Friday, 18 April 2008
I'm writing this from the summit of one of the highest railway passes in the UK. Corrour in Scotland, on the line between Fort William and Glasgow, at just over 1400ft is just staggeringly beautiful. There's still snow on the ground, mottling the palette of browns to a frosted chocolate. Although the clouds are low, the light across the glaciated terrain is clear and crisp; the rough grass has seemingly not been touched in millennia. The senses of both emptiness and remoteness are all-enveloping, and it's easy to forget that you are in Britain. It's a million miles from Oxford Circus, in every sense. And it's so heartbreakingly beautiful, especially with the light icing-sugar dusting of snow all around, turning to a thick covering as the altitude climbs. Dropping down a little lower, a fine mist covers the train and turns the clear sun into a hazy squint. This is so beautiful, so still and so superlative that I've run out of appropriate superlatives. The train is mostly empty, with a couple of tourists like myself and several locals who seemingly make this commute a few times a week. It's impossible for me to imagine making this journey without staring open-mouthed through the window, my eyes and brain struggling to compute the scenery unfolding. Extended train travel always provokes this reaction in me: I know I've said it before, but the most civilised and simple way to appreciate your surroundings as well as have time to think and just be , is on a train. If anything was a Staple, this journey is.