Going the distance …



TODAY my journey was better than the destination.

I was travelling from Edinburgh to London, with my destination an airport hotel at Heathrow conveniently placed for my early departure tomorrow morning, and it was the train ride south from Scotland that was the highlight.

When I woke up in Edinburgh big flakes of snow were falling from the sky, but by the time I emerged from my hotel and made my way to the station the grey was gone and the sky was blue.

I found a window seat on the left side of the train, retrieved my iPod from the depths of my bag, and settled in to spend the five-hour journey gazing out the window at the ever-changing view.

The first hour of the trip, from Edinburgh to Newcastle, we hugged the Scottish coast and I could look across the wind-swept fields that lined the cliffs to the navy water of the North Sea as we raced between seaside villages.

The train stopped in Newcastle, after creeping by a handsome bridge that looked suspiciously like the famous one that spans Sydney Harbour, and when we left the station we passed rows of terrace houses like the ones you see in the movies.

It looked like some early town planner tipped a bucket of water down the side of the hill above Newcastle, and put the streets and lanes where the rivulets of water formed and built the uniform rows of workers cottages on those narrow roads.

The next part of the journey, another hour-long stretch from Newcastle to York, I was presented with a picture of bucolic bliss as green fields stretched towards the horizon with little clusters of red-roofed houses and stone church steeples marking small farming villages.

Moss covered gates opened to fields with green shoots pushing through the black soil, farmers on horseback cantered around their fields, and bands of children played in the yards of the small rural schools.

As we raced south jets painted white lines across the blue, marking their paths towards the pole on their journeys to North America, and train spotters armed with notebooks and cameras stood on station platforms as we cruised through.

York and Doncaster were next, we stopped at one settlement and crawled through the other, and the towns started coming closer together and spreading out further.

But there were still large plots of farmland where the paddocks, which accommodated either crops or flocks of black-faced sheep, were separated by dry-stone walls of rows of gaunt hedges.

Before too long we were in London, racing past block of low flats and then towers of high-rise apartments as suburbs gave way to inner-city neighbourhoods and I knew my journey was almost over when we passed that stadium that is home to the Arsenal Gunners.

That wasn’t the end of my day of travelling, and I had to catch two more trains and an airport bus to get to my bland hotel, but I won’t remember the four stops I rode on the Tube when I think back to the train journey I did on my last day in the UK.

Visit the National Rail website

This story originally appeared on my travel blog … this is Wanderbliss in February 2011

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