Kyle of Lochalsh line

(Redirected from Kyle of Lochalsh Line)

The Kyle of Lochalsh line is a primarily single-track railway line in the Scottish Highlands, from Dingwall to Kyle of Lochalsh. Many of the passengers are tourists, but there are also locals visiting Inverness for shopping, and commuters. All services are provided by ScotRail and run beyond Dingwall to Inverness. In the past there were some through services to and from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen.[1] None of the line is electrified, and all trains on the line are diesel-powered, as are all other trains in the Scottish Highlands.

Kyle of Lochalsh line
Duncraig Loch Carron.jpg
The platform at Duncraig railway station alongside Loch Carron, looking northeast towards Inverness
OwnerNetwork Rail
LocaleHighland, Scotland
SystemNational Rail
Rolling stockClass 158
Line length63 mi 64 ch (102.7 km)
Number of tracksSingle-track with passing loops
Track gaugeStandard gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Route map
Rail map Scotland Kyle line.png


The Kyle of Lochalsh line runs east-west and links the town of Dingwall, on the east coast of the Highlands at the tip of the Cromarty Firth, with the village of Kyle of Lochalsh on the west coast, close to the Isle of Skye. The line lies entirely within the former county of Ross and Cromarty, part of the modern-day Highland council area.

Dingwall–Achnasheen: Easter RossEdit

The route begins at Dingwall station,[A] – a junction station with the Far North Line, which runs (mostly) along the Moray Firth and links Inverness with Wick and Thurso.[3] Almost immediately north of Dingwall, the two lines diverge at Dingwall Junction[B] and the line to Kyle of Lochalsh takes a sharp left turn to head west.

Initially, the single-track line briefly follows the course of the A834 road until it abruptly curves off to the north, crossing over the River Peffery, only to turn west again. There used to be a short branch line here that went straight on towards Strathpeffer; this branch closed to passengers in 1946 and closed completely in 1951.[4][5] The line to Kyle, meanwhile, bypasses the town about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the north; Achterneed station[C] existed along this stretch and also served Strathpeffer until it too closed in 1964.[6] Achterneed is one of only three stations on the main line to have been closed, and one of two that were never reopened.

The line then continues west, climbing at gradients as steep as 1 in 50, until it passes close to the summit of Raven Rock where it starts descending. It eventually meets the Black Water – a tributary of the River Conon – and follows it upstream alongside the A832 road. The railway and the road both skirt the southern edge of Loch Garve and then turn northwest, approaching the first open station on the line – Garve.[D] This was supposed to be site of a junction with the Garve and Ullapool Railway to the port village of Ullapool but, despite securing government approval, this line was never built.[7]

Beyond Garve, the railway and the A832 continue westwards, away from the Black Water whose source lies to the north. Soon, the line meets Loch Luichart – the source of the River Conon itself – and follows its northern edge; Lochluichart station[E] is located at the northwestern tip of the loch. This station was moved to this location from its original site in 1954 as a result of a hydroelectric scheme, which raised the water level of the loch.[8][9] From here, the line continues to follow several of the Conon's tributaries, passing by Loch a' Chuilinn and Loch Achanalt until it reaches Achanalt station[F] near the mouth of the River Bran. The track then follows the course of this river for about six miles (9.7 km) until the village of Achnasheen, near the eastern end of Loch a' Chroisg. The station at Achnasheen[G], like Garve, was to be the site of a junction: the proposed Loch Maree and Aultbea Railway was to run between Achnasheen and the small fishing village of Aultbea, but the line never received government approval.[10]

Down the line from Achnasheen the line turns southwest, parting ways with the A832 which continues westwards; the railway now parallels the A890 road instead.

Achnasheen–Kyle of Lochalsh: Wester RossEdit

The avalanche shelter southwest of Attadale
The terminus at Kyle of Lochalsh station, with the Isle of Skye in the background

A few miles southwest of Achnasheen the track reaches its highest point above sea level, as it leaves the drainage basin of the River Conon (which flows to the Cromarty Firth on the east coast) and enters the basin of the River Carron (whose estuary is on the west coast). The line meets the River Carron itself at Loch Scaven near its source, and then follows the course of the river downstream.

Close to the point where the Carron is joined by the Alltan na Feola stream lies the site of the former Glencarron station;[H] this small halt closed in 1964, although some drivers continued to stop at the station unofficially, refusing to acknowledge the station's closure, until as late as the 1990s.[11][12] The next open station on the line is Achnashellach,[I] some 12 miles 42 chains (20.2 km) down the line from Achnasheen; this is the longest distance between two existing consecutive stations on the line.[2] The line then skirts the nortwestern edge of Loch Dùghaill and continues to follow the River Carron until reaching Strathcarron station,[J] where the river ends as it flows into Loch Carron, a sea inlet. From here, the railway runs along the southern coastline of Loch Carron, and continues to hug the coast all the way until the terminus at Kyle of Lochalsh (except briefly near Plockton).

A short distance from Strathcarron the line reaches another station, Attadale,[K] located near the mouth of the river of the same name. Just southwest of the station, the line passes through an avalanche shelter – an unusual tunnel-like structure, approximately 270 yd (250 m), which also carries the A890 and is partially open on the loch-side; it was built in 1978[citation needed] to prevent rocks from falling onto the road and track. The line then continues for nearly five more miles (8 km) until it reaches Stromeferry station,[L] adjacent to a former ferry port which linked the area with North Strome on the opposite side of the loch. Occasionally the ferry link reopens on a temporary basis, when the A890 is closed due to landslips.[13][14] At Stromeferry the A890 turns south; from here, the railway does not parallel any major roads, instead simply following the coast.

The next station on the line is Duncraig,[M] which was built as a private, single-platform halt to serve Duncraig Castle; it was not made available for the public until 1949, more than 50 years after opening.[15] Similarly to Glencarron, the station closed in 1965 but continued to be served unofficially, as drivers refused to acknowledge the station's closure;[16] however, unlike Glencarron, Duncraig eventually reopened officially, in 1976.[15] From here it is just over 1 mile (1.6 km) until the next station at Plockton;[N] this is the shortest distance between any two stations on the line.[2] Plockton station is actually located about 0.6 miles (1.0 km) south of the main part of the village itself, although it lies adjacent to both the Plockton High School and the Plockton Airstrip.

The penultimate station en route is Duirinish,[O] which is also a short distance away from Plockton; the station primarily serves the villages of Duirinish and Drumbuie. From here, the line runs in a generally southerly direction, although the exact heading varies significantly as the track closely follows the jagged coast. The railway leaves the coast of Loch Carron just before entering the village of Kyle of Lochalsh; it terminates at Kyle of Lochalsh station,[P] built on a pier right on the edge of Loch Alsh, just 750 metres (2,460 ft) away from the Isle of Skye which can be seen across the loch.


Two Class 158s passing each other at Garve station, one of the passing loops on the line.

The full line between Dingwall and Kyle of Lochalsh is 63 miles 64 chains (102.7 km).[2] It is almost entirely single-track, except for four double-track passing loops at Dingwall, Garve, Achnasheen and Strathcarron, and the two platforms and two sidings at Kyle of Lochalsh.[2] The entire line is unelectrified.[2]

The whole line, together with the Far North Line, is signalled using the Radio Electronic Token Block system, which is very cost-effective in both implementation and maintenance, but significantly limits the capacity of the lines.[17]

Along the route there are 29 bridges, 31 cuttings, and a single tunnel.


The route was built in two parts: the Dingwall and Skye Railway, between Dingwall and Stromeferry, opened on 19 August 1870,[18] while the Kyle of Lochalsh Extension (Highland Railway) took the line beyond Stromeferry to Kyle of Lochalsh on 2 November 1897.[19] Dingwall station itself had been open since 1862, as an intermediate station on the Inverness and Ross-shire Railway (part of the modern-day Far North Line).

The Strathpeffer Branch operated between 1885 and 1951.[20]

In 1933, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway introduced two named trains on the line, The Hebridean and The Lewisman.[21]

In July 1939 a landslide between Attadale and Stomeferry derailed an engine and six freight vans. The landslide was caused by recent heavy rains.[22]

In 1949 it was planned to relocate Lochluichart station to allow the flooding of the area by the Glascarnoch-Luichart-Torr Achilty hydroelectric scheme.[23] On 3 May 1954 a new station was opened as Lochluichart.[24] The deviation required about two miles (three kilometres) on stone-pitched embankments and in rock cuttings, a 100-foot (30 m) bridge over the River Conon and a 36-foot (11 m) bridge.[25]

In the 1960s the line was listed to be closed under the Reshaping of British Railways report; however it was reprieved and services continued.[26]

In 1970, British Rail wanted to close the line when Ross and Cromarty council voted to create a new £460,000 (equivalent to £7,600,000 in 2021)[27] ferry terminal at Ullapool (43 nmi or 80 km from Stornoway) replacing that at Kyle of Lochalsh (71 nmi or 131 km from Stornoway).[28] In December 1971 it was reported that the costs of operating the line were £318,000 per annum (equivalent to £4,780,000 in 2021),[27] with revenue of £51,000 per annum (equivalent to £770,000 in 2021),[27] and the Secretary of State for Transport agreed that the line should close,[29] but a spirited local campaign again succeeded in reversing this decision and keeping it open.

In February 1989 the bridge over the River Ness in Inverness was washed away, leaving both the Kyle line and the Far North Line stranded, but new Class 156 "Sprinter" trains were brought over by road, and a temporary yard was built to service them at Muir of Ord. The line reopened in May 1990.[30]


Attadale station is a request stop.

As of April 2022, the Monday−Saturday service pattern on the line consists of four trains per day running eastbound from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness (via Dingwall and the Far North Line), and four trains per day westbound from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. On Sundays there is just one train per day each way, increasing to two per day during the summer months.[31] ScotRail operates all services on the line[31] with its Class 158/7 "Express Sprinter" diesel multiple units.

All services call at every intermediate station en route,[31] although Lochluichart, Achanalt, Achnashellach, Attadale, Duncraig and Duirinish stations are request stops: passengers wishing to board the train at these stations must flag the train by raising their arm, while those wishing to alight must inform the on-board train supervisor to arrange for the train to stop. If there are no passengers wishing to get on or off the train at a request stop, it will pass through without stopping.[31]

Services between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh typically have a journey time of about 2 hours 40 minutes end-to-end.[31]

Passenger volumesEdit

Passenger volumes on the Kyle of Lochalsh line[32]
Entries and exits 2002-03 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
(Inverness) 721,358 822,928 873,011 915,840 975,570 1,043,712 1,070,924 1,127,718 1,180,160 1,213,382 1,282,445 1,303,662 1,306,556 1,259,496 1,238,770 1,243,338 1,214,648 231,894 753,228
(Beauly) 21,337 26,616 28,384 35,860 41,878 52,422 51,094 49,858 54,536 55,236 57,946 57,446 59,406 52,870 51,522 48,270 46,510 14,918 30,178
(Muir of Ord) 22,055 24,365 24,783 32,573 39,200 51,104 57,396 62,428 74,462 74,064 72,832 66,576 66,480 64,480 64,820 67,554 70,850 13,556 41,230
(Conon Bridge)[a] 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3,788 18,114 15,510 15,276 15,494 15,100 17,530 18,022 2,598 9,212
Dingwall 31,849 34,898 43,508 55,034 64,404 72,086 80,324 84,920 101,730 104,746 101,996 87,782 82,508 80,900 86,276 81,408 80,154 9,864 46,524
Garve 7,128 7,092 9,471 9,690 9,847 8,546 6,898 5,814 5,038 5,384 5,028 5,076 4,676 3,668 4,302 3,212 3,480 426 2,560
Lochluichart 302 171 306 267 440 218 392 324 442 400 612 482 608 532 632 180 198 24 130
Achanalt 186 192 198 173 208 230 202 200 162 164 228 482 312 424 434 394 326 26 342
Achnasheen 2,147 2,379 2,471 2,697 2,974 3,202 3,614 3,698 3,998 3,566 3,972 3,722 3,700 3,076 3,310 3,284 3,234 620 2,420
Achnashellach 664 691 593 540 655 646 778 738 1,084 1,054 976 800 1,078 878 870 820 836 130 650
Strathcarron 7,842 8,658 9,289 7,856 8,585 8,310 8,234 8,122 11,010 9,304 8,950 8,262 8,162 7,678 7,742 6,970 7,224 1,192 5,370
Attadale 216 325 398 439 469 472 478 526 968 658 998 784 820 938 1,170 1,322 1,228 62 764
Stromeferry 1,166 1,035 1,163 1,146 1,012 1,000 1,064 1,438 2,218 2,074 1,874 1,634 1,560 1,254 1,378 1,274 1,508 136 918
Duncraig 288 463 391 342 485 388 394 602 722 784 534 448 494 348 408 484 500 30 376
Plockton 7,960 8,934 7,992 8,295 8,605 9,230 10,716 11,186 13,038 12,886 13,876 12,826 11,574 9,998 10,592 11,482 11,616 1,784 9,476
Duirinish 519 601 608 841 801 742 620 808 702 804 970 1,048 1,064 930 918 856 878 156 554
Kyle of Lochalsh 41,243 44,263 44,770 46,749 48,290 52,672 60,164 60,528 66,272 66,828 67,278 64,256 65,706 62,704 65,182 60,606 57,786 7,858 40,702
  • Stations between Inverness and Dingwall are also included for reference, as all trains on the line also call there
  • Stations in italics are request stops
  • The statistics cover twelve-month periods that start in April


In the Scottish Government's National Transport Strategy, published in February 2020, it was stated that the line would not be electrified with overhead lines, but rather, an alternative to diesel traction will be used for the route.[33]

Kyle of Lochalsh line in film and booksEdit

The line near Duirinish station; the Isle of Skye can be seen in the background with a covering of snow.

The Kyle of Lochalsh line was featured in Eddie McConnell's lyrical documentary The Line to Skye (1973) with commentary by Scottish writer William McIlvanney, commissioned as part of Ross & Cromarty's campaign to keep the line open at a time when it was threatened with closure. The film follows the train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, describing the communities, landscape and wildlife along its route, while contrasting the frustration of motorists with the relaxation of the journey by rail.[34]

In Stephen Durrell's 1939 documentary West of Inverness, the importance of the Kyle of Lochalsh line to the crofters of the West Highlands is demonstrated through its role of transporting passengers, mail, parcels, food and livestock to and from their communities. The film shows the LMS steam locomotives that operated the line at this time.[35]

In the episode of Great Railway Journeys of the World "Confessions of a Trainspotter" (1980), Michael Palin travels from London to the Kyle of Lochalsh and returns with the railway station's sign.

Video 125 Ltd. produced a driver's eye view documentary of the line in 1987, when the service was still operated using loco-hauled trains, in this case motive power being provided by Class 37 no. 37262 named Dounreay after the nuclear power station. Narration was by Paul Coia.

Nicholas Whittaker travelled the line both ways during the summer of 1973, an experience he wrote about in his 1995 book Platform Souls.[36]

As with the other railway lines of the western Highlands (the West Highland Railway and the Callander and Oban Railway), John Thomas wrote a comprehensive and highly readable[according to whom?] history, The Skye Railway.


  1. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NH553586
    Mileage from Dingwall: 0 mi 0 ch (0 km)[2]
  2. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NH554590
    Mileage from Dingwall: 0 mi 19 ch (0.38 km)[2]
  3. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NH490597
  4. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NH395613
    Mileage from Dingwall: 11 mi 65 ch (19.0 km)[2]
  5. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NH322625
    Mileage from Dingwall: 17 mi 20 ch (27.8 km)[2]
  6. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NH260615
    Mileage from Dingwall: 21 mi 34 ch (34.5 km)[2]
  7. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NH164586
    Mileage from Dingwall: 27 mi 72 ch (44.9 km)[2]
  8. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NH063508
  9. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NH003485
    Mileage from Dingwall: 40 mi 34 ch (65.1 km)[2]
  10. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NG942421
    Mileage from Dingwall: 45 mi 74 ch (73.9 km)[2]
  11. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NG924391
    Mileage from Dingwall: 48 mi 22 ch (77.7 km)[2]
  12. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NG865346
    Mileage from Dingwall: 53 mi 15 ch (85.6 km)[2]
  13. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NG811331
    Mileage from Dingwall: 57 mi 09 ch (91.9 km)[2]
  14. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NG794329
    Mileage from Dingwall: 58 mi 22 ch (93.8 km)[2]
  15. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NG777315
    Mileage from Dingwall: 59 mi 58 ch (96.1 km)[2]
  16. ^ Ordnance Survey grid reference: NG762271
    Mileage from Dingwall: 63 mi 64 ch (102.7 km)[2]
  1. ^ Did not open until February 2013.


  1. ^ GB National Rail Timetable 2013-14, Tables 239 & 240 (Network Rail)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s TRACKatlas of Mainland Britain (3rd ed.). Platform 5. 2017. pp. 97–99. ISBN 978-1909431-26-3.
  3. ^ TRACKatlas of Mainland Britain (3rd ed.). Platform 5. 2017. pp. 99, 102–104. ISBN 978-1909431-26-3.
  4. ^ David Ross, The Highland Railway, Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, 2005, ISBN 0 7524 3479 9
  5. ^ John Thomas, Forgotten Railways: Scotland, David and Charles (Publishers) Limited, Newton Abbot, 1976, ISBN 0 7153 7185 1
  6. ^ Butt (1995), page 13
  7. ^ Garve and Ullapool Railway Act, 1890. Parliamentary Papers, ref: Local Act, 53 & 54 Victoria I, c. ccxxxiii. London. (1890)
  8. ^ "A Station To Be Moved". Dundee Courier. Scotland. 6 May 1949. Retrieved 15 November 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  9. ^ Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (June 1954). "Re-Siting of Lochluichart Station". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 100, no. 638. Westminster: Tothill Press. p. 432.
  10. ^ House of Commons Papers, Paper 75, Volume 72, page 87: Return of Private Bills and Provisional Orders relating to Scotland, 1888-97 (p.7). Printed 21 February 1898.
  11. ^ Thomas, J. (1991). The Skye Railway. revised by Farrington, J. David St John Thomas Publisher.
  12. ^ McConnel, D. (1997). Rails to Kyle of Lochalsh. The Oakwood Press.
  13. ^ "Strome ferry boat". Am Baile highland history and culture. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  14. ^ "Ferries set for introduction at Strome on Monday". Highland Council. Archived from the original on 14 April 2022. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  15. ^ a b Butt 1995, p. 85.
  16. ^ Wills, Dixe (8 April 2014). "Stop the train, I want to get off: The magic of Britain's railway request stations". The Independent. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  17. ^ The Register of Scottish Signal Boxes, F Alexander & E S Nicoll (1990).
  18. ^ "New Railway in the North". Morning Post. British Newspaper Archive. 20 August 1870. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  19. ^ "Railways in the Western Highlands. Opening of New Kyle Extension". Glasgow Herald. British Newspaper Archive. 3 November 1897. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  20. ^ H A Vallance, C R Clinker, Anthony J Lambert, The Highland Railway, David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1985, ISBN 0 946537 24 0
  21. ^ Allen, Cecil J. (1967). Titled Trains of Great Britain. Ian Allan Ltd. p. 95.
  22. ^ "Scots relive nightmare of holiday train disaster". Aberdeen Evening Express. Scotland. 27 December 1962. Retrieved 15 November 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  23. ^ "A Station To Be Moved". Dundee Courier. Scotland. 6 May 1949. Retrieved 15 November 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  24. ^ Butt, R. V. J. (October 1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199. OL 11956311M.
  25. ^ Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (June 1954). "Re-Siting of Lochluichart Station". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 100, no. 638. Westminster: Tothill Press. p. 432.
  26. ^ "Rail Cuts Reprieve". Aberdeen Press and Journal. Scotland. 18 December 1963. Retrieved 22 November 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  27. ^ a b c UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  28. ^ "Ross and Cromarty council vote. Ullapool is Ferry Terminal". Aberdeen Press and Journal. Scotland. 22 October 1970. Retrieved 25 November 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  29. ^ "British Railways Board. Public Notice. Transport Acts 1962-68. Passenger Services". Aberdeen Press and Journal. Scotland. 23 December 1971. Retrieved 25 November 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  30. ^ "The Friends of the Far North Line - Newsletter - January 2015". Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  31. ^ a b c d e ScotRail Train Times Archived 1 April 2022 at the Wayback Machine – ScotRail
  32. ^ "Estimates of station usage | ORR Data Portal". Archived from the original on 30 November 2020. Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  33. ^ Shirres, David. "Decarbonising Scotland's Railway". Rail Engineer. No. 190. pp. 46–53. Archived from the original on 9 March 2022. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  34. ^ "Scottish Screen Archive - Full record for 'LINE TO SKYE, the'". Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  35. ^ "Scottish Screen Archive - Full record for 'WEST OF INVERNESS'". Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  36. ^ Platform Souls. Nicholas Whittaker, Gollancz, 1995

Further readingEdit

  • Thomas, John (1977). The Skye Railway. David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-7383-8.
  • Kelly, Peter (September 1983). "Pearls beyond price". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. pp. 23–33. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  • Dunn, Pip (22 October – 4 November 1997). "The Skye survivor". RAIL. No. 316. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 40–41. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • Vallance, H.A. (November 1966). "The Northern Highland Lines Today: Part One – Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh". Railway Magazine. Vol. 112, no. 787. pp. 612–616.

External linksEdit