Posted by: lucylastic | June 2, 2010

Refreshed and revitalised – a tale of many modes of transport

You may not think that a journey of around 16 hours, (spread over 2 days on the outward run), sounds as if it would be either refreshing or revitalising – but it was. In many ways, a change is indeed as good as a rest and the start of the journey – seeing 9 of us gather at Swindon Train Station for the start of our ‘pilgrimage’ was exciting. A beautiful sunny day, good company, the knowledge that no driving was involved so we could enjoy the food and wine in our cool bags, (responsibly of course) all looked as if the journey was ‘set fair’. Now, some of you will know that I work in the rail industry, but I have to admit, my job doesn’t call for a lot of travelling by train, I do the odd run up and down to Paddington – which is expensive and sometimes overcrowded in rush hour, but nothing prepared us for the Cheltenham to Glasgow bun-fight that we endured on CrossCountry trains. We had reserved seats, (of course we did, we’re white, middle class, middle aged travellers, what do you expect). But on a train that was already full to overflowing when it arrived at Cheltenham, we made some life-long enemies by insisting that they removed themselves from OUR seats, that they had been comfortably ensconced in since Taunton……………. we even had to get the Train Manager, (formerly known as a Guard, for good reason) to intervene. We managed to upset at least 5 people, block the whole carriage for a good 35 minutes with our bags and our faffing before we finally settled down. By this time, it was more than past lunchtime, so out came the sandwiches – actually, not a sandwich in sight – bemused onlookers watched a parade of food that would have shamed the WI – home-made, gluten free spinach quiche – enough for 9; prawn and chicken salad, (home-made); strawberries and cream; home made gluten free fruit cake, home made gluten free ginger cake; sloppy brie and crackers, grapes and plums; several packets of ‘quality’ crisps and nibbles – none of your Golden Wonder here! And wine, (red, white and sparkly), cider, lager, Guinness and water. I am sure I’ve forgotten something, but it was passed over and under arm, above the heads of those unfortunate enough to be caught in our wake. Books and magazines were shared and discussed, we acted as though we were in our own living rooms really, (or should that be drawing rooms, I never know). We probably upset a few more people with our jokes and laughing, the up and down to the loo, the banter etc but hey, we were on holiday.

It may be obvious to all, but travelling on a ‘CrossCountry’ train is exactly that, long and winding – we went all over the place – Lichfield, Birmingham, Derby, Durham, lots of little stations – certainly many places I had never even heard of…………………..and at each stop, no one got off, more got on, or at least, it seemed that way. From an 11.54 departure, we finally crawled into Glasgow Central at 20.25. Had we been the generous type, we could each have had someone on our knee, so crowded did it become. I am sure we could have walked more quickly – except our bags were very heavy. 3 taxis to get us all to the B&B, a quick wash and brush up and down to Sauchiehall Street for the Glasgow night life, stopped to ask directions from a door-man and got called ‘doll’, which is very common, but somehow made me feel very pleased with myself – someone still referred to me as ‘doll’…………. how about that?

Noisy pub, left after 1 drink and headed for a curry – eye-wateringly hot, but very tasty. The bar-man seemed intrigued by our accents and got quite chatty, he was Indian, but had a thick Scottish accent, somehow anachronistic. Bed and up for breakfast and Stage 2 of the mammoth journey.

Glasgow Queen Street to Oban – 3 and a half more hours of train – not quite so crowded. Ferry from Oban to Mull, about an hour – and exhilarating to be on the top deck, wind in our hair and sun shining down. The bumpiest bus ride ever from one side of Mull to the other – another hour – this one enough to shake every internal organ and induce mild feelings of nausea in me, a traveller who has NEVER succumbed to any form of travel sickness, but with more violent results for some. Then the last stage, (or so we thought). Ferry from Mull to Iona – 20 minutes, calm and misty – with a strange and spooky mist that rolled over the sea and headland and completely obscured the view of the Abbey from the water – so thanks to the anonymous web poster for the pic of that shot which features above! A final tug of VERY heavy suitcases, (how were they heavier when we had eaten and drunk what seemed to quite a lot of stuff – a mystery) up the ramp of the ferry, where they were loaded into the Iona Abbey van and whisked away. Unfortunately, not us, we had to walk – it’s nearly a mile and it’s all up hill……………………… I am exhausted just recalling it. More soon…………………….




  1. Sounds fabulous! I love train travel and the food sounds divine. I was hoping to go on a “real” train to Leeds this week but the meeting got cancelled. The only trains I go on are the commuter trains between Chingford and Liverpool St. 😦

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