West Highland Line: Famous Scottish trip changed my life, says Simon Reeve

SIMON Reeve has a great trick for getting his 11-year-old son excited to climb hills with him. He tells her that they are massive mountains.

For example, Dartmoor isn’t too far from where the TV presenter and travel enthusiast lives in Devon – home to High Willhays, “which is the highest mountain in the south of England”, explains Reave. “I mean, it’s a really, really big hill. But if you try to get your 11-year-olds up there, it gives them motivation and inspiration to push them up.”

It’s perhaps no surprise that days spent with Reeve – whose thirst for adventure has seen him explore the Americas, Australia and the Indian Ocean for the BBC, and write books such as Journeys To Impossible Places and Step By Step: My Life In Travels – involve taking some fresh air on foot.

“I’m a bit of a boring dad always trying to find us a walk to go and get these boots on,” admits Reeve, 49, who has 11-year-old Jake with his wife Anya. “And actually, as long as I don’t force him too much, he loves it. As long as we mix it up, then I’m reasonably good at encouraging – or bribing him! – to go for a walk.”

In all honesty, it mixes everything up. In fact, Reeve’s adventure wishlist this year is to explore cities and soak up some history too, using Britain’s rail network.

“One of my favorite train journeys is the West Highland Line.

It always gives me an absolute thrill,” he says. “Traveling from Glasgow to Oban or Fort William – it’s considered by many to be one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world, and I went there quite young, in fact.

“It was a pretty tough time in my life, and it was the journey that really helped me grow from a pretty depressed young boy to someone who saw adventure as a possibility in life.

“So it was a train journey that helped make me the human being I am today, nothing less.”

He says: “Britain has some really beautiful sites, amazing towns full of history, cafes and joy. There are places I want to go back to, places I haven’t been to,” he said. said Reeve. “I haven’t been to York since I was a nipper, really, and would love to go back. One of my goals now is to take my boy – I want him to see Britain too .

“One of the other places I can’t wait to go by train with my son is Lincoln Cathedral, one of the most beautiful buildings on planet Earth – it’s on our to-do list.

“When I was a child, taking the train, during these holidays ‘outside’, it was really a big problem”, he adds. “We didn’t go on exotic vacations abroad when I was a kid, I didn’t go abroad until I was an adult. So the train was a real passport to adventure.”

This explains his enthusiasm to join a new rail industry campaign in defense of rail travel in the UK. Launching on Earth Day (April 22), they are running a competition to find three ‘environmental directors’ – CEOs – who will each win £10,000 to explore the UK’s rail routes and ‘discover the green credentials of some of the best UK locations”. ‘. Entrants must submit a 60-second video from a recent trip (by midnight May 1), showing why they should win and their passion for sustainability.

A survey accompanying the campaign found that almost half (46%) of Britons are unaware that traveling by train is the most sustainable form of transport, compared to cars and planes. However, choosing to take the train over driving during the summer holidays could help people cut their carbon emissions by two-thirds.

“The train, aside from walking, is about as efficient as it gets for greener travel,” says Reeve, who will also be one of the judges responsible for choosing the winners. “The ‘CEOs’ are going to show us some of the best places in the country accessible by train and hopefully inspire us to follow in their footsteps. And we know that a large proportion of Britons are looking to spend more time in the UK this summer, which is great.”

His fearless career may have taken him to some of the most remote corners of the world, but as someone who grew up in London without a holiday abroad – and who left school with just one GCSE, already familiar with mental health issues – exploring the UK by train has a special place in Reeve’s heart.

Other favorites include the Lake District: “I was shooting a series there last year [The Lakes for BBC Two] and I would hop on and off from where I live in Devon by train. You can walk straight from Windermere station to one of the hills in the back called Orrest Head, and you get incredible panoramic views of some of the major fells of the Lake District – Old Man of Coniston, Scafell Pike – des wonderful views.”

He still has a thing for the beaches on the south coast of England: “Studland is one of my favourites, and I really like Brighton. I love this pilgrimage, if you’re a Londoner like me originally, when the sun comes up warm and you book your seat on the train to Brighton.”

“Trains are not only a means of transportation, they also give us an adventure during the trip. The view out the window is so interesting to me, I like that big panoramic window, the view it gives you of the landscape and gardens and people’s lives – I’m very nosy.

“If you’re on a highway, you often look at this kind of embankment on each side. Traveling on a train, you look at the countryside you pass through, the towns and villages and you see human life as it is lived” , he adds. “It’s a window into our existence and into some of our finest and most beautiful areas.”

For more information and to enter the competition to become one of the rail industry’s ‘Environmental Leaders’ by midnight on May 1, go to nationalrail.co.uk/CEO