Yesterday evening at 18.20 we were stood in a very cold shelter on Corrour Station watching the snow fall heavily and peering north through the whiteness hoping to see the lights of the Glasgow train. It had been a day of very heavy snow showers but just when we thought they had finally fizzled out for the day, it started snowing again and this time just continued. It was wonderful standing there watching the snow fall in almost complete silence …..with just a little concern that the train might be cancelled. Those of you who don’t know Corrour, well, it’s the highest station stop on the West Highland Railway line and sits on the edge of Rannoch Moor at a little over 400 m above sea level. The nearest main roads are the A82 …. a long way to the west and the A9 an even longer way to the east. There is a small public road that goes to Rannoch Station, (the next stop to the south) but even this is quite a few miles away across wild and unforgiving country ….especially so when it’s snowing hard! The only vehicular access is by way of the estate road / track from I think near Dalwhinnie. Suffice to say that if the train hadn’t arrived, there would be no way of walking out at that time of the evening and it would have been a very cold night huddled together in the open fronted platform shelter. But I needn’t have worried of course ….at a couple of minutes to 18.25, we heard the sound of an approaching train and soon Nita could make out its lights through the falling snow. I guess when you live in the Highlands you get used to this type of weather and just get on with it, but as someone who lives by the coast and sees very little actual falling snow ….well, it was all kind of exciting.
Anyway, the reason we were stood on Corrour platform at 18.25 yesterday was of course because we’d gone walking again. We’d originally planned to head for a hill somewhere but the winds were still very high and they were forecasting these very heavy snow showers …..sounded a bit out of our league. So then, we needed to decide on a low level route, somewhere that the predicted high winds and heavy showers wouldn’t matter.
Ten or so years ago I went to Corrour with a group from Air na Creagan, our local mountaineering club. At the time, the old signal box had been converted into a wee bunk house containing six bunk beds, a small kitchen and loo and a fantastic wee sitting room upstairs in the top of the signal box. It was great and over the two weekend visits we made there, we walked several of the hills and on one occasion when the weather was really vile, three of us did the walk around Loch Ossian. Nita had been working on both occasions and so had never been to Corrour before….. it seemed like a good option for our low level walk yesterday.
Of course with any day walk at Corrour, you need to fit it into the train times. The first train north arrives at 09.00 and the next south bound trains are either around 12.30, 18.25 or 20.30 ish I think. The actual walk around Loch Ossian isn’t too far …probably about 12 kilometres I guess and so with nine hours or so between arriving and catching the 18.25 back, we’d need to do a bit of exploring to use up the time.
Of course, the other decision to be made was whether to catch the train all the way, or to drive part way and pick it up at one of the stations adjacent to the A82. Which ever we chose, it meant an early start and when the alarm went off at 03.45 neither of us was too convinced that our plans were particularly sensible, ‘whose stupid idea was this’ sprang to mind as I dragged myself out of bed! We decided to go for the drive / train option and headed up to Crianlarich to meet the train north at 07.45. Have to admit that we rather over did the ‘giving ourselves plenty of time’ bit and arrived there almost an hour early ….but heck, we didn’t miss the damn train!
The West Highland Line really is a spectacular railway and the section we were doing from Crianlarich past Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy and up over Rannoch Moor to the lonely platform that is Corrour ….well, it’s just spectacular, especially so yesterday morning with the snow low on the mountains. If you ever get the chance to ride this train ….go for it, it’s a visual feast.
The day was everything we’d hoped for …and a bit more ….snow too. The conditions really were quite unpleasant at times but it was a wonderful way to see this remote and beautiful place. The surprise though was at the end. After a series of heavy snow showers interspersed with just brief brighter spots, the weather did start to improve by mid afternoon. We’d started making our way back towards Corrour and were both thinking that we might make it back to the station in a reasonably dry state. Big mistake! At about 16.30 it suddenly started to rain and this quickly turned to snow again. We thought it was just another shower but by the time we reached the station an hour later it was still falling hard and well, it just kept on falling. It didn’t look like it was going to be a pleasant drive back to Irvine from Crianlarich but as luck would have it as quick as it started, it stopped… shortly after setting off south on the A82. We were back home by 21.30 after an amazing little adventure. It’s amazing what you can do if you get up at 03.45!