A Detailed Guide of 6 Harry Potter Filming Locations to Explore in Scotland

1 September 2021Rebecca Bradley

I’m a lucky person for living in such a beautiful country. Scotland is home to many beautiful places and scenery. And it’s also home to Hogwarts.

In the Harry Potter film series, various scenes were shot in Scotland. From the moment Harry falls out of the Ford Anglia and dangles over the Hogwarts Express (the scenery is the Glenfinnan Viaduct), to Hagrid’s Hut (in Glencoe), and even when the Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon flies Harry, Ron and Hermione to safety (Glen Etive). And so much more!

My first ever road trip around Scotland was to find the Harry Potter filming locations, and every year I continue to go back to them again and again. I just can’t help it. Scotland is a very beautiful place and it’s home. Most of the filming locations are in the Western Highlands of Scotland, with Glencoe being only a 2-hour drive from Glasgow.

No matter how many times I see these places, they always bring me so much happiness. I hope this little blog will inspire you to visit and enjoy Scotland!

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Best times to visit: All year
Best transport: Car to see viaduct up-close, train for the Harry Potter experience
Harry Potter scenes: Chamber of Secrets with the Ford Anglia, Prisoner of Azkaban when the dementors stop the train

Out of all the locations to visit, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is my favourite. There’s nothing like walking to the viaduct on a rainy day. The scenery around the viaduct is beautiful too. Mountains, trees, and you may even see Harry’s Patronus munching on the grass nearby.

I have visited the viaduct several times in person. I’ve also gone over it both in a ScotRail train and the Jacobite Express. Each experience has been amazing and different! But there is something more special when you go over on the Jacobite Express.

Making the most of it: If you can, go over the viaduct by train and visit in person. There is something so different about visiting in person. Walking up to the viaduct is beautiful. You get those silly little butterflies in your belly. Getting up close and walking to the viewpoint is also a brilliant experience. If you time it right, you may even see the Jacobite Express go by!

Loch Shiel, Glenfinnan

Best times to visit: All year
Best transport: Car (you can get a train too that stops at Glenfinnan Train Station)
Harry Potter scenes: All films but most notable of the Black Lake and Triwizard Tournament First and Second Tasks

If you are visiting the Glenfinnan Viaduct by car, you should visit Loch Shiel too. It’s across the road from the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. For the best views, there is a viewpoint behind the Visitor Centre. It will look out over Glenfinnan and give you beautiful photos. You can see Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument together.

I’m sure this is where the Hogwarts Castle should be. In the films, the castle is usually seen in the distance and Loch Shiel is the Black Lake.

The best way to see Loch Shiel is to go by car. There is a train that goes by Glenfinnan but the station is further up the road and the trains are not regular. So you would be waiting a long time between trains, but there’s so much more to do that I’m sure you can spend many hours here.

Making the most of it: Glenfinnan is a National Trust site and there are loads of other things you can do there! I wrote a blog post about visiting Glenfinnan and all the things you can do here.

Rannoch Moor

Best times to visit: All seasons but winter is my favourite
Best transport: Car or you can see the Moor on the West Highland Line train
Harry Potter scenes: Deathly Hallows Part 1, Half-Blood Prince

The Rannoch Moor is an impressive thing to look at. It’s referred to as one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe. It ticks all the boxes of a magical fantasy world. Forever looking like it’s cold and gloomy, it’s no wonder it was the scenery for the later Harry Potter films.

I’ve been lucky to see the Moor by car and by train. The best way to see the Moor is by train. The West Highland Line curves around the Rannoch Moor, visits Rannoch station, and you can look out for miles. 

Making the most of it: You can visit the Moor in person by heading to Rannoch Station. The trains are not frequent in the area, so you could be waiting hours on end for the next train to go by. There are walking and cycling routes in the area. If you are keen to get out and about to see the Moor, make sure to plan out your journey first. Visit Scotland has a good visitor guide!

You can also get to Rannoch Station by driving. I have done this before and it was one of my favourite adventures. I recommend! When we reached the station a herd of deer were grazing away with their babies and it was just lovely and magical to see.

You can also see some of the Rannoch Moor when you drive through Glencoe.

Glencoe

Best times to visit: All year
Best transport: Car
Harry Potter scenes: Prisoner of Azkaban (Hagrid’s Hut, Harry speaking to Lupin on the bridge), Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Glen Etive – camping), Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Loch Etive – scene with Ukrainian Ironbelly)

I don’t think my writing will do Glencoe any justice. Go visit it! It’s such a stunning place. Full of whimsical mountains, cheeky deer, stunning forest walks, and so much more. 

For Harry Potter fans, the Clachaig Inn is the location for Hagrid’s Hut from Prisoner of Azkaban onwards. Although that amazing hut and pumpkin patch are no longer there, it doesn’t matter. You can still picture in your mind where it was. From the lake where the dementors come to Sirius, when Lupin speaks to Harry on the bridge, and where Hermione smacks Malfoy on the face. The best way to find the exact location of Hagrid’s Hut is to look on Google Maps.

Some scenes were also filmed in Glen Etive. It’s a beautiful 12-mile stretch in Glencoe (it is sign-posted). Beautiful mountains surround you. The only thing to note is that the road is a single-lane and full of passing places. It requires a lot of attention and pulling in and out of spaces to let people pass. In the summer months, it gets very busy with campers and cars are parked frequently at the side of the road, and some even park in the passing places. The best way to take it in is to stop off at the side of the road (but not in the passing places) and go for a wander about. Once you reach the end of the road you will see Loch Etive – the Loch where Harry, Ron and Hermione jumped off the Ukrainian Ironbelly after breaking out of Gringotts. I like to think the dragon has made Glencoe home.

Making the most of it: I could stay for a whole day in Glencoe. There are so many places to pull in to park. Take all the walks in the area. Visit Glen Etive (you may see some deer). Head to the Kingshouse Hotel or the Clachaig Inn for food. Visit the Glencoe Visitor Centre and learn about the history of the area. There’s no need to rush through Glencoe. Every corner offers something beautiful. 

Steall Falls, Glen Nevis, Fort William

Best times to visit: Summer and autumn (I see the place as very weather-dependent. If it’s been raining in the summer prepare for the evil Scottish midges!)
Best transport: Car (no other forms of transport go into Glen Nevis)
Harry Potter scenes: Goblet of Fire First Task with the Hungarian Horntail, Half-Blood Prince with Quidditch try-outs

The Steall Falls waterfall is magical. It’s found within Glen Nevis. It is a very beautiful place to find yourself in, near Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in Scotland) and not too far from Fort William’s town centre. But it’s definitely the hardest to reach out of this list!

The condition of the road into Glen Nevis and Steall Falls can be an interesting one. There are some rogue sheep who like to sit by the side of the road or wander onto the road. It is their home so they get the right of way! It’s a road that needs all your attention. 

There is a car park at the end of the road called the Upper Falls Car Park. This gets very busy in the summer months. Even though campervans are asked to not park, you get the odd one taking up lots of space and even cars parked in the passing places. When I visited at 7pm at night in the summer, it was a bit busy but there was space to park. There is also the Lower Falls Car Park which is further down the road from the Upper Falls one. It means a bit more of a walk though.

No matter how many websites I visited to see the Steall Falls walk and what I was in for, it didn’t prepare me for it in the least. This is a tough and dangerous walk. People have sadly lost their lives here. It requires a little bit of a scramble over large rocks, where there are small streams of water running through which can make the rocks slippery. You are walking up the side of a gorge, so on the right-hand side is a huge drop with huge rocks. It’s a beautiful landscape, but my heart was in my mouth the whole time and I didn’t feel safe until I saw the waterfall around the corner, and until I got back in my car safely!

Some people have brought their children here, but I personally would not recommend any young people taking this route, nor anyone with mobility issues. I saw people flying by me, walking with ease over the rocks. I think you need to be experienced in some way to visit here, or at least to take your time and watch your footing.

You need the proper footwear for this. Although I have seen people walking in trainers and even Converse, I recommend a good pair of walking boots with good grip. I wish I had the attitude to take walks like this as thrills, but if you’re like me and not big on exercise and have never done any form of climbing, prepare yourself for this one if you’re thinking of going.

Making the most of it: Even though this walk scared me, it was beautiful. The views and the falls were absolutely stunning, something that made me smile wide and get little goosebumps when I saw it. I feel that if I went back to do it again, I’d be better, but I can honestly say I will not be going back! It’s just quite a bit of a shock if you haven’t seen it or done it before. Take your time, enjoy the view and be careful.

Loch Eilt

Best times to visit: All year
Best transport: Car and Train
Harry Potter scenes: Dumbledore’s grave, various shots of Hogwarts Express heading to Hogwarts, Hagrid skipping stones

Loch Eilt is best known for being the location of Dumbledore’s Grave when Voldemort breaks the tomb to take the Elder Wand. It can be easy to not find the right little island, as I missed it the first time! There are several of these islands on the A82 road, but the conductor of the Jacobite Express said it’s the island at the top of the loch. Google Maps has a marked location!

This stretch of road comes after Glenfinnan so you can visit both on the same journey. In the car, there aren’t many places to stop off but there are some parking bays.

The best way to see where Dumbledore’s Grave is to take the train. This can either be ScotRail’s West Highland Line or you can go full Wizarding World and take the Jacobite Express across. From the train window, you get up close with the mini islands in the middle of the loch and see lots of scenery too. And from a train, it makes you feel like you are on the Hogwarts Express and making your way to Hogwarts. 

Making the most of it: If you’re going by train, make sure you have a window seat for this part of the journey. Every little turn has something even more beautiful to look at. 

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