Most of the West Highland Line route lies inside Argyll. With stops at Dumbarton Central, Helensburgh Upper, Garelochhead, Arrochar & Tarbet, Ardlui, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Lower, Dalmally, Loch Awe, Falls of Cruachan, Taynuilt, Connel Ferry and Oban, you can hop on and off at your leisure.
Your first stop within Argyll is the lovely town of Helensburgh. Take a stroll through the tree-lined avenues, enjoy lunch in one of the many cafés and restaurants and check out the shops. One of the highlights of Helensburgh is Hill House – which is universally regarded as Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s finest domestic creation. Next up is Dumbarton where you could alight and visit Dumbarton Rock. The views over the Clyde, Loch Lomond and Argyll are simply breathtaking.
Arrochar & Tarbet
As you head further north, the scenery begins to change as you enter the Highlands. For walkers and climbers, the station at Arrochar & Tarbet is a jumping off point for the famous Arrochar Alps. This rugged mountain range includes the famous Cobbler, one of Scotland’s most iconic – and best loved – peaks. Alternatively walk down to nearby Loch Lomond for boat trips on the loch and loch-side strolls. The line now switches from skirting a sea water to a fresh water loch as it hugs the western shore of Loch Lomond north of Tarbet before arriving at Ardlui, another jumping off point for walkers, particularly those tackling Ben Vorlich.
After briefly leaving Argyll the line splits at Crianlarich – where some of the trains also separate with carriages taking different lines – and the route strikes out west.
Jump off at Loch Awe to visit the Scottish baronial-style St Conan’s Chapel which was built in 1883. You’ll also get a great view of Kilchurn Castle, a marvelously evocative ruin that sits on the shore of Loch Awe. Kilchurn’s dramatic situation – at the head of the loch with the peak of Ben Cruachan visible behind – makes it one the most photographed castles in Scotland.
Your next stop is the Falls of Cruachan. From here it’s a short walk to one of Scotland’s most amazing engineering projects. Hidden deep within the mountain of Ben Cruachan on the shores of Loch Awe is Cruachan Power Station. You can take a tour inside the “Hollow Mountain” to witness this marvel of engineering with your own eyes.
At Taynuilt, hop off to visit Bonawe Iron Furnace, the most complete charcoal fuelled ironworks in Britain, as well as the nine-hole Taynuilt Golf Club. Your penultimate stop is Connel Ferry before you roll into the bustling fishing port of Oban, unofficial capital of the West Highlands. This lovely Victorian resort is a great place to spend a few days. It’s packed with shops, cafés and convivial bars.
Oban is known as ‘Scotland’s Seafood Capital’, and is the place to sample fresh seafood. Pop into Food From Argyll on the Pier to enjoy some of Argyll’s finest produce expertly prepared. There’s plenty of things to see and do in Oban. Walk up to McCaig’s Tower, visit Dunollie Castle, take a tour of Oban Distillery and discover the best traditional music experience in Scotland with a ceilidh at The View. And if you’d like to visit some of Argyll’s islands, CalMac operates ferry routes from Oban to Mull, Coll, Tiree, Colonsay and more. There are a number of boat operators based in Oban offering wildlife trips.