Highland Railways

This week we are heading north by train on a remarkable deal currently available from ScotRail – Club 55 allows those of a certain age (the clue is in the title) to travel anywhere in Scotland for the princely sum of £19 return.  For the purposes of this exercise ScotRail have kindly extended the Scottish border south, such that we can start the journey from Carlisle – a Scottish Nationalist plot perhaps :-).  We are making the most of this opportunity and heading for Arisaig via Glasgow, Fort William and the stunningly beautiful West Highland Line, an outward journey of 256 miles. By contrast, the 39 mile journey between Hexham and Carlisle will cost nearly £17 – no comment.

The success of this journey will depend much upon the weather – I have visions of glorious snow covered vistas stretching far into the distance, ideally suited to a Nikkor 24mm prime; reality may be different, we shall see.  Regardless, it seems like a gentle adventure with the prospect of a fine overnight stay at the The Old Library come journey’s end.

This old postcard from great Uncle Charlie’s collection is a reminder of how Highland Railways were once the vibrant heart of a community.  Kildonan station is on the Far North Line which is on the eastern side of north Scotland stretching from Inverness to Thurso and miraculously, like the West Highland Line, it has survived the savage hand of Beeching.

The card is postmarked May 1907 and addressed to Montague Gardens, London where Uncle Charlie was in service – Am having a lovely time up here, needless to say it is much colder than in London.

Kildonan Railway StationAt the top right of the card is Kildonan Lodge, possibly where this card was sent from, assuming it is from one servant below stairs to another.  The arched bridge over the River Helmsdale remains but all else is gone: the two houses in the foreground, all of the station buildings and inevitably the level crossing gates.  The road is now unprotected from the railway but there is a profusion of signs which have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with transferring injury liability to the individual.

Interestingly, it is possible to catch a train from Carlisle at 07:56 and arrive in Thurso, via Kildonan, at 17:47 the same day, a return distance of 934 miles all for £19 – I think I know where we are going next!

Some pedantic notes:  a. The Lodges are at Suisgill and and not Sensgill as printed on the postcard (unless it is a Gaelic spelling) and b.  Suisgill Lodge is at least one mile north of Kildonan Lodge and therefore not visible.

(Thanks to JAD for digging out this postcard)


  1. Mary Gilmartin · February 14, 2013

    I think everyone likes to ride trains, I know I do…

  2. Pingback: The Far North | northumbrian : light

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s