The Iconic Harry Potter Bridge – An Adventure to the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland
The Glenfinnan Viaduct becomes more and more popular in Scotland with thousands of visitors from all over the world every year. The viaduct is a must-have-visit for any Harry Potter fan.
I visited the viaduct back in 2019 for the first time on a day trip from Glasgow to Glenfinnan. I also (without planning) got to see the Jacobite Express (a.k.a. the Hogwarts Express!) going over the viaduct, surrounded by hundreds of Harry Potter fans from all over the world!
I never planned to see the steam train going over the viaduct, it was complete luck. But there are ways to plan out your visit to make sure that iconic scene from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets comes to life for you. The Ford Anglia isn’t there with Harry holding on for dear life. But the scene comes alive before your eyes, no flying car needed!
You can see the viaduct in person or travel over it on a train
There are several ways to enjoy Glenfinnan Viaduct – travelling over on a train or visiting in person. If you have the time and chance to visit, I recommend doing both for the whole experience. I first went over the viaduct in 2018 when my fiancé and I were on the West Highland Line train going to Fort William. The train travels from Glasgow Queen Street station and goes all the way to Mallaig. Mallaig is a little fishing port in the north-west of Scotland. We were going to get off at Glenfinnan station on the way to Mallaig to go see the viaduct in person, but the train timetable is not regular and we would have been waiting up to four hours between trains. We made the promise to drive up to Glenfinnan at some point to see the viaduct in person ourselves. And we’re so glad we did!
So one morning when we were off work, we set out in the car to get to Glenfinnan and to see the viaduct up close. We also planned on enjoying the drive up there as it is a beautiful drive. The A82 road is one of the most scenic road journeys in Scotland with sights such as Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Glencoe, and Fort William. And if you want to continue after Glenfinnan, the road goes to Inverness! You can also take the A9 route. It will take you past rural Stirling through to Crianlarich if you are travelling from the central belt. Both journeys are beautiful but I prefer the A82 route.
Our journey from Glasgow to Glenfinnan was around three hours but it did not feel like that. There’s always something beautiful to see on this journey. You’ll add to your time with the number of times you park in a bay to get out and explore something that catches your eye. I know we did. If you’re feeling hungry on your way, there are places for you to stop off to eat like Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy Hotel, Glencoe’s Clachaig Inn and Fort William. There are no services on the A82 road, but on the A9 you will always see road signs for services where you can find places to eat and use facilities. There are places on the A82 to stop-off to stretch your legs and to use facilities too but they are not as frequent.
A new car park has been created near the viaduct to allow more people to visit the location and to park safely
After the temptation of always stopping on our way up, we finally got to Glenfinnan at around 2.00 pm. It was very busy. It is a very popular place! We were visiting in the summer which seems to be the most popular time. Although, the viaduct sees its fair share of footfall in other seasons. There is car parking at the National Trust site for the Glenfinnan Monument and Visitor Centre. This car park has a charge of a couple of pounds or it is free for National Trust members. This car park was full for us and there was a queue of people waiting to get in. We decided to go a little further into Glenfinnan as we didn’t mind having to walk a bit to get to the viaduct. We caught a glimpse of a sign to a nearby hotel that said free parking for anyone. So we headed there and managed to find a space. If the car park is full, consider having a little look around and avoid parking on the verges.
(Edit April 2021 – a new car park has been created beside the National Trust site for cars and coaches. It is a larger space with room for more vehicles to enjoy the viaduct).
I’m not the best when it comes to crowds of people so I did have a bit of a panic moment but managed to stop myself. I wasn’t going to let that ruin my day! We went down to the Glenfinnan Monument first which sits next to Loch Shiel. Loch Shiel also features in Harry Potter in many background scenes such as the Black Lake and the second trial of the Triwizard Tournament. The Monument is also worth a see. It commemorates the Jacobite clansmen of Scotland who gave their lives in support of Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. Glenfinnan is full of Jacobite history as the rebellion began at Glenfinnan in 1745.
Loch Shield – seen in many Harry Potter scenes!
You may even see the Jacobite Express (a.k.a. Hogwarts Express!) go over the viaduct
After a wander around the little gift shop where Harry Potter merchandise is in full swing, we started our walk to the viaduct. You can visit the viewpoint that’s behind the visitor centre. This viewpoint gives you a beautiful view of Loch Shiel itself and of the viaduct. There’s another viewpoint that is up a hill next to the viaduct itself. This is where most people go to watch the Jacobite Express go by.
Our day was very overcast and warm, but it was perfect. We’ve also visited when it was raining and it was also perfect. No matter the weather, it’s beautiful. As we walked up to the viewpoint we saw a lot of people – a lot! Over a hundred people were sitting on the grassy hill. Some dressed in their Hogwarts House colours! So we decided to join them to enjoy the beautiful scene in front of us. We did start to ask ourselves – ‘why are there so many people here?’ And then we heard it. A little whistle. And then around the corner, the Jacobite Express appeared! The Hogwarts Express was coming!
We never timed it. It never even crossed our minds to go and see the Jacobite Express when we were at the viaduct, but there it was. The train came around the corner and started making its way across the viaduct. The Wizarding World was here – in Scotland! The people on the train were waving at us and kids were jumping up and down in excitement. It’s such a special moment.
We were a bit overjoyed at seeing the Jacobite Express going over the viaduct – we did not plan it! For us, the train went over the viaduct at 2:15 pm. You can check the Jacobite Train Timetable to work out the timings if you are hoping to see the train go over the viaduct. The train runs between April and October for the morning service and May to September for the afternoon service.
Most of the people started to leave when the train passed by but we stayed a little longer and we’re so glad we did. Because an hour later at 3:20 pm the second Jacobite Express came over the viaduct! So we got to see the magic twice! The second train was the morning service coming back from Mallaig. The first train was the afternoon service travelling to Mallaig.
Going to the Glenfinnan Viaduct should be on everyone’s Scotland bucket list. It’s for everyone and not only for Harry Potter fans (although that magic is too good!) It is one of our favourite day trips and we’ve been back another time since this trip, and I’m sure we’ll go back many more times.