Monday 17 June 2019

Remote Access: Catching a Train from Corrour, UK

I was hosted in Scotland by Visit Scotland.

The last thing I did on my visit to Scotland last week was perhaps the most interesting. Certainly the most surreal.

I caught a train from Corrour.

This may sound like no big deal, but Corrour is not that easy to reach. Located on the edge of the sprawling Rannoch Moor in the Scottish Highlands, it's a private estate with a history of hosting visitors for hunting and fishing. In addition to enabling these activities, and providing onsite cottage accommodation, the estate also has its own mainline train station.

Corrour Station, the UK's highest mainline station at 408 metres, is not somewhere you can simply drive to. It has no public road access, so the only way to reach the station is by train (of course) from Glasgow or Fort William, or on foot. As Rannoch Moor is a starkly beautiful wilderness popular with hikers, it's a useful place to start or finish a walk.

Intriguingly, though there aren't many trains that pass each day, all of them stop at Corrour. You can even catch the Caledonian Sleeper train all the way to or from London from here, which I was intending to do the day I arrived at the station.

There's also accommodation at the station, with B&B rooms available inside the old signal box building.

The minor miracle which ties together all these uses is the Station House Restaurant. Though the station is in the middle of nowhere, its restaurant is open all day from breakfast to dinner. It's not uncommon for diners to come out on an early evening train from Fort William, have dinner then head back on the last train of the night.

I had a few hours to kill before the sleeper arrived on the way to London, so I had a late lunch at the restaurant, which has a marvellously warm and cosy interior. I could imagine it seeming an oasis to hikers on a cold day. Indeed while I was relaxing on a sofa a pair of walkers arrived who'd just trekked for some distance to meet a friend at the station, the latter arriving by train.

After lunch I donned some warm clothing (there was a chill in the air, despite it being June), and walked part of the way toward Loch Ossian, about two kilometres east of the station. At the loch there's a hostel with dormitory beds, inside a building which was once a boathouse.

It was good being out in the open. With the station's buildings hidden behind a rise, it felt properly remote, with impressive rugged hills on the horizon.

Returning to the station I whiled away a few hours reading, and chatting to the friendly staff between customers. Every table was booked for dinner that night, and as dinnertime approached there was a sudden rush of new arrivals, coming by train either from Fort William, from the adjacent accommodation, or from the hostel.

This lively group of revellers gave this unlikely remote eatery a festive mood, and I felt a bit regretful leaving them behind to walk upon the cold platform as I waited for the London train.

But then the Caledonian Sleeper arrived, I jumped aboard, and Corrour was lost to sight as we began the long haul south. Though I had a strange feeling that I would be back.

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