Getting to see the real-life Hogwarts Express is a bucket list item in Scotland. And there’s no better place than from the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint to feel the magic like never before.
Remotely located in the Scottish Highlands, this well-known filming location isn’t easy to get to. But despite that, the popularity of the Glenfinnan Viaduct continues to grow with thousands of visitors each year.
However, even though it’s a popular spot, catching a glimpse of the train isn’t easy. In fact, the steam train only runs for around half the year, making no more than 4 crossings in both directions each day.
So considering each crossing of the viaduct takes only a couple of minutes, timing really is crucial!
Find out all the information you need to visit this magical location including train times, transport links, parking spots and other facilities. Plus, where to get the best view and best photos…
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What is the Glenfinnan Viaduct & Why is it Special?
This 30-metre-tall, concrete viaduct was built in the late 1800s. But it gained its modern-day popularity thanks to being a filming location in the Harry Potter films.
If you’re not one for regular Harry Potter marathons, you might have to cast your mind back a few years. Perhaps most iconic was when Harry and Ron were flying a magic car over the viaduct while trying to catch up with the Hogwarts Express.
Thanks to the cult-like following and success of the films, the ‘Harry Potter bridge’ grew in popularity as a tourist attraction. And still years later fans flock to the area to feel the magic for themselves and get a glimpse of the steam train powering across the tracks.
But the viaduct isn’t just a nice attraction. Trains continue to run across the tracks on top all year round offering fantastic views of the valley and over neighbouring Loch Shiel.
Where is the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
The viaduct is located in the hamlet of Glenfinnan, from which it gets its name. It is located 15 miles west of Fort William, the nearest large town, on the banks of Loch Shiel at the River Finnan.
For visitors coming from further afield, the viaduct is over 100 miles and 3 hours from Glasgow. And from Edinburgh, it’s a journey of 150 miles and 3.5 hours one-way.
Where is the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint?
The viaduct has a handful of good viewpoints but the best (and most popular) is located on the hillside near the northwestern tip. This viewpoint is accessible by following the path from the road and under the arches or by taking the trail from Glenfinnan station.
Making your way up the hillside along the Glenfinnan Viaduct trail is essential to get a good look at a passing train.
A good vantage point will mean seeing the train for longer as it crosses the whole viaduct as well as seeing the steam blow away in the wind. From below, your view will be pretty limited.
Where can I take pictures of Glenfinnan Viaduct?
The Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint is the best photo spot but it’s also the most popular. Meaning that it can be hard to keep people out of your photos, especially if you visit in the summer months.
The popularity of the viaduct combined with the train only passing twice per day in each direction means that at train times it can be very busy and hard to avoid the crowds. But, it’s popular for a reason – you get the best view here.
Alternatively, you can follow the trail towards the northeastern tip. This is less popular and is great for getting pictures of the train when it’s making its return journey.
And if you’re just wanting to get photos of the viaduct (and not the train), getting up close is a great option. Or, for a more unique angle continue on the path through the viaduct and keep going. Then look back and see the viaduct against the surrounding mountains.
How to get to Glenfinnan
The easiest and most convenient way to get to the Harry Potter viaduct is by road. This iconic structure is 15 miles from Fort William along the A830.
Fort William is a good early stop and is the perfect place to grab breakfast or lunch before your visit. Especially if you’re travelling from Inverness, the Cairngorms, Loch Lomond National Park, Glasgow or Edinburgh.
For those coming from the Isle of Skye, taking the ferry to Mallaig rather than the Skye Bridge (A87) over Loch Aish is the most direct option. From Mallaig, it’s just 30 minutes by road to the viaduct along the A830.
By Public Transport
Bus routes to Glenfinnan are limited. Currently, the only service that runs is between Fort William and Mallaig with Shiel Buses.
During the week, there are no more than 4 services throughout the day in each direction. And on Saturdays, there’s only one bus in each direction.
If you’re reliant on public transport to get to Glenfinnan Viaduct, I would recommend taking the train instead.
ScotRail trains from the direction of Fort William actually cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct before arriving at Glenfinnan Station. This can be a budget-friendly way to experience the viaduct and also gets you there if you don’t have a car.
From Fort William, the train takes 30 minutes to arrive at Glenfinnan. Trains run 4 times a day in each direction on the Mallaig to Fort William route.
However, you can actually get the train from much further afield.
Direct trains run between Glasgow Queen Street and Glenfinnan 3 times a day in each direction. However, the journey time is 4.5 hours – each way!
Nevertheless, it is one of the most scenic train journeys in the country. The route takes you through Loch Lomond National Park then crosses some of the most remote parts of the highlands before reaching Fort William and Glenfinnan.
With a tour
Many non-Scottish Brits visit the country every year, but usually as part of a Scotland road trip with their own car or campervan.
However for those from abroad – or travelling without a vehicle – a tour is a great way to cover large distances and visit multiple attractions in a short amount of time.
In Glasgow and Edinburgh, it won’t be hard to find a tour to Glenfinnan. It is one of the country’s most visited attractions, after all.
You’ll find plenty of tours offering a selection of stops. One-day tours from the big cities are most popular, often visiting Glencoe too.
But for those wanting to see even more of Scotland, there are great multi-day tour options. Like this 2-day tour from Edinburgh that includes a ride on the steam train passing over the Harry Potter bridge.
Or, there’s a popular 3-day tour to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh, riding the steam train back from Mallaig to Fort William on the last day.
Outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh, it might be harder to find a tour. In this case, it’s best to contact agencies in these towns directly or look online.
Car Parking at Glenfinnan Viaduct
The viaduct has 2 car parks but in busy periods it can still be difficult to find a space. If you’re coming to get a glimpse of the steam train, make sure you arrive in plenty of time. Especially since it’s a 20-minute walk from the car park to the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint.
The first car park is at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. It is owned by the National Trust so is free for members but £3.50 per vehicle for everyone else (all-day parking, no hourly rates).
Second, you can park at the community-owned Glenfinnan Car Park, located about 50 metres further along the road. Parking charges apply to everyone here – £3.50 per car and £6 per campervan or minibus for all day.
Payment by cash or card is accepted at both car parks. But do note, no overnight parking is allowed.
Alternatively, limited parking is available at Glenfinnan Station and on the surrounding roads.
Facilities at and Around the Viaduct
In light of its remote location, there are limited facilities near the viaduct despite its popularity and high visitor numbers.
Importantly, there are no facilities at the viaduct itself. The Visitor Centre – where all facilities are located – is located by the road and is a 20-minute walk from the viaduct.
At the Viaduct Visitor Centre, you’ll find toilets (free of charge), a gift shop and a small café. The café does not accept cash, only card and contactless payments.
There’s also a free water station where you can refill your bottles.
However, these are the only facilities in the town. The café has a very limited (and pricey) menu, so if you have dietary requirements or are travelling on a budget, it’s best to bring your own meals and snacks.
How to Reach the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint
There are 2 great viewpoints of the viaduct. One on the northwestern side and one on the northeastern side.
The northwestern side (left as you look from the road) is best if you’re hoping to catch the train as it runs from Fort William to Mallaig (outward journey). This is the spot located on the trail between the viaduct and Glenfinnan Station. There’s more on this spot in the section just below.
Alternatively, the northeastern side (right as you look from the road) is better for catching the return journey from Mallaig. The best spot is a little off the path, especially if you want to catch the curve of the tracks and train in your photos. See the location on Google Maps here.
To reach this viewpoint, follow the path from the car park and visitor centre towards the viaduct. Just before you pass through the arches turn right and then turn left under the viaduct. Head uphill and find your spot.
Where is the best view of Glenfinnan viaduct?
You’ll get the all-around best view of the viaduct and any passing train from the viewpoint on the northwestern edge. It is located on the Glenfinnan Viaduct trail and the exact location is shown here on Google Maps.
This viewpoint is located about a 4-minute walk from the main path that runs from the road to the viaduct. Turn off the main path just before you pass under the arches, following the signpost for the viewpoint.
Alternatively, you can reach this point by starting the trail at Glenfinnan Station.
Is It Free to Visit the Harry Potter Viaduct?
Yes, it’s completely free to visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Unfortunately though, it does cost to park there as well as ride the train over if you choose to do so.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Walk: Route Options
With its beautiful countryside location, there’s no shortage of walks around the Glenfinnan area.
One option is to walk down to the shores of Loch Shiel. Another is to savour the surroundings on the 3-mile route to Corryhully Bothy, heading away from the loch and viaduct.
But the most popular routes go via the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint to give you the best views. Details on circular and straight, there-and-back walks around the viaduct can be found below.
Can you walk over Glenfinnan Viaduct?
No – it’s an active train line, so please don’t try as it’s extremely dangerous. Trespassing on the railway is a serious offence in the UK and you can be fined up to £1000 and have to appear in court.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Circular Walk
Distance: 2.2 miles/3.5 kilometres
Walking time: 1 hour
Start and endpoint: Glenfinnan Viaduct Car Park
This circular route takes you along the full length of the Glenfinnan Viaduct trail, via the best viewpoints of the train track and Loch Shiel.
As a circular Glenfinnan Viaduct walk, you can start at the station or either of the car parks. And, it can be walked both clockwise and anti-clockwise.
The route is easy to follow and there are signposts throughout.
Click the link above to download the file for use in a GPS viewer. This way you’ll be able to track where you are on the route using your phone’s GPS – avoiding accidental detours and providing reassurance for less experienced countryside walkers! Once you’ve downloaded the GPX file above, install a GPX viewer app (Google PlayStore or iPhone App Store) and load the GPX file.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Out-and-Back Walk
Distance: 1.7 miles/2.8 kilometres
Walking time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Start and endpoint: Glenfinnan Viaduct Car Park
This short walk takes you to the best viewpoints and photo spots around the viaduct.
Heading out from the car park, you’ll climb up the Glenfinnan Viewpoint, walk under the arches and cross the small bridge that provides a great photo opportunity.
The three spikes in different directions at the viaduct can be completed in any order. And to extend the walk, head further inland past the viaduct along the path.
How to See the Glenfinnan Viaduct Train
Trains run across the viaduct almost every day of the year. But, the steam train only runs from April to October.
However, the trains do not run very frequently. Even on the busiest day, only 6 services will run in each direction, for a total of 12 viaduct crossings (for both train types).
The Two Trains (And Only One Looks Like the Hogwarts Express)
The ScotRail service between Mallaig and Fort William or Glasgow runs 4 times a day in each direction across the viaduct. These trains are nothing special to look at and definitely don’t produce huge plumes of steam.
They also look absolutely nothing like the Hogwarts Express! In fact, I don’t think you could conjure up an image of a more muggle train if you tried.
The Jacobite Steam Train, operated by West Coast Railways, is the one that everyone is hoping to see. The train has an all-black engine car that pulls several passenger carriages.
It’s the kind of train you’d expect to see in a period drama from the early 1900s and bears a large resemblance to the Hogwarts Express.
However, it’s important to remember that it is not the Hogwarts Express. That is safely stored at the Harry Potter Studios, just outside of London, where it’s currently on display.
Do normal trains go over Glenfinnan Viaduct?
Yes, the ScotRail services that pass through Glenfinnan are ‘normal’ looking trains. They’re generally only a few carriages long and give off strong modern but not too modern vibes.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Train Times
ScotRail services (ie not the Hogwarts Express) run across the viaduct at the following times:
|From Fort William (crossing east to west)
|From Mallaig (crossing west to east)
|9.00 am (Not on Sundays)
|6.54 am (Not on Sundays)
The Jacobite Steam Train (ie the Hogwarts Express-like train) runs across the viaduct at the following times:
|From Fort William (crossing east to west)
|From Mallaig (west to east; Sunday to Friday)
|From Mallaig (west to east; Saturdays)
For 2023, the morning steam train services run from Monday 3rd April to Friday 27th October. While the afternoon service starts on Monday 1st May and runs until Friday 29th September.
Remember that times are subject to change and not all services may run. Check train timetables beforehand.
Riding The Train over the Harry Potter Viaduct
For Potterheads and railway enthusiasts, there’s not much more of a bucket list day out than riding on the Jacobite Steam Train over the Harry Potter bridge.
The steam train runs from Fort William to Mallaig and back every day from April to October offering scenic views and luxury service.
Sit on the left side (in the direction of travel) on the way to Mallaig and on the right side on the way back for the best views over the viaduct and loch.
But remember, if you ride on the train, you won’t be able to stop to see the viaduct from the ground. While sometimes the train stops at Glenfinnan, this is only for a short break. You won’t have time to walk to the viewpoint.
Tickets can be booked directly with the company that operates the Jacobite. Alternatively, you can book a ride as part of a tour across Scotland. Such as this one-day quick-stop tour and three-day multi-stop tour from Edinburgh.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Train Prices (Jacobite Steam Train)
Prices for the Jacobite start at £57 return for adults. Importantly, only return fares are available and one-way journeys are not possible.
For 2023, the Glenfinnan Viaduct train prices are:
- £57 adult return
- £33 child return (16 or under)
First Class (2-person minimum for booking)
- £89 adult return
- £63 child return
- £199 for a private table for 2 (cost for 2 people)
- £385 for up to 6 people (cost per compartment)
In addition, there’s a £3.75 booking fee. Tickets can be booked through the official Jacobite Steam Train website.
Note, these are the prices for the Harry Potter train when booked directly. If booking through an agency or third-party website, prices will likely be higher.
Can I fly My Drone at Glenfinnan Viaduct?
No, drones are now banned at Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is entirely located on private land.
Until recently, you could fly your drone at the viaduct in exchange for paying £10 to the land owner. However, with the ever-growing popularity of the site and an increasing number of drone pilots flying over residential property and too close to buildings, drones are now banned.
This is clearly marked on signs around the property. Apparently, a £1200 fee applies to get a licence from the estate to fly there.
Are Dogs Allowed at Glenfinnan Viaduct?
Yes, dogs are allowed. But remember, it can get very busy here, especially around the time the train passes. So make sure you keep a close eye on your dog and ideally on a lead around crowds.
Are there toilets at Glenfinnan Viaduct?
Toilets are located at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre, which is a 20-minute walk from the viaduct itself. The toilets are free to use.
Where can you see Glenfinnan Viaduct from the road?
In all honestly, it’s very difficult to see the viaduct from the road. As it’s only 30 metres high and about 0.5 miles back from the road, you don’t get much sight of it over the trees.
The only two places you can see the viaduct from the road are at the entrance to the visitor centre and at the entrance to the community car park.
You’ll get a much better view by walking to the viaduct and heading uphill to the viewpoints.
Is it worth visiting Glenfinnan viaduct?
Absolutely. And you don’t have to be a fan of Harry Potter to enjoy it. A scenic walk in beautiful surroundings and the chance to see a quintessentially British steam train power along the tracks – the Glenfinnan Viaduct is well worth visiting.
The viaduct itself is striking and sits among some of the best natural beauty in Scotland. You overlook Loch Shiel and look up to the nearby mountains.
In the winter months, there’ll be snow on the peaks. In spring and autumn, the colours are vibrant. While summer gives you the best chance for blue skies.
It’s worth making a detour to visit this Harry Potter bridge.
If you have any questions or want any more information drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
Prices and offerings mentioned are correct as of March 2023 but are subject to change in future.
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