Tony Hardley, Scotphoto.com
The Great Highland Railway
The Kyle Line is one of the world’s most scenic railway journeys. Running 57 miles (92 km) coast to coast from Inverness, it passes magnificent lochs, mountains, moorland and shore before reaching the harbour village of Kyle of Lochalsh. Here the traveller is rewarded with superb views across the water to the magical Isle of Skye. No wonder Michael Palin included it as one of his ‘Great Railways Journeys’.
The journey takes approximately 2 hours 40 minutes. The train is operated by ScotRail, and there are usually three or four trains a day. You can buy tickets on the Scotrail website.
Tony Hardley, Scotphoto.com
Along the route
The views from the window are worth the fare alone. Look out for the dramatic peaks of Torridon, the peaceful shores of Loch Carron and the beautiful bay of Plockton – the ‘jewel of the Highlands’. This pretty village is well worth a stop. Or hop off at Attadale where you can explore the colourful Attadale Gardens in a spectacular setting.
As you reach the west coast, the train hugs the shoreline as the dramatic peaks of Skye come into view. It is perfect end (or start) to an unforgettable trip.
Find out more about the journey and plan your itinerary on the Visit Scotland website.
Kyle Line history
Erbusaig railway cutting, 1910s
The initial section of the Kyle Line opened on 19 August 1870. It ran from Dingwall as far as Stromeferry, where a steamer service took people and cargo further west up Loch Carron to Skye and the Isle of Lewis. Work started on the final stretch in 1893.
Due to difficult engineering work this 10 mile section was at the time the most expensive stretch of railway in Britain. It eventually opened on 2 November 1897.
The new station and pier soon transformed Kyle from a tiny hamlet into a busy fishing and ferry port. Prior to the railway, fish was taken by boat to the Firth of Clyde. The new railway meant that fish caught on the West Coast could reach London markets within 24 hours.
Livestock at Kyle of Lochalsh Station, 1930s/40s
Caravan on the ferry to Skye, 1930s
Traffic along the line fell dramatically in the 1950s and 60s as cars became increasingly popular. In the 1960s, Dr Richard Beeching’s report, ‘Reshaping Britain’s Railways’, recommended that the Kyle of Lochalsh line be closed, but the line was reprieved.
During the 1970s the line was again destined to close but it was saved in 1974. Goods services in and out of Kyle ceased in 1983.
Today the railway is an important link for local communities as well as a ‘must see’ visitor experience. The line now carries more than 100,000 passenger journeys a year.
Have a look at our Timeline to find out more about the history of the railway.
Freight trains at Kyle of Lochalsh Station, 1920s/30s
Take a trip on the Kyle Line – the Great Highland Railway Journey
VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins