The planning and kick off

Why October !
                          I've had a very busy year between trips away in the van music festivals and a trip to Poland over the summer, with all that and working away from home has meant it has taken me a while to squeeze in a week that I was totally free to take fullest advantage of Scotrail`s highland rover deal , its a great deal you Get four days unlimited travel over eight consecutive days across the Highlands for £81.50.From the beautiful landscapes of Skye on the west coast to the wild expanse of Caithness in the northern  highlands and the windswept east coast with some classic scenic railway lines right through the middle , the Highland Rover is your ticket to some of Scotland’s most scenic journeys by rail, ferry and coach , too good a bargain for someone like me to miss out on , I love trains and have done long distance routes across Europe china India and south America , I also love my home country of Scotland especially the mountains   ,

            I have been going out in the hills of Scotland in all seasons for 30years now and October holds no fear for me , the seasons in my opinion have changed dramatically since I first ventured into the highlands when Scotland had a guaranteed ski season and October was always very cold , the past 5-6 years I have had some fantastic clear warm sunny days in the mountains of Scotland  in October so heres hoping for that ,
                                     Having a night out on the beer before heading of on a holiday was not the best of preparation ! Not that i have any regrets as my son is an HGV driver so its not very often he can go out for a pint these days with scotlands drink driving levels being so much lower than the rest of the uk he needs to stay off all alcohol if he has to drive the next day ,So i appreciated him asking to go out for beers with me , It just meant i wasn't going to be as organised in the morning for setting off as i would have liked , And sure enough we had a few more units than the govt weekly guidelines and i was sleepy in the morning ,Sheila arrived and we headed off to the train station to buy our highland rover ticket , It would have been good to have bought the slightly more expensive highland grand tour ticket but it was finishing for the winter in two days time we weren't sure if it would be valid when we were travelling if we purchased it before its official end ! I asked a few questions at the ticket office about the grand tourer and if i required a ticket to glasgow if i bought the highland rover ? there was a que building behind me and the ticket seller didn't seem to know so i just bought the highland rover ticket for £81.50 4 days unlimited travel in the highlands taken in a 8 day period and a £9.20 single to glasgow we were off 
   A quick change of train at glasgow queen street and we were choosing our seat for our journey north we had read previous travellers saying its best to sit on the left hand side for the views and we found a seat with a table on the left hand side at the window all good ,as we left glasgow there was some nice views of the clyde heading out through Dumbarton and on toward the arroccher alps the train coaches were splitting at crianlarich with half the train heading north the other half heading west, Once beyond crianlarich a group of people on the train cracked a cork of something bubbly so we decided to open my birthday beer and whisky gift set and do as the advert says let the train take the strain 
It was pleasant to see the mountains roads and walkways from the window of the train i have driven these roads and hiked all over this area but never sat on the train this far north , the autumn colours were out and the recent rains made for rivers in spate and scenic waterfalls , we passed through bridge of Orchy and it was new scenery to me as the roads and trails left the areas I knew well and headed off into the ranoch moore .Its no surprise there`s very few trees around here with the amount of stags and deers we seen , 
At 15;20 we arrived at our destination for tonight corrour station Britons bleakest most remote train station , we weren't the only people getting of the train unlike the film train spotting ! its also the area used to film the dementors  scene in the harry potter film when they stopped the hogwarts express , but these images make it sound bleak and dull when in fact the station house is a lovely restaurant and the old signal box is home to some luxury unique lodge accommodation , just down the track is the youth hostel where the largest group of people were heading as they had privately booked out the hostel for their hillwalking group , there was also 4 young people with their carry out of beers  heading to walk the 6-7miles to a remote bothy for the night , and there was some people who had booked the lodge , Afterr making some enquiries we discovered there was no room at the youth hostel for us there wasnt its sold out for a private hire ! we looked for a suitable wild camp site nearby and there wasn't much, so we asked at the bar if there was any rooms left and if not did they mind if we camped on the station grounds , they didn't mind if we wanted to camp and we had a table booked for dinner at 19;30 . the tent was pitched next to a small lochan at the back of the station house and we sat at the bar having beers until our table was ready , and an excellent dinner it was the soup was lovely and i had the venison stew , which it said on the menu was slow cooked for 14hrs being a highland hunting estate i was guessing it would be a good bit of venison and sure enough the stew had big chunks of lean venison that was so soft it must have been cooked at least 14hrs true to the menu description , the only problem is the bar/restaurant shuts at 9pm so we were off to the tent early for us , the weather could have been kinder as the rain and wind came and went throughout the night in various strengths there was also a stag near by which bellowed loudly twice in the night ,which was a little spooky as it sounded very close 
    Day two
I was awake early and hadn't slept that great its late in the season for camping at the end of October it starts to get cold in Scotland , with the wind and rain still ongoing we decided to just have breakfast in the station house then put our waterproofs on for the easy to do munro , A full breakfast and hot coffee is a great way to start a hill walk , we left most of our stuff in the tent and set of up beinn na lap the walking was on a decent track until we got closer to loch ossian and then we turned left up steep boggy wet moor land  .Then it was a hard wet slippery climb to the west ridge of the hill then it eventually eased out to a nice gently ridge which probably has nice views on a good day , we caught glimpses of great scenery every now and again when the sun managed to poke out from behind a heavy cloud for 5-10 mins , up along the ridge there was Ptarmigan and Hares running away from us all starting to change to their winter white , thousands of years of evolution is a bit of a waste of time for these creatures in Scotland now we hardly get snow and theres no predators except man ( well i will need to say people nowadays as there will be lady hunters out there also i suppose )    .After a brief summit photo we stopped where we found some shelter and had  a quick dram out sheila's hip flask of whisky (her brother had gifted her it for completing 50munros in her 50th year ),  it was too cold to stop long even after I put another layer of clothes for the descent  I had started to shake with cold , we took the descent as quick as we could to stay warm slipping regularly on the black wet boggy sections of the open peat bog area ,
once back at the station house i stopped my garmin watch 3hrs and 6 minuets it had taken us which was good , we hung our damp clothes and wet boots and had a bowl of soup and beers in the station house while trying to decide what to do next , our options were to stay at the campsite we were pitched on for that night and get an early train toward the isle of skye tomorrow or take our tent down pack and head to skye right away  as we could catch the 15:20 train , we didn't like the fact the station house shut at 9 and were excited to push our journey forward even though it was a Sunday with reduced services . we guessed the Sunday service would tie in with the ferryboat and we opted for the lets go now option ,sheila got confirmation of a booking at the bunkhouse at sligachan skye and  we got on the train,  
     I have taken long train journeys across India china south America Europe and long and short train journeys all over Britain except the north west of Scotland so this was a new line for me and it truly is as stunning as i had heard ! definitely up there as one of the finest if not the finest train journeys in the world , the strange thing was when we boarded at corrour we couldn't get a window seat and the bloke sitting at the window who wasn't Scottish or local in appearance sat in the window seat with his headphones in and his face in his phone the whole way to fort William and never looked out the window once, i felt like asking him if i could swap seats with him ! , after fort William the train passed by Neptune's staircase and wound its way round steep hills and large and small lochs we then came to the famous glenfinnan viaduct ,It was scenic but not as much as i was expecting perhaps I've seen it filmed and photographed so spectacularly that it would have never lived up to the HDD filming i have seen

                    when we got to Malaig there was only just enough time to pop into the coop for some snacks before the short walk onto the ferry for armadale on skye , the ferry workers had a joke with us about being the last of the summer and this being the last ferry we only truly found out what they meant much later but basically the Scottish travel industry was changing to its winter timetable that day the 22nd of october ! And we were the last two foot passengers for the summer , The ferry was small only 6-7 cars and a camper  van we left our bags in the seating area and went up the stairs to the viewing area to watch the sailing out , fantastic views of the west coast to one side and skye to the other the weather could have been kinder but you can't have everything and the swell and wind made it feel more adventurous anyway , once on skye we discovered we were the only two foot passengers and all the cars and vans got priority disembarkation we walked off expecting to see a bus that would take us the journey to sligachan as we were booked 2 nights at the bunkhouse there , BUT there was no bus the bus had already decided it was on the winter timetable and the journey from Armadle to sligachan was a fair distance , we could have camped there or found a B&B theres a small hotel buty we wanted to get to our destination and had paid for that night anyway  so we spoke to a taxi driver sitting there he gave us an option of £45 to broadford where we may catch a bus or £60 to slighanchan ! after a bit of discusion we opted for the £45 but then changed our mind once on our way as a bit of mental arithmatic against time taken provede to tempting to be hanging about waiting on a bus,
          We arrived at the bunkhouse in the dark at the same time a group of chinese arrived , there was a bit of confusion as they had dumped loads of bags of food on to the table . which unbeknown to us to begin with was right on top of our welcome letter with our room numbers and passcodes for the doors , so we were all milling around trying to work out where we were gonna sleep untill we reread the confirmation email, the bags were shifted and we soon got our packs of in our room and our bunks sorted, next on the agenda was the drying room for our wet hillwalking gear and to hang the tent to dry , by then the other groups had started cooking in the communal kitchen , we opted for a short pleasant walk to the main sligachan hotel , i have spent manys a good weekend at this hotel and its campsite but this was going to be my first time at the bunkhouse, the campsite has now shut for the winter and the main bar which i much prefer also shuts Sunday to Thursday now in winter which is a shame as i was looking forward to going in there , but we had dinner and some beers in the bar i had venison again and it was nice but not as nice as corrour , this used to be the residents bar and stay open late but now it closes especially in winter at 21:45 im sure it used to stay open later , the clouds cleared for our walk back to the bunkhouse , and i switched off my head torch to enjoy the sky , the Scottish highlands night time skies are truly awesome on the right occasions ( no cloud and no light pollution from villages ) , when we got back to the bunkhouse the fire had been left roaring and everyone else had went to bed , we Had a whisky but it had been a long day and we were falling asleep on the comfy sofas with the heat


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