The Grand Tour is living up to all my expectations. A reminder – in 72 hours, I am travelling mainly by train from my home in Coventry to Aberdeen in the north-east of Scotland (via London, Fort William and Kyle of Lochalsh), then on to Penzance in Cornwall before returning to Coventry. The total distance is almost 2,000 miles (3,200 km). I explained my rationale, such that it is, in my first blog about the Tour.
This morning I awoke as the sleeper train from London to Fort William was passing the Arrochar Alps, which lie at the southern edge of the Scottish Highlands. My initial encounter with the Highlands was with my best friend in our mid-teens on our first parent-free holiday. It was also the place that my wife and I came to on the first holiday after our marriage – a last minute, super bargain as we hadn’t thought we could afford any holiday that year. Perhaps for these reasons, of all the places I’ve visited the Highlands is undoubtedly my favourite.
So it was an enormous pleasure today as I zigzagged through the region, first west then north then back east. Some of the places I know well, others much less so; much of Rannoch Moor can only be reached by train or on foot and some of the coves that the train skirts as it leaves Kyle of Lochalsh are inaccessible by any other means. I love photographing in this part of the world as I find it so easy to find subjects that resonate with me in the manner I tried to explain in my first blog. Usually, though, I’m using a 35mm reflex camera on a tripod, each picture carefully composed. Today, I’ve been photographing with a compact camera from moving trains; composition has been as much a matter of luck as judgement. At the moment I’m by no means convinced that the experiment is working as well as I’d hoped but I’ll reserve final judgement until I return home and get to properly review the results.
The last leg of today’s journey – Inverness to Aberdeen – is another line I have never travelled on before. It remains, though, almost as unknown as previously; we were late leaving Inverness and pretty well the entire journey took place at night. Still, despite that meaning that my sleep is going to be shorter than I’d hoped, I remain excited by the prospect of tomorrow and the core journey of my Grand Tour, Aberdeen to Penzance. Oversleeping is definitely not an option!