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

Sutherland and Caithness

A train ride from Brora, Tue, 11 Jan 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 wife’s 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

Wick

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.

Photography

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.

On the map below, the grey line is the GPS track from this trip. Click the blue circles to see a photograph taken from that spot and read further information about the location. The blue lines indicate the direction of view. There is also a slideshow of this trip. ( )

↓ Scroll down here ↓

NC9107 : Sandy shore at sunrise, north of Brora by Julian Paren
Sandy shore at sunrise, north of Brora
Viewed from the first train of the day from Inverness to Wick.

NC9409 : Coast near Lothbeg Point by Julian Paren
Coast near Lothbeg Point
Just after sunrise and taken from a Wick-bound train between its stops at Brora... more

NC9610 : Coastal farmland near Lothmore by Julian Paren
Coastal farmland near Lothmore
The coastal fringe of Sutherland is well farmed. A view from the North Highland... more

ND0215 : Approaching Helmsdale on the North Highland line train by Julian Paren
Approaching Helmsdale on the North Highland line train
Soon the train would stop at Helmsdale, but the best appreciation of the town is... more

ND0017 : Strath Ullie with the River Helmsdale by Julian Paren
Strath Ullie with the River Helmsdale
Looking up the River Helmsdale towards the Strath of Kildonan. A view from the... more

NC8825 : In the Strath of Kildonan by Julian Paren
In the Strath of Kildonan
As seen from a train on the North Highland line.

NC8825 : Moorland of the Strath of Kildonan by Julian Paren
Moorland of the Strath of Kildonan
A view from the North Highland line train on the way between Helmsdale and... more

NC8735 : Loch an Ruathair with Ben Griam Mor and Ben Griam Beg by Julian Paren
Loch an Ruathair with Ben Griam Mor and Ben Griam Beg
A change in the weather as the North Highland train travels between Kinbrace and... more

NC8839 : Winter brown of the Flow Country, south of Forsinard by Julian Paren
Winter brown of the Flow Country, south of Forsinard
Snow on Ben Griam Mor and Ben Griam Beg loom above the Flow Country.

NC8739 : Loch Lucy and Ben Griam Mor and Ben Griam Beg by Julian Paren
Loch Lucy and Ben Griam Mor and Ben Griam Beg
A view in the Flow Country from the North Highland railway.

NC8740 : Hills and bog of the Flow Country by Julian Paren
Hills and bog of the Flow Country
Winter mood in the Flow Country as the weather deteriorates.

NC9043 : Pylons in the Flow Country by Julian Paren
Pylons in the Flow Country
As viewed from the morning train to Wick from Inverness. The weather was deteriorating.

NC9142 : Fences by the North Highland Line by Julian Paren
Fences by the North Highland Line
Sunshine and showers by the North Highland Line.

NC9443 : Fences by the Far North Line in the Flow Country by Julian Paren
Fences by the Far North Line in the Flow Country
Dramatic lighting in the Flow Country.

NC9644 : Double rainbow over the Flow Country by Julian Paren
Double rainbow over the Flow Country
The fences by the Far North Railway Line seem to have little purpose now. I... more

NC9944 : Flow Country near Altnabreac by Julian Paren
Flow Country near Altnabreac
One drainage ditch and two rainbows.

NC9945 : A track by Altnabreac Station signposted Station Hill by Julian Paren
A track by Altnabreac Station signposted Station Hill
There are few tracks near the railway line at Altnabreac but this is one with a... more

ND0550 : Derelict cottage by the Far North Line by Julian Paren
Derelict cottage by the Far North Line
A sad property beside the railway line.

ND0651 : Loch Meadhoin by Julian Paren
Loch Meadhoin
The loch is close to the Far North Line. A rainbow was visible from a train... more

ND1460 : Farmland near Halkirk, Caithness by Julian Paren
Farmland near Halkirk, Caithness
Productive agriculture as seen from the train heading from Georgemas Junction to Thurso.

ND1459 : Farmland near Halkirk by Julian Paren
Farmland near Halkirk
Through the window from a train heading to Thurso.

ND2953 : Winless Mains by Julian Paren
Winless Mains
One of the many farms in Caithness.

ND3551 : The Coghill Footbridge over the Wick River by Julian Paren
The Coghill Footbridge over the Wick River
This footbridge connects the riverside paths on both sides of the Wick River, with... more

ND3551 : The island on the Wick River by the Coghill Footbridge by Julian Paren
The island on the Wick River by the Coghill Footbridge
The banks of the Wick River are a local Nature Reserve.

ND3551 : The Wick River upstream of the Coghill Bridge by Julian Paren
The Wick River upstream of the Coghill Bridge
A good all-weather path leads from the centre of Wick along the north bank of the... more

ND3551 : Path by the Wick River by Julian Paren
Path by the Wick River
An excellent path leads to an information point and onwards beyond.

ND3551 : The Coghill Bridge, Wick by Julian Paren
The Coghill Bridge, Wick
The bridge connects two areas of public park.

ND3550 : Playground by the River Wick, Wick by Julian Paren
Playground by the River Wick, Wick
A good facility in the public parks at Wick.

NC9843 : Fence by the Far North Line by Julian Paren
Fence by the Far North Line
If this was a snow fence, it can now serve no useful purpose. The Flow Country... more

NC9443 : Fence by the Far North Line in the Flow Country by Julian Paren
Fence by the Far North Line in the Flow Country
This section offence is in better shape than elsewhere on the line in the Flow Country.

NC9242 : The Flow Country east of Forsinard by Julian Paren
The Flow Country east of Forsinard
As seen through the window of a train on the Far North Line. The snow fences would... more

NC9042 : Electricity pylons in the Forsinard Flows by Julian Paren
Electricity pylons in the Forsinard Flows
A reminder that not only a railway crosses the Forsinard Flows. Ten years earlier... more

NC8942 : Railway Station building, Forsinard by Julian Paren
Railway Station building, Forsinard
The building is now used to advertise the RSPB Reserve of Forsinard Flows. For... more

ND0215 : Station buildings, Helmsdale by Julian Paren
Station buildings, Helmsdale
A station on the Far North Line.

ND0113 : Coast between Helmsdale and Brora by Julian Paren
Coast between Helmsdale and Brora
The sun low in the sky as seen from an Inverness-bound train.

ND0013 : Coastal view from the Far North Line by Julian Paren
Coastal view from the Far North Line
The railway hugs the coast from Helmsdale to Brora.

NC9912 : Close to sunset on the Moray Firth coast by Julian Paren
Close to sunset on the Moray Firth coast
Strange that on a day visit to Wick by train the sun both rose and set over the... more

All images © Julian Paren and available under a Creative Commons licence external link.

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