Tyndrum forms part of one of the major junctions in the Highlands. Here travellers must choose whether to head north to Glen Coe and Fort William: or west towards Oban. The name comes from the Gaelic Tigh an Druim, which translates as "the house on the ridge".
Today's village earns much of its living by providing goods, services and accommodation to passing travellers, mostly motorists heading up or down the busy A85 and A82 trunk roads. In doing so, Tyndrum is carrying on a long tradition. The village's origins date back to the days when droves of highland cattle from the north and west passed through en route to markets in central Scotland bringing lots of tired, hungry and thirsty drovers with them.
The village did benefit from local lead mining (and, briefly, a gold rush) but its core role as a way-station was re-established with the arrival of not one but two railways in the 1800s. One goes through Lower Tyndrum Station and links Glasgow with Oban.
Another goes through Upper Tyndrum Station, and heads out to Fort William and Mallaig. Tyndrum's allegedly unique claim to fame, certainly in the 1970s, was as the smallest settlement in Britain to be served not just by two railway stations, but by two railway lines as well.
Indeed, in the 1970s, Tyndrum seemed to have two of everything: two railway stations, two hotels, and two petrol stations. The passage of time has undermined the arithmetic. More hotels have been added, and one petrol station has disappeared.
The village has steadily become more developed over recent decades; but it remains very clearly focused on providing a range of services for passing traffic, whether road or rail borne (or by coach: the old Royal Hotel and its newer nearby companion now specialise in accommodating coach tours).
These days, another type of passing traffic has also arrived. The West Highland Way long distance footpath comes right through the village before heading north on the old military road towards Bridge of Orchy and Rannoch Moor.
Tyndrum is one of the main settlements on the route, and if you're heading north, the last of any significance for a long way. It also offers respite and accommodation to those following the route of the Coast to Coast Walk from Oban to St Andrews.
Other than the obvious transport links, hotels, and accommodation, Tyndrum can boast a Tourist Information Centre. This is next door to the Real Food Cafe that has been built over what used to be the village's second petrol station. Tyndrum's TIC now doubles as "Highland Trading", and sells a variety of goods and books as well as offering advice to tourists.
Tyndrum also offers the attractively eccentric Green Welly Stop which offers a wide range of items for sale, including green wellies, plus, at the west end of the village, the brightly coloured Mini-Market which was, it says, established in 1930.
This service-centred approach has always left Tyndrum with a functional feel, and its greatest fan would probably stop short of calling it pretty. But it has a certain character, and regular visitors to the Highlands will always see it as a milestone on the long road north, marking the end of the central highland glens and the start of the climb to Rannoch Moor and the sharper north-west highland scenery beyond.
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