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We can get a bit hung up on the trains. Unless you're obsessively green, the aeroplane often offers a faster and cheaper alternative.
Easy Jet London Stansted to Glasgow on the Thursday (arr.9.25am) is just £31.99 inc up to 20kg hold luggage. I've used this flight in the past. Always had plenty of time to bus or cab into Glasgow buy gas from Tiso's (other outdoor shops are available) and stroll over to Queen street for the train.
Then the train back from Montrose. Simples (fast, and cheap too)
Oh yea! And if I lived down south of course I'd take that option.
A quick trawl for Thursday May 09 shows, for example:
Luton > Inverness 09:30 > 10:55 Easyjet for £35.
Gatwick > Inverness 11:35 > 13:15 Easyjet for £43.
Both ideal with easy train/bus connections to Strathcarron/Plockton/Dornie/Shiel Bridge out of Inverness.
In another life - in the early '90's - I'd a job that meant that I spent two full years continually travelling and living in hotels throughout Europe. As you can imagine, I soon became The World's Greatest Bore regarding infrastructure. Off-peak travel between Weisbaden and Frankfurt? Sign me up, babes.
Seriously for a moment, one of the secret joys of The Challenge is getting to and from yr start/end-points. Some of us have considered hiring mule trains. Others delve into arcane trans-border concessionary fares - and have been known to take on alternate identies simply to shave off those extra pennies.
All I know is that I favour the multiple split-journeys. It's not bright, it's not clever, but it means that I can reduce Berwick-upon-Tweed to Strathcarron from an initial ask of £70.70 down to £16.80 (clue . . . even with the same operator look to split your journey at logical transit points - in this case Scotrail Edinburgh > Strathcarron breaks at Inverness, and buying two tickets saves you £4.70. And you can travel Beartown > Edinburgh for £2.95.
East Coast - which is the only nationalised line, and is owned by you and me - has a very wonderful ticketing system that, once you dig in, gives you all these options.
This is all very sad. If I knew where to get a life I'd go for it.
Unfortunately Stansted is not an option for a Wiltshire lad, but there are cheap flights from both Bristol and Southampton. However we feel that the plotting journey to and from, with all its permutations is half the fun.
Not having travelled on a Sleeper train before together with the opportunity of a few beers etc in the lounge car was an opportunity not to be missed. Chuck in a few scenic railway miles and it comes together.
Not living near a great metropolis, obviously Swindon fails that particular accolade, means we country folk have travel distances before we even commence our journey 'opp north'
Now if I could only have found a steam train for part of the journey !
Splitting is a good move. As is looking to go via London if you are going from the SW.
e.g. for my 2011 outward to Mallaig, after 2 hours on the Trainline I jiggled times and split my journey from Exeter to Mallaig thus:
1 Exeter Paddington
2 Paddington Euston
3 Euston Glasgow
4 Glasgow Fort William
5 Fort William Mallaig
- compared to choosing just Exeter to Mallaig (to end up on the same final train) I saved just over £100 ! (Had to start 3 hours earlier though)
On the return journey Montrose - London(somehwere!) - walked 1/2mile over to Waterloo - Exeter - saved me £60 compared to a direct ticket to Exeter.