Ah, the harry potter train. The package tour I went on at the end of my trip included a day trip on the Jacobite Steam Train, which departs from Fort William and travels for two hours along through the Scottish Highlands down to the sea at Mallaig. The train runs twice a day, everyday in the summer months. It was almost as good as I was expecting. I’ll admit, the harry potter movies use the vintage carriages with the wood panelling and whatnot, and these ones, though they look the same on the outside, are a little more utility on the inside. Nevertheless, it was a fun trip. The group I was with all had seats in the carriages with four people to a table. There were a few private compartments with the doors but some of these were for staff and two were converted into a shop. There was one compartment though that had a family from the States who were all dressed up as characters from harry potter. Even the parents had on the robes and the one little boy had on the round glasses – so cute. Was the Scotland trip worth adding on to go on the steam train? Overall I would say yes.
The package rail tour I was on was ok. There was a train derailment (obviously not the fault of the tour company) with meant that some of the train travel was cancelled and we had to go by bus, which was awful on my poor stomach. The hotel was ok and the meals had way too much food. We had a free day and I walked to a ruined castle that didn’t have hoards of tourists. In fact I was the only person there for a bit. And while I was at the castle I saw the steam train puff by on its morning run out to Mallaig, which was really cool. I did a whiskey distillery tour as well that day, but it was a bit disappointing because they were not in production and we just saw the empty factory. I guess it pays to know when the barley harvests are. And then one day we went to Loch Ness and had a boat cruise out on the loch. No monsters were sighted, but it was picturesquely raining and we all got wet. And we had a tour of the visitor centre which was weird for a few reasons: 1. you couldn’t see the loch from the building; 2. the centre was a series of videos that you watched by being forced from one room to another with clever lighting; 3. the gift shop was easily as big as the centre and had more Loch Ness monster stuff than I had imagined possible; 4. they had a fake monster in a pond. Would I do a package tour again? Maybe, it certainly helped with travel arrangements (stressful to find a way around the derailment yourself) and we got a lot of interesting history and facts, but I didn’t like the rigid structure of the tour, I think I like to be able to play it by ear.