7.55 a.m. Inverness, Light rain: CLOUDS ARE lying in the valleys north of Carrbridge and the view of the Cairngorms as we pass through Aviemore is blotted out altogether. I hope it won’t be too long before we’re back in the Highlands again because I’d like to see more of this rugged landscape.
As we pass the distillery at Dalwhinnie I spot the pantechnicon carrying the ‘Pole Position Dodgems’ parked in a layby alongside the A9. Like us, the fun-fair is making its way back to the lowlands after its weekend in Inverness. They were pitched in Bught Park by Ness Islands. Somewhere in one those wagons must be the giant glossy fibre-glass figure of Jiminy Cricket which presides demurely over one of the spinning, dipping and diving rides of the fair. We once accidently brought a cricket back in our suitcase from the island of Rhodes, a male which we didn’t discover until a week or two later in our bedroom when he started making a noise like a smoke alarm in need of a new battery. Luckily he wasn’t eight feet tall and carrying a folded umbrella like the fun-fair’s Jiminy.
I spot Red Grouse, a deer (probably roe) and plenty of Buzzards from the train. The journey goes remarkably quickly as, apart from drawing the wonderful landscape that is passing by, we’re treated to two meal breaks; a breakfast as we pass through the Highlands and, as we reach the Firth of Forth, then the Northumbrian Coast, a lunch – as on the journey here – of feta and roast pepper quiche with a rocket salad in a balsamic dressing, accompanied by a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. By now the Scotch Mist has been replaced with a sunny interval and a mighty rain cloud hovering over distant Newcastle. As we pass through Berwick I can see Lindisfarne, the Farne Islands and Bamburgh Castle in the distance across the wide open spaces of this coast.
It will be hard to consider anything other than a bargain first class rail break on East Coast next time we feel the need of a relaxing weekend in Scotland. And I’m not getting sponsored by East Coast for saying that! I ought to, but I’m not; they filmed Vic Reeves’ artistic escapade (video still online at the time I posted this) on the East Coast mainline but he only travelled as far as Darlington, so he missed the most scenic stretch in my opinion. He took far more artist’s materials with him than I do! And they gave him a table to himself. There wasn’t room for that on this morning’s service with so many of us heading back south after the weekend.