train spotting

Climbing Corrour train spotting trio

Those familiar with the 1996 film Trainspotting directed by Danny Boyle will instantly recognise Corrour.  Put simply, its a small train station in the middle of no where.  Located in the Scottish highlands on the same train line as that of Harry Potter fame in Glenfinnan.  

Corrour is in fact the smallest train station in the United Kingdom, enough to make it a must see for those not even intent on hiking the near by mountains.    The surrounding area of Corrour is home to three munros, a youth hostel, station side restaurant and not much else.  Perfect for a relaxing weekend escape from the city into the countryside.

Train Life

With a lack of roads in the area, taking the train to Corrour is the best choice to make.  Open return tickets are available from Glasgow Queen Street station for around £40.  With an open ticket you have the option of taking your time exploring the area more fully and staying a few nights longer camping or at the youth hostel.

Scottish steam train

Based further down south in England?  Why not consider making use of the Caledonian sleeper service.  You can travel from London overnight in comfort and arrive ready to hike the hills of Scotland by morning!  A truly door to door service available from London is an opportunity not to be missed.

The journey by train takes in some of Scotland’s most beautiful views and is a great way of exploring the countryside for those not able to do any hiking.  Ride time to Corrour is around three hours from Glasgow, allowing for plenty of time to relax and take in the scenery on route.  You can even enjoy a drink as you travel, train life is certainly a more leisurely way compared to the stress of flying and navigating busy airports.

Harry Potter train line

Midnight run

Pulling into the small station platform at around 9.30pm by September it was pitch black darkness.  With a lack of buildings in the area it was possible to enjoy seeing the night sky and a number of stars lit up before me.  By the time I arrived sadly the station cafe was closed, so I made my way along the single track road in the direction of the first munro, Beinn Na Lap.

Beinn Na Lap over looks the station building and is a short walk by munro standards.  Requiring only 560m of ascent across 5 miles.  I was keen to have it completed before morning so that I could make the return train on Saturday evening.  GPS was very useful as I hiked up hill through the dark night to reach the summit around midnight.  Terrain was unfortunately very boggy low down making for slow progress but once up hill became more rocky and manageable.

Corrour munros

Consider a bivvy

Returning to the lower slopes I decided to bivvy bag for the night close to the youth hostel.  The benefit of this was a quick start in the morning, made all the more useful due to the amount of midges in the area.  If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to give bivvy bagging a go.  Its saves a lot of weight compared to taking a tent and allows you to camp in more exposed narrow areas that you previously wouldn’t of considered with a tent.

I have the Hunka bivvy bag available from Alpkit and have found it to be an excellent companion.  The usual recommendations are for either this model or an ex British army bag made from Goretex material.  Whatever you choose, the key is that it keeps you dry and the wind off.  Your sleeping bag and mat then provide a level of comfort to give you a good nights rest while enjoying views of the night sky surrounding you.  It would make a good option for photography work outdoors on the move.

glenfinnan

Morning Stroll

Daylight meant an early start on the hills.  Quickly dodging midges in my escape, I made my way along the loch side in the direction of the final munros for the weekend; Sgor Gaibhre and Carn Dearg.  Being half asleep made for what seemed like quick progress to the beginning of the up hill section.  Lower level ground was again very boggy similar to the previous evening.  Route finding was however good due to the amount of stalking tracks in the area and visibility held up well enough to aim in the right general direction of the second summit of the weekend.

A longer route compared to the lonely Beinn Na Lap at around 13 miles.  It makes for an enjoyable munro circuit, something I enjoy much more than a straight back and forth route.  Making the first summit and crossing the U shaped bend of the track, you begin to hike back in the right direction of home and covering new ground is always more psychologically appealing to back tracking old terrain.

By the time you reach the third and final munro summit of Carn Dearg, you’re only a few miles short of the train station and a well earned rest.  The walk out across the ridge to descend down the shoulder of the mountain provides lovely views of Loch Ossian and the Corrour youth hostel.  The softer terrain of the grassy slopes on the return leg made for more gentle impact on my knees and was a nice relief compared to more recent rocky descents in Fort William.

Completing Corrour

A delightful walk back along the side of Loch Ossian makes for a nice cool down after hours of high level hiking.  Heading back bound for the direction of the station and site of that iconic Transpotting scene set in the great outdoors.  Returning by 4pm left a few hours to relax in the station cafe and take in the surrounding views before the journey back to Glasgow.

It felt good to let someone else handle the drive back for a change and rest tired legs in comfort.  I could get use to seeing the countryside more by train as it does have a huge list of benefits compared to constantly relying on a car for transport.  The more leisurely stress free pace is much preferred way of life.

For those not feeling adventurous enough to bivvy bag or camp out in the open be sure to check out the near by Loch Ossian youth hostel.  It has low rates and provides a good level of service and accommodation if you plan to staying for a number of nights.  I was particularly impressed by its approach to sustainable energy with use of solar and wind turbines on site for that truly off grid feel.