Best of 2021 (v2)

Glenelg Ferry

This category is for “other” transport – not airlines, in other words – and is category 2 in my annual awards. 

2021 was quite a good year. I took trains several times within Scotland, and once in Northern Ireland. I took trains in Portugal too. 

I managed a few ferry journeys, and I even used an inter-city bus service! I rented cars in Stornoway and Kirkwall. 

I am not one for long distance bus travel these days. I did plenty of it when I was young. I think my longest bus journey was from Casablanca to Madrid, with a break on the Ceuta to Algeciras ferry. That was Easter 1973.

Now I prefer the relative comfort of the train. But, in 2021 I took a Megabus service to and from Dundee. The service stops at the Halbeath Park and Ride close my home. It took around an hour. It was fine, but not an award winner.

Megabus Top Deck

My shortest ferry “voyage” was the Glenelg between Skye and the mainland. I know there is a bridge now, but the ferry is more interesting. The longest was between Skye and Raasay – 25 minutes each way. Then in between comes the one from Portaferry to Strangford (in Northern Ireland).

Strangford Lough Ferry

All three were fun.

In Portugal my train experiences were from Porto to Coimbra and then Coimbra to Lisbon. Both of them were excellent. They were comfortable, relaxing and on time. They were great value for money too, secured by booking in advance and being over 60.

Alfa Pendular 1st Class

By contrast, Northern Ireland Railways between Belfast and Portrush was a bit of an ordeal. To be fair, their passengers were the problem rather than the service itself.

Within Scotland I had a couple of longer distance train trips – one to Aberdeen and the other to Blair Atholl. Scotrail supplied the latter and LNER the former. Both were comfortable and on time, even if relaxation was diminished by occasional Covidiot passengers. 

Blair Atholl

The Blair Atholl journey – a day out to go hiking – will stick in my memory because it was the first time I had done such a thing after it was permitted again following our winter lockdown. 

I have chosen my Porto to Coimbra train journey as this year’s winner.

Alfa Pendular > Coimbra

It was my first time on a Portuguese long distance train, and I was super impressed with CP’s Alfa Pendular service.

São Bento Station, Porto

The journey started in Porto’s spectacular São Bento station just as a wee bonus.  

ⓒ iain taylor, 2021


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