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one day train trips

My party of middle aged adults will be visiting Scotland as part of a cruise in August. One member of the party is a train enthusiast so we would like to do a train trip from Greenock/Glasgow. We are in this port from 7 am until 2 am the next morning. I was hoping to take the train to Fort William and then do the Jacobite Train to Mallig but I do not understand the train schedules enough to know if this is possible. Will there be time to do both legs of this journey in the time available on our port stop? Is the train ride from Glasgow to Fort William scenic? Is there another means of returning to Greenock from Mallig or Fort William that would be quicker than the train? Is it necessary to purchase tickets in advance - if yes, advise on best seating options for maximum views? Any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, akatchuk,

Greenock to Mallaig can be done in a day, but you'd be on the train all day. First of all, you'd have to take a train from Greenock Central to Glasgow Central. The trains run very frequently, so you'd have no trouble getting one once you've disembarked from your cruise ship. The trains are not how you picture a train with a locomotive and passenger cars. No Acela there! That route is normally operated by three or four car commuter trains, electrically operated. There is no locomotive.

Once you get to Glasgow Central, you'd have to get to Glasgow Queen Street for your train to Fort William/Mallaig. There is a free shuttle service, but if you're not carrying much with you, it's about a 10 minute walk.

If you're going on to Fort William or Mallaig, the most convenient train for you would be the 12:24 p.m. from Glasgow Queen Street. It arrives in Fort William at 4:09 p.m., and Mallaig at 5:43 p.m. The return train leaves Mallaig at 6:15 p.m., and Fort William at 7:50 p.m., arriving back at Glasgow Queen Street at 15 minutes after midnight. As the trains have stopped running to Greenock by then, you'd have to take a taxi to get back to your cruise ship prior to your 2:00 a.m. departure.

There is no faster way to get from Mallaig or Fort William back to Glasgow/Greenock. You'd have 3 hours and 41 minutes on the ground in Fort William, or 32 minutes on the ground in Mallaig. There is an excellent fish & chip shop in the Mallaig train station. The good news is that the rail cars are pulled by a diesel locomotive, and you should be able to buy drinks and snacks on the train. However, I'd recommend taking enough food and drink with you to last the 12 hours that you'll be on the train.

You'll be traveling through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, on one of the most spectacular rail journeys in the world. I'm not sure how much the tickets are, but you'd be traveling off peak, so you could probably get a reasonably priced day return. If you're planning this adventure between mid-June and the end of August, I'd advise booking your seat(s) well in advance, as that train fills up quickly. You'll get great views from either side of the train, but most likely the best view would be from the right side heading north.

Best wishes.


Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: You may want to find out where your next port of call is after Greenock, just in case your train is delayed on its return journey.

Posted by
1658 posts

I would not recommend that at all. According to the ScotRail website,, the journey is six and a half hours each way. And involves at least two changes, and is close to £80 for a return ticket.

A suggestion is if you want a train journey, is head to Ardrossan Habour and over to Arran, nicknamed Scotland in miniature. An hour each way, including a change at Paisley Gilmore Street, and then get a ferry over to Arran. Hopefully Brodick Castle would be open.

Posted by
3122 posts

I tend to agree with the advice not to try the Fort William-Jacobite to Mallaig round trip since you must be back in port that night. If something goes wrong, you could be stranded a long way from Greenock-Glasgow. There is plenty of stunning scenery nearer to Glasgow, as suggested by the above comment.

Posted by
103 posts

AFAIK it's not possible to do the Jacobite train both ways in one day starting and ending in Glasgow, the timetables don't tie up and there just isn't enough time in the day. I believe you can do the Jacobite one way, but it's a lot of messing about and I'm not sure if recommend it. As mentioned, you can do the full Glasgow to mallaig and return on the normal ScotRail train service (which runs over the same tracks as the Jacobite and iirc is cheaper too). However, I'd echo other posters and strongly recommend against doing this:

  • You're talking about 12hrs or more sitting on a train (plus the travel time by train or cab back and forth from Greenock into Glasgow to catch the west highland line train.) It may please the rail enthusiast, but I think t could be quite tiring and tedious for anyone else!

  • it means you're either rushing to catch the 8:23am train north, which could be tight, or otherwise you're getting the last train south and any significant delay could make it very rushed to get back to your ship in time.

In answer to your question, yes the Glasgow to ft William portion of the route is scenic (see and I'd suggest that doing Glasgow to ft William and back is probably the most sensible and viable thing to do in the time you have - just no steam train! If you get the 12:24 from Glasgow Queen st to ft William this gets in at 16:09, then the 17:37 train back, arriving Glasgow 21:24, which is plenty time to spare for getting back to the ship. Yo should definitely book these trains ahead to secure seats and cheaper fares - these go on sale about 12 weeks in advance (although you may just want to book now to secure travel). Note that he cheaper fares are only valid on the booked train. See Bear in mind though that this is still about 8hrs hrs on a train!

To get into Glasgow from the cruise terminal, first take a cab to Greenock west or Greenock central station, then the train to Glasgow central. There are around 4 trains an hour to Glasgow central and it takes about 45mins into the city. You then need to change to Glasgow Queen st for the train to ft William but this is an easy 10min walk - I wouldn't bother getting a cab or bus. A cab all the way from the cruise port into Glasgow is expensive as it's a fair distance - maybe around £50 each way.

If you're getting the 12:24 train, depending on the date, you may be able to fit in a tour of Glasgow central station which would surely please the rail enthusiast! On many dates there is a tour at 10am which could be fitted in before your train trip. The tours are very popular and of interest for most people, not just train buffs! See

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi again, akatchuk,

With a one day schedule, there is no possible way that you can take the Jacobite. Your journey is doable, if you don't mind spending most of the day on the train(s), but your travels out of Glasgow (and Fort William to Mallaig, should you choose to do so) can only be done via ScotRail. The Jacobite operates on a limited schedule from Fort William to Mallaig and back, and is operated by West Coast Railways.

Hope that helps.


Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
5678 posts

If you have a train there are some other options closer to Glasgow. One is the new Riverside Museum. Of course, it looks at more than rail travel, but it gets very high marks as a museum. I visited the museum at the old site and enjoyed it. It is in Glasgow proper.
This is even better. And then there is the Boness and Kinniel Railway. You would take the train Linlithgow and then bus.