester then fly to Switzerland for 5 nights to visit our friends there in Basel.

I’m adding a slide show of photos-normally I’d put them in chronological order, but today there are too many and not enough computer battery to do that. Sorry!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tom Price and Karajini National Park

The first sighting of my favourite wild flower Sturt's Desert Pea

The first sighting of my favourite wild flower Sturt’s Desert Pea

Once again, we visited here around 6 years ago at around the same time, so we had to find something new to do during our 4 night stay.

On Tuesday, we took a drive out along Karajini Drive, turned left into the national park and spend the day visiting Gorges. In rough order, we visited Joffre and Knox, Oxer Lookout, Weano, Kalamina and Circular Pool. It was a big day of driving on atrocious roads for the most part, and by the time we got to Circular Pool which we thought the prettiest on the day, we decided to go home and drive back out there today (Thursday) to make the climb to the bottom and explore the gorge properly. I was surprised to see all the gorges suggesting we could swim. I don’t remember that from our last visit here. The water must be freezing as they recommend wet suits if you intend to swim for any length of time. Pass!

Tom Price to Dampier Railway

Tom Price to Dampier Railway

Yesterday (Wednesday 16th),we headed out of town the other way along an unnamed sealed road that follows the Tom Price/Dampier railway Line. We then turned right onto “highway” 136, an unsealed road between Nanutarra Roadhouse and Munjina (formerly known as Auski Roadhouse). The road was fantastic and made for a fun day out.

Hamersley Gorge was also fantastic and although we’d been there before, the road in, parking and access is greatly improved since our last visit. We had never been to the bottom of it so decided this was the day to do it. It’s steep, and in parts you are crossing rock to get there, but I thought it was an easy 10 minutes down and an even easier 8 minutes up and absolutely stunning once we got there. My photos will never do it justice.

Hamersley Gorge

Hamersley Gorge

As there were no picnic tables at Hamersley, we drove on a few ks down highway 136, picked a pretty spot and pulled off the road for our lunch of Layered Chicken Salad I made earlier that morning. .

No town of Wittenoom anymore

No town of Wittenoom anymore

We continued down the road to the ghost town of Wittenoom. They mined blue asbestos up to the 60s before it became uneconomical and they realised the dangers of the stuff. According to a Wikipedia article on the place (well worth a read) 6 people remain in the ungazetted “town” living with no government services and no power. A drive round town shows the few remains of what was once the largest town in the Pilbara. We saw numerous warning re the danger of asbestos in the area but decided to take a look anyway as we were only visiting for an hour or so. The most exciting thing about the poor, sad town was finding our first patch of Sturt’s Desert Pea-my favourite wild flower.

After a look around the former town, we went on, looking for the Wittenoom Gorge we’d spotted on a map. When the dirt road turned to seal again and with no sign of the gorge, we decided to turn round and go home the way we’d come as the road was so good and we’d save 40ks of driving. When we got back to Wittenoom township, I suggested to Russ that the gorge might be along the road/street that seemed to cut through town into the hills behind. Sure enough, although any signage to the gorge had long gone, there it was. Such a pity something so beautiful has been defiled by the mining of something so deadly. The place is amazing. We weren’t the only daredevils and thrill seekers defying the rather graphic signage-we spotted a big off-road van parked in a lovely spot and two 4WDs passed us at another stage. WA roads and floods have long ago destroyed the low level crossings at creeks, so other visitors have created crossings over the creek beds. It was a fun visit of 4WDing and water crossings and stunning scenery.

Creek crossing Wittenoom Gorge

Creek crossing Wittenoom Gorge

We both agreed Wednesdays’ drive was by far the most scenic and enjoyable of our two days out in the park and also one of the best days out we’ve ever had.

Today has been a quiet day doing a bit of shopping, laundry, blogging and finally 4WDing up Mt Nameless behind the caravan park here in town. Lovely to Skype with son Daniel and grandsons Kobie and Rooke.  Tomorrow we’ll sleep on the side of the road somewhere, then Saturday we’ll be in Coral Bay. It’s important to shop well for Coral Bay as the little “supermarket” there basically doubles the price you’d pay anywhere else. Two smaller shops sell reasonably price fruit and veg from Carnarvon so no need to worry about that during our stay.

Wild flowers on Mt Nameless

Wild flowers on Mt Nameless

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gulflander Train

Gulflander waiting at the station

Gulflander waiting at the station

I’ve taken a few good train rides over the years (bullet trains in Japan, a 12 hour trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in Thailand, a couple of hours in 3rd class on the Burma Rail in Thailand and a cog wheel train in Switzerland’s alps). This two hour ride on the Gulflander was right up there with all of those.

It’s probably one of the dearest rides per kilometre (actually they still mark the line and talk in miles), we’ve ever taken. We paid $24.50 each for a 16 mile, two hour, return trip and you can

Our 10 minute stop at Critters Camp

Our 10 minute stop at Critters Camp

double that if you aren’t concession card holders. We travelled from Normanton out to Critters Camp-named by the rail gang who camped there during construction for the number of creepy critters they had to put up with of a night.

The train is government owned (so is staffed by Gov. employees, not volunteers as you might expect), it’s only ever made a profit in the year 1905, but is heritage listed so they keep it going!

We could have done a longer trip-5 hours out to Croydon on a Wednesday, then either a bus trip back that day, or  spend a night in the pub and train it back Thursday morning. If our roof rails hadn’t happened or been quite as expensive, that’s the option we’d have taken.

The train currently being used is around 67 years old-it’s a 100hp diesel engine with a 4 speed manual gear box, so really it’s just a noisy little old truck converted into a train. Or a rail motor Russ tells me! The track is laid over hollow steel sleepers (imagine an inverted “U”) that are filled with local dirt. Most of the line is original.

Our driver is the station master, he is responsible for ticket sales, he and the guard maintain the rolling stock, clean and garden, and do all general repairs. Last week they had to repair the chemical toilet on the train. As well as him and the guard, 5 line maintenance men are employed full time (any wonder it operates at a loss).

He gave us an interesting commentary about the current town, a bit of it’s history, history of the train and track, touched on flora and fauna as we passed it and then mostly kept quiet on the way home.

Heading home to Normanton

Heading home to Normanton

He did tell us on thing that has me worried. There is a crane that looks very similar to a brolga and in fact, they often hang out together. They have a very limited range and we are right in the middle of that so I hope the brolgas I’ve told you we’ve seen are actually brolgas and not sarus cranes. I’m going to have to start checking their legs (brolgas’ are grey, sarus are pink), bustles (sarus has white feathers in its) and wether or not they have a dewlap under their chin (brolgas do). Sarus cranes are slightly taller than brolgas.

We had lunch in Normanton at the Purple pub, then came home to Karumba. A fantastic morning out that I recommend to anyone to do.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.