I am a big Potterhead and I’ve read all seven books many many times over, devouring every single page. I also watch the movies and yearn to be part of that world. Each time I watched Harry Potter and his friends pull away on the Hogwarts Express on the silver screen, I wistfully looked on, wishing that I am on my way to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Hogwarts Express is real and it’s actually called the Jacobite Express! This iconic steam engine train runs a twice a day on the 84-mile stretch from Fort William to Mallaig.
You can choose to ride the train (while pretending you’re on your way to Hogwarts) or if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to find the perfect spot to take a photo of the train as it crosses the bridge. This iconic scene was featured in the second and third Harry Potter movie and forever ingrained in my mind. After Googling “Harry Potter Bridge” I found out that the scene was filmed at the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland.
Where to Go?
To get to the best viewing point, you can park at the small free car park right across from the Glenfinnan House Hotel. In case the lot is full, you can drive a little further to the Visitor’s Center. Once you’ve parked, follow the footpath along the beautiful stream until you reach the viaduct. The weathered bridge is massive up close, looming over the stunning Highland landscape. Continue on under the bridge until you reach a path leading to a gate. Passing through the gate, climb further up the hill where you’ll have the perfect vantage of the train coming in from Fort William. You’ll also see a few photographers there armed with cameras.
In the morning the train leaves Fort William at about 10:25, and it should get to the bridge between 10:45 and 10:51 am. Before you head out, make sure you double-check the train schedule because it changes from season to season. The walk from the free parking lot to the top of the hill takes about 10 minutes. Plan to arrive at Glenfinnan at least 20 minutes earlier to give yourself enough time to park your car, walk up to the viewpoint and stake out your spot. Don’t cut it too close because you don’t want to miss the train by minutes!
Even though it was raining, we stood around waiting patiently for the train. After about 30 minutes, we saw the plume of smoke over the far hill as the train approached the bridge. Seeing this iconic scene in person gave me chills and made me feel like I was a part of the Harry Potter world. We waved to the people in the train as it passed by leaving a cloud of white steam behind.
After you catch the train, make sure to visit St. Mary’s & St. Finnan Catholic Church on your way back into town. This beautiful church can be found a few hundred meters west of the Glenfinnan Monument on the south-side of the road.