In these days when you can book everything you want online, even simply using a mobile phone, it might be hard for some of my readers to believe that when we had to do these things back in the 70’s, soon after I started work, things were a lot more complex.
One thing I enjoyed, before commuting became a serious part of my life, was travelling by trains. I know, but it was a lot easier back then, when there was just one company running everything, but fine, those days are gone, and I dont want to get political again! The beauty of one company running all the railways in the country, was that British Rail (as it was then) created something called a Rail Rover. Basically there was one for each region, and I had experienced it, as my mother had taken me travelling on the Southern Rail version, during School Holidays, but there was something that interested me far more, when I started work. Yes, the all line version! Basically it gave me the chance, with a lot of planning, to travel some of the more rural lines I would never get to travel otherwise, which was fun. The snag with those lines then, and indeed still now, is that there werent many trains a day on those routes to choose from.
The advantage now, is that if you want to plot those journeys nowadays, you just type in a few details on the National Rail website journey planner, and you plan accordingly. Back then, I had a very large (and I do mean large) paper version of the national timetable to work things out from, and that was it. Oh, and none of those hotel booking websites we have now, either! Me, I used an AA handbook, as my hotel guide. So putting together train routes, tying that into my overnight hotel, and…it was interesting! Oh, and in theory, I could have picked up the phone at home, and rang the hotels and booked, but it was the family phone, so I wrote, and sent letters instead! Now, you just go on a website, make a booking, and thats it, but back then, you’d send off the letters, hope you got a positive reply, and move on from there. In truth, probably because I was never looking for hotels in big towns, I tended to get in fine, but yes, doing workarounds, if you did get a rejection, and have to start again, ouch!
One of those lines I wanted to travel dearly, was just about as far from home as I could get, and stay on the mainland. Back then, it was just the line from Inverness to Thurso, and Wick, nowadays called the Far North line, which is a pretty fair description. As you can guess, both then, and now, not many trains to choose from, per day! One of my problems was, that if I travelled to either of the termini (back then, the train split at Georgemas Junction, in the middle of nowhere, now one train serves both) it would be very late at night before I got there. And fine, I was about 18, and that didnt appeal. So I looked for somewhere I could split the journey, and I found somewhere interesting.
Middle of nowhere, pretty much just the station, a hotel, and a couple of houses, and that was it. A tiny place called Forsinard. So yes, it appealed, and at least I didnt have far to go between train, and hotel. Yes, I stayed there. Yes, its about as remote a place as I’ve ever stayed in my life! After 40 years, I have no idea how busy the hotel was that night, all I remember is arriving mid evening, and leaving again the next morning, and that was it. An evening meal, a bed, and breakfast, and that was about the total of my stay!
Anyway, last week, out of curiosity, I thought I’d take a look and see what the current prices were to stay there, to find that it closed about 4 years ago, presumably lack of business? No, in truth, not totally surprised. There were no Premier Inns, Travelodges and the like back then, even not allowing for the limited market for somewhere like there in the first place!
Thing is, nowadays, I tend to stay in chain hotels, but yes, I guess I will always have a soft spot for those quirky little hotels, all the same.
OK, video time. The reason for the blog title is that Forsinard lays in what is now called Flow Country, a large area of peat bog. So, yes, I couldnt resist the pun!