Day -1 – The Journey North I: Hastings to Inverness

I’ve never travelled First Class before – not, at least, with a first class ticket. But it wasn’t a longing for luxury that led me make the booking (I mean, consider what’s in store for me – see below) but rather that it was half the price of a Second Class ticket. And all I can say is that I thoroughly recommend it to anyone else out there trying to save a few quid: nice big seats, free lunch, and free beer!

It’s been a day that moved too fast. Only the start was peaceful. I wandered, with Rachel, down to Rock-a-Nore Beach – the finishing line – to collect the stone I’m taking to Cape Wrath (see Rule 5 or Ben Cornwell’s excellent article about my walk in the Hastings Independent).

Toby at Rock-a-Nore Beach – the finishing line – with a handful of stones; the big grey one will be the gift to Cape Wrath

The mad rush to get ready (why didn’t I prepare more in advance?) and then the expectant hour, up to which the past two years of dreaming too much and planning too little has led: the train that would take me to the starting point.

The 11:29 ‘Up Ashford’ on 23rd May 2022 drawing into Ore Station amidst pouring rain – an omen?

The mad rush continuing, as I try to get my emergency contact device, my ‘Spot X’ to work: after many, many failed attempts it looks like I have , but it’s hard to be sure. And then the bit that should have been the relaxing journey…

The 14:30 ‘Down Edinburgh’ (or should it be the ‘Down King’s Cross – if you know, please tell me in the comments) waiting in Platform 4 of King’s Cross, with other important-looking trains on either side of it

…filled with all the admin I should have done last week or the week before. I’ve brought my computer, which I will have to post home tomorrow!

They ‘discontinued’ the train from Edinburgh to Inverness – not just cancelled it, you understand, but actually dis-existed it; it was erased from the timetable. I waved my seat reservation at a guard or a porter or someone, who was actually very decent about it. He put me on a train to Perth, and thence I travelled the 115 miles to Inverness by taxi, for free, getting there just ten minutes after the train would have arrived. The hotel I had booked is the gorgeous Victorian, Royal Highland Hotel, and just look what awaited me…

The main staircase at the Royal Highland Hotel, Inverness; the design for the staircase of The Titanic was based on this

Still, I suppose all that’s just par for the course, what I should have expected; no, it’s the weight of my rucksack that terrifies me. You see, there’s no opportunity to buy food after Cape Wrath until (and if) I make it to Ullapool at the end of Day 6. So I have to carry all of it with me…

Through the bogs…

Over the mountains…

Comments (7):

  1. Peter

    24 May 2022 at 09:28

    A luxurious prequel! I loved Ben Cornwell’s article, too.

  2. Guy

    24 May 2022 at 09:47

    It’s always ‘up’ to London for some antiquated, supremacist reason.

    • Toby

      31 May 2022 at 16:54

      So, I hear railway men speak of working the ‘Up Vic’ or the ‘Down Vic’, meaning a train from Hastings going UP to Victoria or one running Down from Victoria. Trains from Hastings to Ashford are reckoned to be ‘Up’ because the line was built by the South Eastern Railway, and it was a branch from their main route from London to Dover, so Up Ashford is OK. The train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh must be a ‘Down’ something, for the reason you gave, but should I call it a Down Edinburgh or a Down King’s Cross? Does it depend on your point of reference ( so that an Edinburgh crew would call it a ‘Down King’s Cross’, while a London crew would call it a ‘Down Edinburgh’? And what shout I call it???

  3. Julia Bevan

    24 May 2022 at 12:05

    Glad you at least had a night in a Highland hotel before you have to rough it! xx

  4. Will

    25 May 2022 at 10:57

    Best of luck for day one in the wilderness from Noa and Will.

    • Toby

      31 May 2022 at 16:45

      Thank you Will. Hope to see you on my last day, but there’s a long way to go!

  5. Richard

    30 May 2022 at 20:23

    Wow, I am envious of your adventure, just don’t lose the Cape Wrath stone (rule 5).

    I will follow your progress with great interest…….good luck Toby 😃


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