Day 16 – Wed 11 May 2005 – Off to Scotland

Booked out of the hotel and said goodbye to Liverpool. Originally planned to get the train across to York and then to Edinburgh, but it was cancelled due signalling problems. Instead I caught the 1057 DMU to Preston to pick up the western line train to Edinburgh.

As you leave Liverpool you pass under numerous old bridges in a deep cutting, forming a sort of discontinuous tunnel. The countryside en-route to Preston is pretty. Nicely painted houses in relatively new developments interspersed with with golf courses and open fields. Around Prescott and St Helens there are a lot of new looking industrial buildings. Passed through Wigan, of rugby fame, and then on to Preston.

The tracks leading out of Liverpool (Photo: Row17)

Preston looks about the same size as (greater) Parramatta, but the train station is a major junction, more like Strathfield in scale but with roomier platforms and a lot cleaner. I arrive at about noon, with the connecting service to Edinburgh due to depart at 1249. This will be the first time I’ve travelled on Virgin Trains. It arrives and departs late (by a whole nine seconds according to the station clocks!). It is a four car DMU and very modern; more like an aircraft inside than a train.

First time I’ve be trained by a Virgin (Photo: Adambro)

Next stop is Lancaster as we whisk through the pleasant farming land to the north of Preston. The train runs very smoothly and you don’t have much impression of speed until you run parallel to a 70 mph motorway and easily speed past all the traffic. It tilts on curves which are often reasonably tight on this line. I’ve never felt a train ride to be almost exhilarating before. On the down side though, I seem to be sitting in an area a bit affected by fumes when it’s moving slowly.

Passing Lancaster on the train

Shortly after leaving Lancaster (which I’d have to say is surprisingly small) you can see mountains in the distance to the north and the train runs along the coastline for a bit. A little further along there are lots of old carriages and locomotives stored in sidings. They’re the same vintage as my childhood Tri-ang/Hornby model train sets. Ooooo! There’s a Hymek Diesel loco. I had one of them!

Stunning countryside, again a bit like the Southern Highlands of NSW up close. Next stop is Oxenholme which is the gateway to the Lakes District. As we leave Oxenholme Station there are beautiful mountain views out to the west. Strange, but it’s the first time I’ve seen freight trains in any number, always in passing loops, allowing the way clear for the passenger trains.

Looking towards the Lakes District from the train

The train winds its way briskly through picturesque valleys surrounded by bald grassy hills down into more open country (dales). At about 1350 we reach Penrith (nothing like the Sydney equivalent). Next stop is Carlisle. After that it is a straight run of about one hour and twenty minutes to Edinburgh, ETA 1527. The train passes through Lockerbie, scene of the infamous 747 bomb/crash. With all the countryside about, it seems almost bizarre that it fell on such a relatively small village.

The train continues down through a wide valley with trout streams and fishermen. Scottish farms seem larger than their English equivalents and tend to have modern wire fences rather than hedges or stone walls. I’m surprised at how open and expansive the countryside is.

Edinburgh Castle looms over the arriving trains

About 15 minutes out of Edinburgh there is a very broad valley, with the opposite side virtually on the horizon. Outer suburbs are now in sight, well off to the left. I can see the Firth of Forth bridge looming in the distance. Ten minutes out and the city area (and the castle) is visible. The suburbs look surprisingly modern as we pass through Winston Hailes. Off the train at Edinburgh and I find a hotel after some serious climbing up and around the streets of the old town.

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