Keith and Dufftown Railway: A Nostalgic Journey through Speyside
The Keith and Dufftown Railway takes you on a memorable journey through time. Leave behind the modern world, as you step into the old ticket office and onto the classic train carriage, for a one-hour trip through scenic Speyside.
I stood outside the entrance to the station thinking that my ensemble suddenly didn’t match my surroundings. An old-fashioned dress suit would’ve fitted the occasion nicely, with a vintage travel trunk and battered suitcase to boot. You see, Nikon cameras and Nike trainers just weren’t a thing back then. Dufftown Station opened in 1863, and it doesn’t appear to have changed all that much.
This was my first visit to Scotland’s Speyside region, and while I was more than aware of the area’s whisky stardom, I had never heard of the Keith and Dufftown Railway. When planning the itinerary for my Stagecoach ‘Whisky Trail’ adventure, the railway soon shot to the top of my list. My love of public transport and all things retro gave me a wee inkling that my afternoon would be nothing short of perfect.
History of the Keith and Dufftown Railway.
The line between Keith and Dufftown was first opened in February 1862, linking to other lines which served routes within Moray, and to Aberdeen and Inverness. The use of passenger trains started to see a decline in the late 1950s however, so the Keith and Dufftown Railway was mainly used to transport grain to Dufftown’s distilleries thereafter; a very important job if you ask me!
The route was later in use for a tourist train which offered leisure trips between Aberdeen and Dufftown during the summer, however this came to a halt in 1991. It was two years later that the Keith and Dufftown Railway Association was established by a team of dedicated individuals, who channel their time into the restoration and maintenance of the line.
The team also operate every aspect of the visitor experience, from manning the ticket office, and checking tickets on board, to driving the train itself. Every single member of the team does this on a voluntary basis, with many of them travelling a considerable distance at their own expense. Isn’t that amazing?
Keith and Dufftown Railway Today.
The railway has now been operating between Dufftown and Keith for leisure-loving tourists and railway enthusiasts since August 2001. The carriages used today are from 1959/1960, and thanks to the volunteers, they are looking mighty-fine for their age. Dufftown Station also has a wee Railway Museum, which is filled with memorabilia, artefacts and snippets about the railway.
As well as the frequent standard service, there are several special events throughout the year, including the Autumn Whisky Festival, Ghost Train and Santa Specials. The Keith and Dufftown Railway Association would love to operate the service by steam, however this presents many challenges and costs. Maybe one day!
A Perfect Afternoon.
Mike, our Train Driver for the afternoon, opened the carriage doors to commence boarding, and was followed intently by his wee four-legged friend, Peggy. I rummaged my pockets for the tiny ticket I was given in the nostalgic booking office just minutes before, and soon spotted it lying on the platform at my feet. WOOPS. Once on board, I perched by the window on the retro patterned seat, and felt like I had completely escaped the modern world.
Our Train Guard, Laurie, was easy to spot. He wandered through the carriages in a vintage uniform, providing commentary about the surroundings, and stopping to chat about the line itself. Ever the blether and curious lass that I am, this personal touch was exactly what I was after.
We chugged over the River Fiddich, and past the man-made Loch Park, on our slow ride through rural Speyside. The gentle rocking of the train was so relaxing, I very nearly nodded off. The scenery was just too pretty miss however, and luckily it wasn’t long before we arrived in Keith.
Things to Do in Keith.
Strathisla Distillery is located between the train station and the centre of town. Dating back to 1786, it’s the oldest distillery in the area, and the oldest operating distillery in the whole of the highlands. I didn’t have time to do the tour, however I stopped by to see the distillery and have a look at the gift shop.
- Monday – Sunday 9.30am – 6pm from late Spring until 9th November 2018
- The Traditional Distillery Tour is £15 and lasts 1 hour and 15 minutes
- For more information visit the Malt Whisky Distilleries website
Square Roots is a cute wee café which looks out onto Reidhaven Square. The local owners Jemma and Russell are both keen foodies from a farming background, and the café focuses on local produce and homemade sweet treats. Sadly, I had already eaten lunch, so opted for a slice of Rolo Cake with my tea. It was delicious.
- Square Roots serves breakfast and lunch Tues – Sun, plus dinner on select evenings.
- For more information and the menu, visit the Square Roots website
Return to Dufftown.
The sun continued to shine for the one-hour return journey to Dufftown. I saw sunbathing coos taking full advantage, and loved seeing pigs, donkey and sheep roam the land along the route.
I joined Train Driver Mike and Manuela at the front of the train; the best seat in the house to admire the bonnie vistas. I chatted to Mike about his experience as a driver, and he talked me through the manual mechanics of the train. We agreed that while modern trains have the luxury of advanced technology and digital displays, the traditional engineering of old trains has served them well. After all, trains back then were built to last.
Mischievous Mike then called upon my assistance, and asked me to pull down on a lever for him. It was of course the horn – much to his amusement! Having a wee blether with Laurie, Manuela and Mike really made the experience; as if it wasn’t already special enough. Keith and Dufftown Railway preserves a specific point in time, giving visitors a delightful wee escape from the modern world and all its distractions. For that, I was very grateful.
Things to Do in Dufftown.
Dufftown was my base for the trip, and I highly recommend; a visit to Glenfiddich Distillery, dinner and drams at Seven Stills, and a top-notch glamping stay at Hillside Havens.
- Check out my separate post with full suggestions for 7 Things to Do in Dufftown.
Keith and Dufftown Railway – the Practical Stuff.
- For the full timetable visit the Keith and Dufftown Railway website
- A return ticket is £11 per adult and £7 per child
- Dufftown Station is located about a mile outside Dufftown town centre, past Glenfiddich Distillery
Getting to Dufftown.
I travelled to Dufftown on the Stagecoach ‘Whisky Trail’ Service 36 from Elgin, which connects with the Stagecoach Service 10 between Aberdeen and Inverness. Check out ‘My Stagecoach Whisky Trail Adventure‘ for the full story.
Do you have a favourite rail experience?
My trip to Speyside was sponsored by Stagecoach, to experience their ‘Whisky Trail’ route. As always, all content, opinions & chaotic behaviour are my own.