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Scotland Kyle of Lochalsh - Inverness Railway Line

An eighty mile trip from coast to coast


Before the arrival of the railways, transport links in the north of Scotland were very poor and most relied on travel by sea. Inverness was the county town of Inverness-shire, which stretched from the east of Scotland across to Skye and parts of the Outer Hebrides. The quickest way between Inverness and those outlying parts of Inverness-shire, was by train to Glasgow and then by steamer to the isles.

A railway line between Inverness and Dingwall was opened in 1862, and was extended to Wick and Thurso. In 1870, an extension was built from Dingwall to Stromeferry, where there was a ferry connection to Skye and the Isle of Lewis.

The section between Stromeferry and Kyle of Lochalsh eventually opened in 1897. It was a massive engineering project involving the building of 29 bridges and 31 cuttings, at the average cost of £20,000 a mile, making it the most expensive rail route to be built in the UK at the time.

Kyle Map.jpg

A new pier was built at Kyle of Lochalsh for ferry services to Skye and the Outer Hebrides. Kyle rapidly expanded from a handful of houses to a busy rail and sea terminal.

It opened up new markets, as fish could now reach Billingsgate within 24 hours It no longer took 6 weeks to walk cattle to market. It also had the additional benefit of bringing tourists to the area.

The line was threatened with closure in 1963 following the Beeching Report, ‘Shaping Britain’s Railways’, but was reprieved as supplying a valuable transport link in an area poorly served by roads and public transport. Several small stations were closed. The line was threatened with closure again in 1970, and the ferry service to Stornoway moved to Ullapool in 1973. The line survived as it was needed to transport materials for a new oil rig construction facility at Kishorn.

Transport of goods along the line finished in finished in 1983 and the opening of the Skye Bridge in 1995 led to the end of Skye ferry.

Continuing discussions about the line's viability lead to the formation of The Friends of the Kyle Line in 1995 to promote and protect the line. They run the museum in the station building and rent out the refurbished Signal Box


It must be forty plus years since I last travelled on the line and I had forgotten just how good it was. We began our journey at Kyle of Lochalsh in a modern two unit rail car. It was busy with groups, day visitors and people with luggage. Sit on the left hand side leaving Kyle of Lochalsh for the best views.


The station is very much ’at the end of the line’ overlooking the Isle of Skye, less than half a mile away.



The remains of rail tracks can still be seen on the old pier.


The line quickly leaves the village behind and runs along the coast with small wooded islands. The sea is incredibly clear.



A deep, steep sided cutting can be seen ahead where the line cuts inland.


The line cuts inland past the tiny crofting settlement of Duirinish before swinging round Bagh an t-Srathaidh to Plockton.



Plockton Station is about half a mile above the village which can be seen through the trees with its houses spread out along the shore. This was a planned fishing village built when the crofters were cleared from their land in the early C19th to make way for sheep. Now it very much depends on tourism having been put on the map when the TV series Hamish Macbeth was filmed here in the 1990s.


From Plockton, the line runs along the shore of Loch Carron, with mixed deciduous woodland with bluebells still in flower in late May.



On the far side of the loch from Stromeferry station is the tiny settlement of Stronemore, which was connected to Stromeferry by ferry which ran until 1970.


At the head of the loch is the larger settlement of Lochcarron this straggles along the coastline and the remains of the old croft strips up the hillside can still be seen.


The line passes the tiny Attadale Halt and through an avalanche shelter built in 1978 to stop rocks falling on the track. Strathcarron Station is at the head of the loch and the Stationmaster’s House now provides self catering accommodation.


The line now follows the River Carron up the wide valley floor, with a few scattered settlements.




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Kyle of Lochalsh - Inverness Railway Line cont...

The line passes tiny Loch Dughaill with its two even smaller islands. Achnashellach Station is hidden among the trees.


The line continues to climb through bare mountainous scenery with very isolated settlements and a few small lochs.



Just before Achnasheen the pink brick Ledgowan Lodge Hotel can be seen, a Victorian Country house which is now a hotel.


Achnasheen with its station, s a small straggling settlement at the junction of the A832 (the road to Loch Maree and Gairloch) and the A890 (Kyle road). Before the arrival of the railway, this was an impoirtanbt stop on the droving route for cattle heading from the Highlands to market.


From Achnasheen, the road and railway follow the River Bran downstream, past more small lochs. The gorse and broom were in full flower and the scenery was becoming a lot more ‘gentle’.



The line passes Grudie hydro electric power station which takes water from several lochs in the hills above.


The line follows the shore of Loch Luichart for a while before cutting north between the mountains to Garve, a small settlement based around the railway, with its very characteristic mustard coloured station building.

There is a lot more woodland along the mountain slopes, both mixed deciduous woodland and coniferous plantations.



Past Loch Garve the line climbs steeply through coniferous woodland following the Rogie River to the summit at Raven Rock. It then descends steeply into the flat fertile valley of the River Peffer to Dingwall. The Far North Line can be seen running across the flat rather scrubby land on the side of the Cromarty Firth.


Dingwall Station on the eastern edge of the town, has a passing loop. This is commuter area for Inverness and Conon Bridge, Muir of Ord and Beauly stations have all been reopened. Both Connor Bridge and Beauly have tiny platforms, much shorter than the coaches of teh rail car unit.

After Beauly the line cross flat fertile arable farmland before running along the edge of Beauly Firth.



The Black Isle can be seen across the Firth along with the Kessock Bridge which stand high above the Firth to allow shipping to pass underneath.



The line crosses the Caledonian Canal with the Port of Inverness. This is a major distribution centre for the North of Scotland for imported fuel oils as well as imported timber.


Inverness Railway Station is in the centre of Inverness. The original station buildings were replaced with a rather uninspiring building in the mid 1960s. The inside is a large modern station concourse.


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