Welcome to Schilthorn
The beautiful Schilthorn mountain, near Interlaken, is notable not only for its snowy peaks and craggy rock faces, but also for the fact that its one structure, the Piz Gloria, embodied Blofeld’s evil lair in the classic Bond outing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As a result, the entire mountain top experience is now James Bond themed, which offers a kitsch,1960s charm on top of the already astonishing views.
The way up to the top is by cable car. From Interlaken, take the train to Lauterbrunnen, then the connecting bus to Stechelberg, where passengers board the cable car up to the charming alpine village of Murren (where the stock car race was filmed for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)
The cars, or ‘gondolas’ run every half hour- the first part of the journey is gasp-inducingly steep, as the cable travels up the vertical rock face. It’s better to look back at the wonderful view of the valley below, particularly if vertigo is an issue. There is a change to a different cable car at Birg.
The cars approach the Schilthorn’s peak after half an hour, and passengers can see the expert skiers weaving below, speeding over the vertiginous drop from the summit like a bag of ballbearings. The views are spectacular as the cable car travels higher- ragged mountain peaks, meadow valleys and silver lakes drop away beneath.
The Schilthorn is not as high as the Jungfrau – 2970 m compared to the Jungfrau’s 3,471- and there are few concerns over altitude sickness below 3000m. At the summit, the cable car slides to a stop at the Piz Gloria, now a revolving restaurant, with a shop, a James Bond exhibition, a bar (which serves martinis, of course) and a couple of conference rooms- which would make it very hard to concentrate on sales figures, as dawn breaks over the Alps.
The styling is sleek mid-century, befitting the James Bond theming, and the self-service restaurant offers decent food, including a James Bond breakfast buffet. Good though this is, particularly when enjoyed by one of the slowly revolving panoramic windows, it’s uncertain how bacon and eggs relates to Bond, who surely preferred a bunk-up to a fry-up first thing.
The real draw of the Piz Gloria, once the 360* panorama of the revolving tower has palled, is the outside viewing area- from the front, the viewing terrace reveals the awe-inspiring crags of the Alpine triumvirate the Jungfrau, the Eiger and the Monch.
Above, the vast sky changes constantly, racing through scudding clouds to bright sunshine, and wreathing mist within minutes. From the back terrace area, the views are down the long valley towards the soft serenity of Lake Thun.
While the Jungfrau can be a challenge- even by train- the Schilthorn is a perfect mountain experience for everyone. Cable cars are fully accessible by wheelchair, there are no altitude problems, and a hardy constitution is unnecessary- whatever the weather, the view can be enjoyed from inside.
It’s also less expensive to reach the top of the Schilthorn. This is a wonderful trip to make in the morning, before the clouds roll in towards evening- and while the James Bond breakfast is still available.
On the way back, passengers can also stop off at the spectacular Trummelbach Falls on the way to Lauterbrunnen- an hour’s walk down is unforgettable as the melt water from the Alpine peaks crashes alongside.
At the top, it’s possible to spend an hour or two eating and enjoying the views- but don’t plan to spend a full day there, there is not enough to keep non-skiers occupied.
The journey takes 32 minutes and cars run regularly. If you’re taking the connecting bus, it’s worth checking timetables to avoid a half hour wait.
If mild vertigo is an issue, look back, rather than up- the views are wonderful. If severe, this journey is not recommended! The cable car journey is in two parts, and is paid separately. It’s much cheaper if you have a pass.