Every so often Scotrail (the Scottish rail provider) have ticket giveaways where you can enter for the chance to win up to two off-peak day return tickets. Who doesn’t love a freebie? Since I’ve never been lucky enough to get tickets before since I was usually working when the competition went live, I was over the moon to find out we had managed to get some. We decided to go to Aviemore since neither of us had been before and we chose to go on a Monday thinking it would be quieter than the weekend.
We arrived at the station excited for Dylan to experience the train for the very first time. As we waited for the train Dylan jumped a couple of times when the trains would stop and start but he got used to it pretty quickly. We had no problems getting on the train and we purposefully went to the carriage with the wheelchair sign so that there would be more room. Dylan loved it! As we went whizzing by the greenery, Dylan was mesmerised. I relaxed thinking we can do this! Then the conductors changed shifts.
At the same time the conductors changed shifts an elderly woman with a zimmer got on the train so we were asked to move which we did despite there being another seat set aside for disabled access. The woman and her friend got on with a couple of luggage cases so it meant that all the disabled spaces were taken as they wanted their bags next to them. This left my husband standing and me sitting on a fold down seat next to the toilet with Dylan on my knee. As the new conductor went past for the ticket check he told us we would have to fold our pram as there was not enough space for people to get by. He was right about the space but when my husband pointed out that there would be space if there wasn’t so much luggage in the disabled and cycle space we were informed that wasn’t the problem. We advised the conductor who we shall call John, because that was his name, that the pram isn’t a stroller so doesn’t fold, it’s two separate pieces. He muttered something under his breath and I could feel the rage radiating from my husband. To try to defuse the situation I apologised to the conductor explaining this was our first time on the train with a pram and he walked off.
Thinking that was it he came back again to say the trolley would be coming through soon and we had to do something with the pram. So my husband took the pram apart and got it in as much as he could. No one was asked to move their cases and the elderly woman was not asked to fold up her zimmer. Since the cases were just set against the side, any time we would go round a corner they would fall over and my husband would have to pick them all up. My husband made the point that if we weren’t there to do that, they would be blocking the walkway much more than our pram was. The conductor walked past after we had taken the pram apart and we never even got an acknowledgement. I felt so uncomfortable and was actually shaking so we made the decision to get off at the next stop instead which was Pitlochry. Plus, since Dylan never had any windows to look out of anymore he was getting bored and starting to cry.
We pulled in to Pitlochry station and my husband carried off the pram in two parts while I wrestled with Dylan and the changing bag. As we built up the pram on the platform, John avoided looking at us. Maybe he finally realised how unreasonable he was??? We looked at how to get to the street and with no obvious signs we lifted the pram up and over a walkway along with three other families with prams (wonder if they were asked to fold their pram up?). It wasn’t until we were coming back we realised there was an accessible ramp hidden at the very end of the track. Signage advertising this would not have gone a miss. My nerves finally started to settle and I realised how hungry I was so went off in search of lunch.
Old Mill Inn
We have been to Pitlochry on countless occasions and know it quite well but had never been to the Old Mill for food so we decided to have lunch there. Luckily Dylan had nodded off so we had the novelty of both being able to eat with both of our hands! I ordered a cheese and ham toastie and my husband went for a club sandwich. The food was nice but I wouldn’t say it was worth the prices. Just under £20 for the both of them! The location is lovely though and we were lucky enough to get a seat with a view of the water mill. I guess that’s what you get for eating in a tourist hot spot! If I was going back again I probably wouldn’t eat here but would certainly go back for a drink. The entertainment they have on at the weekends is amazing! You need to be early if you want a seat though. If you are visiting, there is plenty of space for a pram and the staff are friendly.
After eating we took a stroll along the high street. Realising it was almost time for Dylan’s feed we headed in to Victoria’s. This is another place we have never been to which is surprising as it’s been there for as long as I can remember. We were shown to a table and the staff kindly removed some chairs to make space for the pram. We ordered some coffee and cake and I went to change Dylan. The toilets are quite small and the baby changing is directly in front of the door so if someone were to quickly open it you would most likely get slammed in the back. At least they have baby changing though and very clean. Whilst I was changing Dylan, my husband had asked a waiter for some cold water to cool Dylan’s bottle. We were provided with a jug of cold water and ice which was fantastic. As Dylan realised he was hungry he started to scream the place down. We never got any disapproving looks though and were not made to feel uncomfortable. We enjoyed our cakes as Dylan enjoyed his bottle. I had a malteaser slice and hubby had a carrot cake. They were both delicious! Having had a look at the menu and seeing other people’s food arrive (I can’t be the only one who looks at what everyone else in the restaurant is eating, right?) we will definitely be going here for a meal. Family friendly, helpful staff, good food and really reasonable prices. Disappointed we have never tried Victoria’s sooner!
Change of Plans
Our original plan was to get the train back just before 5pm and enjoy walking about Pitlochry since it was such a nice day but I was so worried about coming across our friend John again we decided to get the earlier train which unfortunately meant we only spent a couple of hours in Pitlochry. When we arrived back at Pitlochry train station it was pretty busy so we made the decision to dismantle the pram before boarding to avoid a repeat of our previous journey. It was standing room only on the train but thankfully a lovely woman offered her seat to Dylan and I. The conductor on this train couldn’t have been more helpful and made an announcement on the tannoy requesting that people give up their seats to those with young children as it’s stressful enough travelling with kids. Finally! Someone who gets it!! I think possibly the fact she was a woman explained her empathy. The poor woman had people complaining to her left, right and centre about the cramped conditions. She encouraged people to complain explaining that the staff had already raised it as a concern to Scotrail but nothing would be done until the customers complained.
Scotrail trains are not capable to accommodate the many passengers that wish to use them. Everyone is encouraged to use public transport but when that transport means you could be left standing holding a baby getting knocked from side to side, where’s the incentive? I am just so thankful my husband was there as if I had to try to dismantle the pram while holding Dylan I would have probably just burst in to tears! We were lucky that Dylan can hold his own head up so I could hold him one handed, if we were there with a newborn I’m not sure what the conductor would have expected us to do? Ideally more spaces for prams or even a carriage that is classed as family friendly would help those travelling with young children. Unfortunately our negative experience means that we will most likely not use the trains again until Dylan is a bit older.
Our day out was not what we had hoped for but we still managed to enjoy ourselves and we discovered a little gem in Victoria’s. Luckily the train tickets were free or I would have been more upset about the situation. We will definitely be back to visit Pitlochry, there is lots to see and do and I want Dylan to have the same fond memories of there as his dad and I do. We will just be taking the car next time.
If you would like more information about Pitlochry, please visit https://www.pitlochry.org/index.html
Important: The above views and thoughts are all my own and I was not asked to review any of the above.