Curious to discover what sort of stories and hidden gems this area might hold, I embarked on a journey northward from Edinburgh. The first leg of my train journey took me through the golden forests of Perthshire, Aviemore and the hills that form the western edge of the Cairngorms to reach Inverness, Scotland’s ancient capital and transport hub of the Highlands. After a quick lunch at the station and a trip to the famous Leakey’s Bookshop nearby (well worth a wee detour if you get the chance!), I jumped on the Far North Line train which would take me to Thurso, the northernmost town on mainland Scotland.
The train journey, which lasted about 4 hours, seemed much shorter. I couldn’t take my eyes off the window as we passed the heather-clad hillsides facing the coastline of Sutherland, up to the fishing town of Helmsdale. There, the train started its journey inland through the plains and peatlands of the Flow Country. I was amazed at the number of stops on the line; for such a sparsely populated area, it is remarkably well-connected.
Taking the train is also a great way to slow down and really soak up this part of Scotland, as well as being an absolute bargain for hikers and campers who have plenty of places to start and finish their hikes at! My first glimpses of the Flow Country were quite incredible. Looking at the vast golden-coloured marshes dotted with small lochs and solitary hills, it dawned on me I was entering a very unique part of Scotland. We reached Thurso in the early hours of the evening, which offered me a wonderful view of the town at sunset, a foretaste of what was to come. After catching a glimpse of the church spire in the distance, I went into my hotel, thinking about the next day.