Taking the bus to Inverness is faster than the train
When planning the trip, I was puzzled that it would take seven hours to get from Fort William to Inverness by train. But, as a glance at the map made clear, we would be going back south to Glasgow only to come back up north: but this time on the west side of Scotland, not the east side. Taking the local bus would take only a couple of hours, so I arranged for that.
|Leaving Fort William on the bus|
In the early morning at the bus station in Fort William, which was really just a series of bus stops with benches, we were all alone except for two other travellers. One was a man on whose hat were the words Prince Edward Island. Turned out he and his wife were United Church ministers, who had been living in Vernon River but were living now near Ottawa.
Except for the scary narrow road, whizzing traffic, and daredevil touring bicyclists, it was a pleasant journey. Prettier actually than the much vaunted trip to Fort William, but admittedly, the day was clearer. The sheep looked like rice kernels thrown on the hillsides. Middle-school children rode the bus to their school.
At some point in the morning, we ate our breakfast sandwiches packed by the proprietor of the Bed and Breakfast back in Fort William. We had to leave before breakfast, so she made us a nice little packet of comestibles instead.
We wait for the train in Inverness
The train station at Inverness was a five-minute walk from the bus depot through a parking lot and past a lot of chain link fencing . We followed the people ahead of us who assured us this was the way. Once we got to the station, I was put off by the fact it cost 20 pence to use the washroom: or as I cleverly noted, 20 P to pee. But it seemed , as I observed people’s comings and goings, you could activate the turn stile without actually paying. That seemed to me far more reasonable.
While we waited the 90 minutes for the train to Thurso, we took turns going outdoors to glimpse downtown Inverness: many stone buildings, very ornate hotel next door with a wrought iron staircase, as I recall.
Helpful cab driver makes a lot of sense
Once on board the train, we shared our table with our new-found friends from Canada . They were heading further into Caithness than we were, so we bade them good-bye at Thurso and alighted onto the platform into a downpour of rain.
I had arranged, in a series of emails with a local cab company, to have a taxi waiting for us for the short trip to the ferry terminal at Scrabster. Richard of Ormlie Taxis had also advised us that a cab ride to Castle Mey could be rather expensive. That helped with our travel plans. He also warned us of an impending rail strike but said not to worry, as there would be alternate transportation, and his driver would find us at the station.
And indeed he did, looking rather wet and a bit anxious, as we were last passengers off the train. He spoke strongly against going directly to Scrabster, as the ferry terminal there was not yet open, and we would be sitting for several hours, with only an overhang for protection, in the pouring rain.
Instead, he recommended visiting the local museum “where there is a café.” He would return at 5:30 pm to pick us up. This seemed a bit daring, but we said yes. The museum was excellent, and we absorbed a lot of local history and listened to stories recorded from elderly members of the community in a local dialect almost unintelligible to us (something about a desperate couple eloping).
Then we had a tasty snack and tea in the café. I had a rather odd chicken curry, as it turned out to be a chunky chicken sandwich flavoured with curry, not curry on rice as I was expecting. We also enjoyed a carrot parsnip soup, which, like the goulash soup Greg had had in Glasgow, could have used more seasoning. Nevertheless … comfort food for a wet afternoon, friendly staff, and a cheery space.
We were early leaving the museum, but it had stopped raining, so we found a bench outdoors and sat with our luggage, wondering if we had made a big mistake in thinking the taxi would return. I did a bit of window shopping. A pedestrian mall had been constructed in the environs of the museum, so we didn’t have to look out for darting cars.
Just as we were becoming a bit antsy, lo and behold, the little cab returned, scooped us up, and took us to Scrabster just as planned. I highly recommend Ormlie Taxis.
Arriving at the Orkneys
Excellent crossing I remember very little about. It was dark when we arrived at Stromness, one of the two towns on the Mainland, the largest of the 70 Orkney Islands, hence the rather misleading name (for an island).
The woman at the ferry counter called us a cab . A man from the local tourist bureau on his way “back to Scotland” recommended our choice of a Bed and Breakfast and said to say hello from him to Joy, the proprietress.
My journal notes:
We have a nice room with our own bathroom next door off the hall. We watched A Midsomer Murders repeat … to bed at 11:30… awake at 4:00 am (grrr). Read an architecture magazine for a while; back to sleep about 6:00; alarm [placed in the in the armoire this time] went off at 7:15.