Mallaig Harbor
Photo by Andy Howell
By Mike Payton

Scotland’s west coast is magical. It’s about three hundred miles from the south to the north, but that’s traveling in a straight line. If you were to walk or sail around every loch and bay, you’d cover enough distance to cross the Atlantic. It would take a very long time to explore every mile, so where do you start? The options are endless, but one fantastic way to get to the west coast is by train.

The West Highland Lines depart from Glasgow’s Queen Street Station, and there are several services a day during the peak season. This is one of the greatest rail journeys of the world. Many say it’s THE greatest. From Glasgow, it heads west along the Clyde before heading north up Loch Long. It crosses to the northern reaches of Loch Lomond, and from there you’re heading into the Scottish Highlands. At Crianlarich, you face a choice. Take the shorter branch to the west, and you’ll arrive in Oban. Travel about three times further to the north, and you’ll get to Fort William, and ultimately Mallaig. Either option is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but you’re going to have to decide.

Oban is a good place to head for if you want to experience the beauty of the west coast, but don’t want to be too far from civilisation. It’s a proper resort with numerous attractions for the visitor. These include the Cathedral of St Columba, and the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary. Oban even has its own distillery, and it describes itself as the Seafood Capital of Scotland. That’s not a modest claim; the west coast offers some of the finest fish and seafood in the world. They even find it in their hearts to export some to the restaurants of Paris, such is their generosity. From Oban you can head by boat to the Western Isles, either as a day-trip, or for a longer stay. The rail station is right by the harbour, so everything is in easy reach.

Fort William is another sizable community with a healthy visiting population. The mountains and glens that surround the town are the main attractions here. Glen Coe, and Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, are within easy reach. Unsurprisingly, it’s a major centre for climbers, walkers and mountain bikers. From Fort William, the West Highland Lines head west into the wilder side of Scotland’s west coast, and Mallaig is the end of the line.

Mallaig was one of the film locations used in the Harry Potter series of films. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to explore the more remote parts of Scotland. To the north by ferry, there’s the Isle of Skye and the Small Isles of Canna, Rum, Eigg and Muck, and the mystical scenery of Wester Ross. There’s so much to discover there, it’s impossible to summarise, but one thing is certain. Somewhere along your journey you’ll find a perfect beach, and realise you have the place all to yourselves. Maybe if you’re lucky, the sun will come out. Then, we wouldn’t advise you to do this, but you might feel the temptation to light a fire, burn your driver’s licence and credit cards for fuel, and make a new life in an upturned boat. The west coast is a funny place; it plays tricks on your mind.

About the Author

Written by Mike who writes for and writes about his adventures in France at  You can follow him on twitter @payt harbor.jpg harbor-150x150.jpggreatfamilyUnited Kingdom Travelmagic,scotland west coastBy Mike Payton Scotland's west coast is magical. It's about three hundred miles from the south to the north, but that's traveling in a straight line. If you were to walk or sail around every loch and bay, you'd cover enough distance to cross the Atlantic. It would take...Family Travel Ideas and Deals