Although we’d received negative comments from fellow sailors about Mallaig, we found it delightful. It was a working fishing town much like Newgale in southern Cornwall, but much more accepting of sailors now the new EU funded marina has opened just north of the harbour. A new continental looking shower facility had been opened only 9 weeks before, with a bakery next door and a teepee shaped Pizza hut, which opened from Friday to Sunday. There were numerous fish restaurants and cafés….and a train station with a good connection to Fortwilliam and Glasgow, but more romantically Mallaig is the final destination for The Jacobite, the famous steam train that featured as the Hogwart’s Express in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”.
The voyage to Mallaig was cold, wet and windy, so we set the jib with light motor and soon knocked off the 11nm. There is a traffic light system to get into the harbour to regulate and give priority to the frequent Caledonian MacBrayne ferry connections. The winds by the time we arrived were gusting force 6, yet the marina was very sheltered and we hardly noticed – quite a contrast from Arisaig, so we started planning our next two days. I was keen to travel on the Hogwart Express and Ros was keen to visit Knoydart so this set the scene.
West Coast Railways, operators of “The Jacobite” provided the steam engine and the carriages for the “Hogwarts Express”.
The leaflets claim that The Hogwart Express round trip of 84 miles is the greatest railway journey in the world. It was stunning with magnificent scenes over Arisaig and Loch nan Ceall where we’d moored earlier, past the expansive beaches of Morar where Joanna & Dan had a rendez-vous with Andrew and family three years earlier. And the highlight – passing over the Glenfinnan viaduct which featured in our Warner Brother studio tour of the Harry Potter set at Leavesdon with Hugh and Percy two years ago. We had been filmed and photographed flying over the same train and reservoir in Harry’s father’s old Ford Anglia. As we approached Fortwilliam, we got a glimpse of the famous Staircase Lock system on the Calidonean canal – a preview of our impending trip in September when we plan to sail across to the East Coast.
When we flew over 2 years earlier with Hugh & Percy!
We had 18 minutes to buy tickets and catch the conventional train back to Mallaig, so we did not have time to look around Fortwilliam, but we could see the promise of this, and climbing Ben Nevis, shrouded in cloud nearby, for when we return in September. Interestingly the diesel train slowed down on the viaduct on the way back to allow passengers plenty of time to take photographs.
On our return to Mallaig we went straight to the Cornerstone Restaurant renowned for its very fresh seafood.
Starters at the Cornerstone Restaurant in Mallaig
England were playing Slovakia in the European cup so while Ros returned to Milo, I went to the Marine Hotel bar to watch the football. This turned out to be quite a social experience, meeting Alan and Joanna Stewart from Glasgow and Dougle and Sophie from Dumfies and Cardiff respectively. The football was not terrible exciting, but the conversations more than made up for it.
Joanna, Alan, Sophie and Dougle in the Marine Hotel having a natter after the football