By Cathy Anderson
Eye spy with my little eye, an adventure beginning with Bond. James Bond.
Taking a vacation away from yourself and stepping into the shoes of the world’s most famous secret agent is a matter of getting on the right track: literally.
After 50 years of Bond films, Britain’s super spy returned to his Scottish roots in 2012’s epic film, Skyfall.
Aside from a small jaunt to Shanghai, Istanbul and the abandoned, mostly CGI-generated Dead City island off Macau, the majority of the action takes place in London, with a blistering finale on the moors of Glencoe, Scotland (actually on property west of London, but let’s suspend reality here).
The vehicle for your espionage escapade is the Skyfall train, a rig completely drenched in the film’s gun-toting livery, which makes the journey from London to Edinburgh in style.
DISCOVER, ON FOOT
But before you get carriage away, your first objective is a reconnaissance mission in London, the home of Bond’s employer, spy agency MI6.
England’s capital has been used for many Bond films, but Skyfall has the lion’s share.
The best way to see the sites is by foot. Walking tours, such as those run by britmovietours.com, cover a lot of ground in a few hours.
On a trek from the whitewashed government zone of Whitehall along the Thames to Vauxhall, my tour guide Russell shows us facades used for MI6’s cover company Universal Imports, J.M.W Turner’s famous painting The Fighting Temeraire in the National Gallery, where Daniel Craig’s Bond meets the Gen-Y Q (Ben Whishaw) in Skyfall, the junction of Parliament St and Whitehall where Craig ran to save M from Javier Bardem’s character Silva, the stretch of the River Thames where Pierce Brosnan chased baddies in a boat for The World is Not Enough and even the lamp-post Aussie Bond George Lazenby posed by for a cheesy promo pic in 1969.
The final stop is the MI6 building, which is adjacent to Vauxhall bridge, the top part of which ‘‘explodes’’ in Skyfall.
This actually houses the spy agency — so much for secrecy — although its cameras and barbed wire is a slight giveaway.
An Aston Martin DB5 with an eject button in the gear stick can be hard to come by. But if you’re happy in the passenger seat, get a ticket for the new Skyfall train.
Launched to coincide with the film’s DVD release —and departing from platform 007 — this East Coast train travels from Kings Cross to Edinburgh, as well as to Leeds.
In keeping with the standard of service Bond would expect, there’s a first-class carriage with silver service dining, free wi-fi, extra legroom and complimentary alcohol. Just don’t order red wine with the fish — Sean Connery simply wouldn’t approve.
To arrive stirred for adventure, but not shaken, take the Flying Scotsman route, the fastest trip that covers the 530km journey in four hours, with only one stop at Newcastle.
Ticket prices vary greatly, but the cheapest first class is $70 if you book three months in advance. Aussie travellers can get good deals using a BritRail pass.
Daily departure times vary, so check the website (www.eastcoast.co.uk) or Twitter feed: @eastcoastuk.
LICENSED TO KILT
Get your kilt on as you pull in to Edinburgh’s central station, Waverly, and look up as you exit. Looming over the tracks is the historic five- star Balmoral Hotel, its interior peppered with prints of original Bond, Sean Connery.
It’s a great introduction to Scotland’s capital, a city built on ancient volcanoes and brimming with grandeur and romance.
A visit here is incomplete without a trip to its fortress, Edinburgh Castle. For just $20 you can marvel at the country’s crown jewels, inspect the great guns of its military garrison, and pretend to be a noble guest in the ceremonial Great Hall.
The castle is at the top end of the Royal Mile, a street leading downhill to Holyrood Palace and jammed with souvenir shops. Once you reach the palace, take a challenging but worthwhile hike up to Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park for outstanding views.
In Skyfall, M and Bond bypass Edinburgh on their way to his childhood home, stopping off on the A82 motorway to admire the view at Glencoe. If you have more time, it’s only a few hours northwest to see the gorgeous peaks of Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag.
Original article appeared in mX newspaper