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The Far North Line - from Brora to Wick, January 2022

By Julian Paren

The journey
Each year my wife and I take a train trip to celebrate our respective birthdays. Living near Inverness and with my wifeís birthday falling on January 10 we usually head west to Kyle of Lochalsh. The Kyle line is particularly striking with snows on the highest peaks and the journey can be done in daylight. See for example Link.
However this year we repeated the journey made exactly ten years earlier to take an Away Day on the train from Dingwall to Wick. The journey time was 3h 50m each way with just over an hour to explore Wick. The day of travel was chosen after scrutinising the weather forecasts, which was fortunately correct. The journey started and ended in the dark, but in this GeoTrip I focus on the section between Brora and Wick during which the sun was above the local horizon.

The train
The train was formed of two carriages, and north of Tain there were less than ten passengers at any time - a typical winter loading according to the ticket collector/guard. In summer the number of carriages is doubled and the train can be very busy, particularly with railway enthusiasts.

The Far North Line
The line has its support group, Friends of the Far North Line, and is now featuring more in the publicity associated with the North Coast 500. LinkExternal link

The Flow Country
The trackless section of the line across the Flow Country lies in the RSPB Forsinard Flows Reserve with its Visitor Centre in the buildings of Forsinard Station. LinkExternal link

The day trip allowed an hour to explore Wick. Below Wick Station a multi-use path leads along the south bank of the Wick River to the Coghill Bridge and over to a further path upstream along the north bank. We did the leisurely and interesting walk to a viewing platform with information on the ecology of the Wick River. Alternatively a walk to the harbour and a fish and chip shop filled the hour ten years ago.

Although the train takes 4h 30m from Inverness to Wick (while the more direct route by road is travelled by buses in 3h), the train is no slow-coach, taking the Flow Country at a typical speed of 90 km/h. I still have much to learn of the shutter speeds required to photograph from a moving train and to ensure best quality images shooting through the train window. As a perfectionist, I used Topaz Labs Sharpen AI to correct my full resolution images for motion blur. For Geograph-sized images, the sharpening made no difference.
You can see this trip plotted on a map on the Geo-trips page Link .

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Fri, 14 Jan 2022 at 12:40
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