When you travel by train, it is all about the journey…
…and a trip aboard the Jacobite Steam Train was one that I had long imagined. Travelling back in time as the train chug chug away with picture perfect scenery of mountainside and lush green trees covered landscape. A grand masterpiece of art from one moment to the next. Along with the wet steam, speck of grit emanating from the black engine and the evocative smell of the train just makes the journey aboard the West Highland Jacobite Steam Train from Mallaig to Fort William a timeless experience which I will forever cherish.
And then to top it off — there is the most beautiful breathtaking surreal sight of all — the curve of the Glenfinnan Viaduct!
With much elation, a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train in the Highlands over Glenfinnan Viaduct is now firmly crossed off my bucket list.
About this article on the Jacobite Steam Train Journey aka the Harry Potter train
The Jacobite Steam Train Journey aka the Harry Potter train from Fort William to Mallaig is an award winning line and considered to be one of the best scenic train journeys in the world. In this article, I share my best 6 reasons on why this incredibly splendid Jacobite steam train journey in the Scottish Highlands should be an experience not to miss by one and all. Also included are all the information you need on train timings, ticket prices and ways to experience this incredible journey. You could skip ahead to a particular section via the navigation tab below.
Best 6 reasons for the unmissable experience of the Jacobite Steam Train travel:
1 | The Highlands and Steam Train travel
The Scottish Highlands is an incredibly, jaw-dropping picturesqure region in northern Scotland. The many mountain ranges dominate the landscape, with some going back 750 million years! The unspoilt nature of the glittering lochs, dense woodland and miles and miles of sandy beaches offer many best trips to be taken. Some of these splendid views can only be experienced by a train journey.
A train journey is also perhaps, one of the most comfortable ways to experience the Scottish Highlands. There are a number of options in this respect such as the West Highland and the Jacobite Steam Train, Far North Line or the Kyle Line. However, in this article, you shall find all the information needed to experience the the Jacobite Steam Train from Mallaig to Fort William.
The West Highland and the Jacobite Steam Train > From Glasgow to Oban/Fort William > Mallaig;
The Far North Line > From Inverness > Thurso > Wick;
The Kyle Line > From Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh;
1.1 | A little about The West Highland and the Jacobite Steam Train
1.2 | The Route
1.3 | The distance
The distance from Glasgow to Mallaig is approximately 264 kilometres (164 miles) and takes about 5 hours 15 minutes.
2 | The Journey is a bucket list experience for many
As well, if you are an old romantic soul who takes pleasure in the chug, chug sounds of a train, with steam emanating from the funnel and the speck of grit – all culminating in the evocative experience of a train journey in a bygone era, then this is one ride you must experience!
Aside from these, train travel is therapeutic for some. Especially for those moments in life when you need to get away from it all. I strongly recommend a journey aboard the Jacobite steam train. You have ample time for relaxation and reflection till the end of your journey, along with impressive sights to soothe your mind and soul.
3 | The Unique Route of the Jacobite Steam Train aka the Harry Potter train
The Harry Potter Train route begins at either Fort William or Mallaig and ends at Mallaig or Fort William. The distance is 67.5 kilometres (42 miles) and takes just about two hours. Most travellers do the roundtrip from Fort William to Mallaig in the morning and take the afternoon train back to Fort William. This gives you about 90 minutes to explore the fishing town of Mallaig and to grab lunch.
3.1 | What’s unique about the Jacobite Steam Train Route
Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK is the backdrop to the highland town of Fort William, from whence you begin your roundtrip journey. More often than not, you will find the tip of the magnificent mountain covered in clouds, thus giving a dreamy look and a sight to behold.
The highlight of the journey is undoubtedly the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct. This architectural marvel was featured in the Harry Potter movies several times with the Hogwarts Express crossing over it.
The route takes you to the most westerly mainland railway station in Britain, Arisaig. It passes Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, as well as the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis. It passes close to the shortest river in Britain, River Morar. The silvery shores of Morar were used in the movies, “Highlander” and “Local Hero.”
4 | The Jacobite Steam Train locomotive is Special
The Jacobite Steam Train is Special! I was fortunate to experience the 44871 locomotive of LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0. The LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0 No. 44871 is a preserved British steam locomotive. It was built at Crewe in 1945.
The 44871 was one of the last locomotives to be withdrawn from service in 1968, the year when steam trains were withdrawn altogether from British Railways. She was purchased directly from British Railways for preservation, therefore, she was never restored from scrapyard condition. When the ban on operating steam trains was lifted in 1972, 44871 was used to operate trains to York. At some point during the 70s and 80s, she went by the name ‘Sovereign’.
These days, 44871 works the West Coast Railways Jacobite Train from Fort William to Mallaig alongside her sisters, 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier and 62005. Her history and her formidable performance over the years makes 44871 an incredibly special locomotive to experience. Indeed, a splendid journey awaits her passengers.
Recommended read: Inverness | A Complete Guide to the Capital of the Highlands
5 | A splendid Jacobite Steam Train Journey from Mallaig to Fort William
The West Coast Railways with the steam locomotive is a popular experience and attracts many enthusiasts as well as day trippers. However, the carriage I was in was surprisingly spacious with very few passengers. I was able to pounce across to the other window whenever summoned by the scenic views and explored a few of the carriages.
The West Coast Railways compartments are by no means fancy. The rustic, weathered, old-skool style had a deliberate sense of flair, that speaks of joyful days of the many who may have enjoyed the timeless journey. Through the window, comes streams of lights and refreshing flow of air along with the backdrop of sounds. There are very few sounds that are emotive as the chug chug, clatter and whistle of the iconic 44871’s engine. All of these amidst the vistas and enthralling sights.
6 | The scenic views and the enthralling sight of the ‘Curve’
The views of The Highland while aboard this vintage steam train touches the spellbinding landscape of Scotland.
Unique to this journey are some incredible sights. The train travels past the breathtaking sights of Ben Nevis, islands of Rum & Eig, Loch Morar, Loch Nevis and numerous loch en route. To top it all off, is the enthralling sight of the ‘curve’ – the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
The 21-arch is visible from a distance but soon the train goes over the viaduct. It slows down a touch so you can savour the moment a little longer. Grab a moment to take in the magnificent views of Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument.
The multiple arches were as impressive close-up, viewed from the carriages as it was from below and from across.
The train stops at beautiful village stations of Lochailort, Arisaig, Morar and Glenfinnan en route to Fort William.
It is hard to imagine a prettier journey than this, aboard the Jacobite Steam Train.
Georgina: The stop at Glenfinnan is a little longer than the rest of the village stations. It gives you time to stretch your legs, time to take more photos and to visit the West Highland Railway Museum, located in the station building. The train may also stop at Arisaig a little longer by request to the guard.
6.1 | Important tip!
To capture some of the best photos of the Glenfinnan Viaduct while aboard the Jacobite Steam Train from Mallaig to Fort William, you need to go to the back of the train and stand on the right. Put the window down, stick your head out a little, and let your hair dance in the wind. Ensure your camera is set, ready to click away.
Disclaimer: Leaning out of the window of a moving train is dangerous and much discouraged. Please do not do that. However, lower the window to a safe height, just enough room to balance your camera, and to experience the wind in your hair.
My thoughts on the journey from Mallaig to Fort William
My journey aboard the Jacobite Steam Train by the West Coast Railways was one-way, from Mallaig to Fort William and I couldn’t have been more content. I wanted to experience this splendid journey aboard the steam train in the Highlands and I did. It was comfortable and relaxing. The journey of about 2 hours was seamless, and through some incredible sights of loch vistas and mountains. The time flies past quickly like the picture perfect scenery through the window.
The day’s itinerary afforded me time for an overview of Mallaig and to return on a another occasion with plenty of time to explore the pretty town of Mallaig.
A little about the fishing port of Mallaig
Mallaig is a thriving port in Lochaber, situated on the north west coast of the Highland in Scotland.
The town is linked to Fort William by the West Coast Railways and by the A830 road evocatively known as ‘The Road to the Isles’. Mallaig is still a busy port with Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries that operates regular services to the Isle of Skye and the Small Isles. If you do not wish to explore the Isles, why not consider a boat tour. The boat tour companies will ensure you return in time to catch your Jacobite steam train. You could also explore the town, the shops and get a bite to eat. The fresh fish & chips is absolutely delicious at The Cornerstone.
Recommended read: Mallaig – 12 Very Best Things to do at the pretty harbour town in West Coast of the Highlands, Scotland
1 | The Jacobite Steam Train Journey in the Highlands aka the ‘Harry Potter Train’ – Train Times and Tickets
The Jacobite Steam Train service is seasonal! Generally, the service runs from late April to late October. Plan ahead to ensure that you do not miss this experience when visiting the Scottish Highlands.
1 | Morning Service: 2022
From Monday, April 4, to Friday 28 October 2022 – 7 days a week.
2 | Afternoon Service: 2022
From Monday, May 2 to Friday, September 30, 2022 – 7 days a week.
3 | The Jacobite Steam Train Timings
|Sunday to Friday Service|
|Morning Service||Afternoon Service|
|Dep. Fort William||10:15||12:45|
|Arr. Fort William||16:03||18:53|
|Morning Service||Afternoon Service|
|Dep. Fort William||10:15||14:40|
|Arr. Fort William||16:03||20:32|
4 | Ticket Prices for the Jacobite Steam Train – 2022
|Adult Day Return||£79.50||£52|
|Child Day Return (16 or under)||£57||£30|
|Private Table For 2 Return||£180||N/A|
Prices above are per passenger, except for the Private Table For 2, which is the price for two passengers.
5 | Additional costs when booking directly with West Coast Railways
Fares are subject to a minimum £3.75 booking fee.
Also, there is a £15 Admin Fee when an amendment is made to a booking.
**All information as to train timings and prices are correct at time of update, January 2022
Recommended read: Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland
2 | Ways to experience the Jacobite Steam Train Travel aka Harry Potter Train /Hogwarts Express
There are a number of ways to experience a journey aboard the Jacobite Steam Train / Harry Potter train / Hogwarts Express. You could do so either independently or by joining a guided group tour.
2.1| How to experience the Jacobite Steam Train / Hogwarts Express Independently
The town of Fort William is well-connected to major cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Inverness in the Highlands by road and rail. Wherever you are in mainland Britain, you can easily get to Fort William.
2.1.1 | By Car
To experience this train ride, you can easily access it by making your way to Mallaig or Fort William by car. In this instance , you will be doing a round trip on the Jacobite. Ensure you park in the designated car parks and pay for the duration of the day. Check for car parks on the Fort William official site here. Use this link as a guide to parking in Mallaig.
2.1.2 | By Train
2.2 | How to experience the Jacobite Steam Train / Hogwarts Express with a guided group tour
To experience the Jacobite Steam Train journey as part of a guided group tour includes a lot more than just the train journey. Tours depart from Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow and are very good value for money if you want to pack a lot into a day. Depending on the city of departure, the tour will cover the highlights of the Scottish Highlands including Fort William, Loch Ness, scenic The Road to the Isles and the unforgettable journey on the Steam Train.
Georgina: I personally went on one of these guided tours and it was nothing less than an impressive experience. It was timely, professional, and informative. The tours are perfect overviews for a destination that has so much to offer when you don’t have a lot of days to sightsee. Of course, I would highly encourage spending a number of days here and slow-travel but sometimes, this may not be possible. In any case, the guided tours were perfect for me on my first visit, allowing a return visit to explore deeper.
Learn more > 2 Incredible Highland And Steam Train Travel Tours
On a final note
In short, the journey aboard the Jacobite Steam Train by the West Coast Railways from Mallaig to Fort William was nothing less than splendid and I highly recommend this experience. The guided tour I joined was so well planned that I saw the ‘Hogwarts Express’ pass through on the Glenfinnan Viaduct earlier in the day, presenting perfect photo opportunities (pictured above). The tour also organised my journey aboard the train in the afternoon. It was a good day!
Please note that this is not a collaborative post and is not affected by monetary compensation of sorts. I gladly share my experiences and my opinions are my own. I sincerely wish that my experiences and suggestions will support you in designing your timeless experiences in The Highland.
Have a super awesome time exploring the Scottish Highland.
Georgina: I love going on guided tours especially when I am on my first visit to a destination. I find guided tours to be great value for money activities and an excellent tool to get the best overviews of a region.
I went on a number of small group tours when I visited Scotland. Safety precautions were in place. Guides are Scottish who have first hand knowledge of the regions I visited. They shared fascinating stories of legends and history of the Highland, both the bad and the ugly! With this overview, and time on my hands, I explored specific areas of interests for a more personal experience.
My trip to Scotland was self-funded, and none of the activities were sponsored in any way. All opinions, views and experiences are my own. I happily share them with you to inspire you to visit this magical land.
Quick facts on Scotland
Population: Over 5.4 million (2020)
Common Language: English. Gaelic is spoken by 1.3% of the population mostly in the west and in the Highlands.
Currency: £ – Pound (GBP)
Capital City: Edinburgh. Home to the first fire brigade in the world, and is the second largest city in Scotland. The largest metropolis in Scotland is Glasgow.
High season: Summer (July – August)
Religion: Christianity – 40% Church of Scotland. 15% Roman Catholic and 6% other Christian denominations. Minorities include Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh with a quarter of the population has been recorded as having no religion.
Social courtesies: Handshaking is customary when introduced to someone for the first time. When visiting someone’s home, a small gift such as flowers or a box of chocolates is appreciated.
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The Jacobite Steam Train Journey in the Highlands aka the ‘Harry Potter Train’ | Best 6 reasons why you should experience it! first published at timelesstravelsteps.com
Updated January 24, 2022