West Highland Line: Glasgow to Oban and Fort William/Mallaig

Scotland’s wild and wonderful west coast is yours to experience and savour when you take a trip on the West Highland Line.

The line actually splits some 40 miles north of its starting point Glasgow and offers two wonderful trips, carrying travellers either across to the west coast and Oban, or northward to Fort William and Mallaig.

Journey time

Glasgow to Oban - approx 3 hours 20 minutes
Glasgow to Mallaig - approx 5 hours 30 minutes

Farewell to Glasgow

Leaving Scotland’s largest city, you’ll be amazed by how quickly the urban landscape is replaced by lush glens, soaring hills and tranquil, contemplative lochs.

You’ll skirt along the banks of the River Clyde, passing Dumbarton (served by East and Central) and Helensburgh Upper before following the Gare Loch to the town which bears its name. The route then turns inland again, travelling by Loch Long towards a rendezvous with the northern edges of Loch Lomond.

You’ll be able to take in wonderful south-facing views across the water as you make the short hop to the north east and Crianlarich where the line divides.

Westward to Oban...

Through the stunning Glen Lochy, you’ll pass Kilchurn Castle as you begin a scenic sweep along the north edge of Loch Awe, an edge defined by Ben Cruachan’s imposing majesty.

As you leave the loch behind, the track will take you along the banks of the River Awe, and towards Loch Etive, along whose southern shore you’ll complete your journey. Passing the town of Connel you’ll see the Falls of Lora as Etive narrows and the sea tides are compressed into frothing rapids.

And then beyond the Connel Bridge and to Oban itself, where ferries await to transport you across the sea to the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

...or North to Mallaig

Striking upwards from Crianlarich you’ll find no shortage of spectacle, with the remarkable Horseshoe Curve bending dramatically to the east and west before resuming the northward journey.

Bridge of Orchy offers sightseers a gateway to Loch Tulla to the north, which your train will pass before traversing the incredible emptiness of Rannoch Moor, a wild open space with great hills and mountains on all sides.

You’ll pass the UK’s highest altitude train station in Corrour (scene of one of the most famous scenes featuring Ewan McGregor and friends in Trainspotting), savour the views along the length of Loch Treig and then turn sharply west towards Fort William, which you’ll reach after passing to the north of the towering Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak.

From Fort William you’ll hug the bank of Loch Eil for almost six and a half miles before experiencing the iconic curve of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, immortalised by the Harry Potter films as part of the route to Hogwarts.

After enjoying the stark beauty of Lochs Eilt, Ailort and Nan Uamh you’ll find yourself in yet another movie location as Morar’s sandy shores glide into view, home to the characters of Local Hero. And before you know it, you’ll have reached Mallaig where the views to the Isle of Skye will surely tempt you into taking the short ferry trip across to the island itself.

Look out for:

  • Dumbarton Castle just north-west of Glasgow
  • Views to Beinn Ime and Beinn Narnain from Arrochar
  • Ben Lui about halfway between Crianlarich and Lochawe (Oban line)
  • Monessie Gorge on the River Spean (Mallaig line)

Consider stopping at:

  • Ardlui at the tip of Loch Lomond for more time to enjoy the spectacular scenery
  • Falls of Cruachan for Ben Cruachan, the ‘Hollow Mountain’ which houses a huge hydro-electric power station and offers free tours for rail passengers (Oban line)
  • Arisaig for stunning views over Loch Nan Ceall towards the isles of Rum and Eigg (Mallaig line)

Onward journeys

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