If you’re ticking off your life-list and searching for the best viewpoints of Glenfinnan Viaduct, you’re in the right place. Imagine standing in a spot where the lush Scottish Highlands cradle the sky, and the iconic Hogwarts Express, made famous in the Harry Potter films, chugs along the graceful curve of an architectural marvel, leaving behind a delicate veil of smoke trailing in its wake—that’s the enchanting spectacle I’m thrilled to share with you.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct, with its sweeping arches, is a sight to behold, and finding the perfect place to witness the Hogwarts Express in all its glory is an adventure in itself. You’ve likely seen pictures, or perhaps you’ve dreamt of it since the first time you saw it on the big screen, carrying wizards and witches off to their enchanted world. Now, it’s your turn to step into that postcard-perfect scene.
Most guides about Glenfinnan Viaduct best viewpoints usually mention just two, but in this helpful guide you’ll find more. Here, I’ll share with you the top six viewpoints, that offer the most breathtaking scene of the Glenfinnan Viaduct. With a timely visit, you’ll witness the grand spectacle of the Hogwarts train chugging away, ensuring that you capture not just photos, but memories that will last a lifetime.
So grab your wand—or camera—to explore the Glenfinnan Viaduct and its best viewpoints. I’ll also provide a Google map along with how to visit these viewing points at Glenfinnan. All in all, this is the ultimate guide to the best viewing points of Glenfinnan Viaduct to see the famed Jacobite steam train, passionately known as Hogwarts Express.
Timeless Travel Steps is supported by our readers. If you purchase through an affiliate link on my site, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please read our Disclosure.
Essential Tips When Planning a Trip to Glenfinnan, The Highland
Prefer to Drive and Explore at Your Own Pace? BOOK HERE
Don’t want to drive, so you can fully enjoy the Highland scenic views? No worries! Join an excursion.
🏨 Stay overnight in Glenfinnan that offers properties with ‘Superb’ and ‘Excellent’ ratings.
🥇 Stay at this hotel for a once in a lifetime experience of majestic views over Loch Shiel.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct: A Must-See with the Hogwarts Express?
Is the Glenfinnan Viaduct worth seeing with the Hogwarts Express cruising along its tracks? The answer is a definitive ‘yes.’ Witnessing the iconic train as it winds its way across the Glenfinnan Viaduct is an unmissable spectacle for many and is a life list thing to do. The experience combines engineering marvel with movie magic, an experience you wouldn’t want to miss.
The viaduct, with its series of soaring arches, is an impressive sight on its own. However, the view is extraordinary when the Jacobite steam train, affectionately known as the Hogwarts Express, steams across. This moment of nostalgic elegance against the backdrop of the Scottish Highlands is what places the Glenfinnan Viaduct best viewpoints on the life list of travellers, photographers, and Harry Potter fans alike.
From these select spots, you can observe the train’s steamy ribbon curl through the lush green landscape, encapsulating a moment of living history. It’s an experience that elevates the Glenfinnan Viaduct from a mere architectural feat to a narrative alive with the echoes of the past and the whispers of the wizarding world.
So, whether you’re a lifelong fan of the films or a seeker of the world’s incredible architectural wonders, watching the Hogwarts Express at the Glenfinnan Viaduct is an experience that justifies its every accolade and makes it a sight truly worth seeing.
Glenfinnan Viaduct and the Hogwarts Train Popularity
If you’re unsure what the hype is about the Glenfinnan Viaduct and the Hogwarts Express, here’s a short overview about this iconic Scottish landmark and its celebrated role in the Harry Potter film series.
The impressive arches of the viaduct and the charming chug of the Hogwarts Express aren’t just for show in a movie—they exist! Jacobite Steam Train, the real-world version of the Hogwarts Express, and the Glenfinnan Viaduct are real, authentic parts of Scotland’s landscape. Featured in the magical world of Harry Potter, these attractions bring the spellbinding excitement of the films to life, offering a memorable adventure for fans and travellers alike.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct, was admired mainly by train enthusiasts and lovers of Victorian engineering. However, with the release of the Harry Potter films, the Scottish landmark gained global recognition when it featured in the Harry Potter films. This towering structure of stone and might appears most memorably in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” It was on this very viaduct that the Hogwarts Express made its magical journey, carrying Harry and his friends from Platform 9¾ in Kings Cross, London to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The journey of the Hogwarts Express is central to the start of Harry’s adventures in each film, symbolizing the transition from the ordinary world to one of magic and wonder.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct represents a particularly thrilling part of the trip, as the train chugs across, showcasing the vast, enchanting landscape that is so characteristic of the magical realm the students are about to reenter. This vivid imagery has cemented the viaduct’s status as a pilgrimage site for Harry Potter fans, eager to witness the route that brought Harry, Ron, and Hermione to their beloved magical school.
It’s the physical and emotional embodiment of the journey into a world where friendship, bravery, and adventure unfold against the backdrop of the Scottish Highlands. Today, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is inextricably linked with the Hogwarts Express in the hearts and minds of the Potterhead community.
When to Visit Glenfinnan Viaduct and Best Viewpoints for the Hogwarts Express Train: Balancing Weather and Crowds for the Perfect View
If you’re charting out the best times to visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct and its viewpoints for the Hogwarts train, I’d say the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are your allies here.
I find travelling during the off-season is one of the best times to head to the Highlands. Although, you might have to experience a little rain during these times, there’s also plenty of sunshine.
In any case, let me share with you about what you can expect during other seasons also to help you make an informed decision.
When is the Best Time to Visit Glenfinnan Viaduct?
The best time to visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct to see the Jacobite steam train, the real-life version of Hogwarts Express, is typically during its operating season, which runs from April to October. When choosing the best time for your visit, you may want to consider the following:
Peak Season (June to August): The summer months offer the most reliable weather, with warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, ideal for photography and sightseeing. This is also the busiest time, so expect more visitors and potential crowds at the best viewpoints of Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Shoulder Season (April, May, September, October): These months can provide a balance between decent weather and fewer tourists, making for a more relaxed visit. The midges, small biting insects found in the Highlands, are less prevalent outside of the peak summer months, which can make for a more comfortable experience. The scenery during these months can be particularly stunning, with spring bringing fresh greenery and autumn offering a display of golden and russet hues.
Off-Peak Season (November to March): The train service does not usually operate during these months, so while you can enjoy the quiet and the viaduct itself, you won’t see the Jacobite steam train. Winter visits can be challenging due to colder weather, shorter days, and potential for snow, which could affect travel and accessibility.
Reasons Why You Should Consider Shoulder Seasons in The Highland
As I’ve mentioned, venturing to Glenfinnan during the off-season rewards you with a serene experience.
During these periods, you’ll find the balance between fewer tourists and a manageable climate. The ease of parking is just the cherry on top. Sure, a dash of Highland rain might grace your visit, but it’s often swiftly followed by generous sweeps of sunshine and rainbows that cast the viaduct in a glorious light.
Off-Peak is My Favourite Time to Travel to The Highlands
When I venture out to Glenfinnan in these off-peak seasons, I’m often rewarded with a splendid tapestry of colours—the lush greens of spring or the fiery hues of autumn—adding a dramatic backdrop to the iconic steam train’s journey.
This is the Scottish Highlands in all its mystical magnificence, with weather that stirs the soul: a sprinkle of rain to freshen the air and enough sun to make the raindrops glisten on the viaduct’s stonework.
During these times, the weather is a canvas, and the Hogwarts Train paints its smoke across it, offering a spectacle that’s as transient as it is beautiful. Moreover, avoiding the summer crowds is a real plus! I have those moments of tranquility to fully absorb the marvel before me.
Moreover, let’s not understate the joy of being midge-free—those little critters can be a nuisance, but in the cooler, breezier climes of spring and autumn, they’re less of a concern, ensuring your memories are of the views, not the flicks.
Venturing to Glenfinnan during these quieter months is not just about ease and comfort, it’s about space and pace. There’s room to breathe, to find that perfect spot without haste, and to wait for the train’s timely passage with a sense of anticipation, not competition. It’s about savouring the Glenfinnan Viaduct and the best viewpoints without distraction, wrapped in a mild climate that can often feel as if it’s reserved just for you.
Regardless of the season, it’s important to time your visit to coincide with the train schedule (more information below) if you wish to see the Hogwarts Express crossing the viaduct. The train typically crosses twice a day, mid-morning and early afternoon. Before planning your trip, always check the latest Jacobite steam train timetable, local weather forecasts, and any travel advisories to ensure the best possible experience.
What to Bring on Your Visit to the Glenfinnan Viaduct
As you plan ahead for a day at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, packing wisely can turn an ordinary view into an extraordinary experience. Here’s a checklist for your adventure kit:
- Camera: A must-have for any visitor. Whether you wield a professional DSLR or a trusty smartphone, ensure it’s charged to capture the Hogwarts Train’s majestic journey.
- Binoculars: These are perfect for spying the finer details from afar, like the steam engineer’s focused gaze or the train’s intricate design.
- Layered, Weather-Ready Clothing: Embrace the Scottish climate’s fickleness with waterproof and warm layers that let you adapt to rapid weather changes.
- Snacks and Water: Vital for sustaining your excitement and hydration levels while you await the train’s timely passage.
- Durable Footwear: Paths may be uneven and landscapes rugged; sturdy, grippy footwear will be your trusty companions on this quest.
- Foldable Camping Chair: Comfort is key when you’re stationed at your viewing spot. A portable chair can be a throne from which to admire the viaduct’s grandeur.
- Waterproof Hiking Gear: To navigate the Highland terrain, especially if you intend to navigate the Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail (more on this further below), reliable waterproof gear is recommended, ensuring you stay dry and on track.
Each item is a helpful suggestion to fully enjoy your day at the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This ensures your focus is on the spellbinding experience rather than any small discomforts. With these essentials, you’re all set to forge unforgettable memories in the heart of the Highlands.
How to Visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct: Your Guide to Transportation
Here’s my guide to how to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct, whether you’re driving, catching a train, or taking the bus. The following tips for a seamless trip has all the information you need to plan ahead and discover the best viewing points the Glenfinnan Viaduct has to offer.
Driving to the Glenfinnan Viaduct:
Glenfinnan, located on the scenic A830, known as the ‘Road to the Isles‘, is a mere 21 kilometers (13 miles) from Fort William. Driving gives you the ultimate freedom to explore and seek out the very best viewpoints of the Glenfinnan Viaduct at your own pace. In my travels, I have used this hire company for some of the best deals , and I’m sure they offer some great deals for these Scottish roads also.
Finding the Perfect Parking Spot
When you arrive, you’ll be relieved to find a convenient Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint parking area, just a stone’s throw from the viaduct itself. It’s easy to find on Google Maps and perfectly positioned for accessing the Glenfinnan Viaduct’s best viewpoints.
Even though a new larger car park is now open, I advise you to get there early if you’re visiting in the summer months to secure your space. If you find the main car park full, there’s additional parking in front of St Finnans Church, and a community car park which is motorhome friendly. However, these car parks are often packed in the summer.
The Glenfinnan Visitor Centre is ideally situated and marks the starting point to some of the most scenic Harry Potter trains and Glenfinnan Viaduct viewing points. Parking here is a nominal fee of £3.50 for cars (free for members) and £6 for motorhomes. You can pay by cash or card.
Reaching Glenfinnan Without a Car
If you don’t wish to drive, no worries. There are several options available to you:
By Bus: Take the 30-minute journey from Fort William to Glenfinnan. The Shiel Buses’ Service 500 will get you to Glenfinnan with a schedule available online. The bus service might be limited, so I recommend checking the timetable in advance. They drop you off close to some excellent viaduct viewing spots.
By Train: A train ride from Fort William to the Glenfinnan station offers a scenic route with limited services per day. You can find the times on Transpennine Express website. This is a fantastic alternative if you’re not driving, plus, you won’t have to worry about parking. The station is just a short walk from the viaduct, letting you witness the train as it makes its grand entrance over the viaduct.
Embarking on a guided tour means you can sit back and savour the ride as all your transportation needs are taken care of. With expert guides at the helm, you’ll gain valuable insights into the area’s rich history and notable landmarks. Below, you’ll find a selection of curated tour options to consider:
- Edinburgh Day Tour: Exploring Glenfinnan, Fort William, and Glencoe.
- Glasgow Adventure Tour: Glenfinnan, Mallaig, and Glencoe.
- Day Trip from Glasgow: Discovering Glenfinnan, Fort William, and Glencoe.
- Exploration Inverness Day Tour: Glenfinnan Viaduct, Mallaig, & Loch Ness.
- Adventure Oban Day Tour: Glenfinnan and Glencoe Exploration.
- Edinburgh 3-Day Adventure: Isle of Skye, Highlands, and Loch Ness.
No matter if you’re exploring Glenfinnan in the independence of your own car, the local charm of a bus journey, or the rhythmic clacking of the train tracks, your adventure to the Glenfinnan Viaduct is as unforgettable as the destination. With a bit of planning, you’ll be rewarded with those epic views and the sight of trains, both steam and modern, traversing this historical masterpiece, affirming that every step you take to get here is absolutely worth it.
Timing Your Visit to Glenfinnan Viaduct: When does the Hogwarts Train Cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
Jacobite Steam Train Timetable
Timing your visit is essential if you want to catch the Hogwarts Express, officially the Jacobite steam train making its majestic journey across the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Operated by West Coast Railways, the Jacobite steam train timetable is seasonal and typically runs from April to October. The train runs to a precise schedule from Sunday to Saturday, with a slightly later service on Saturday. Services run twice daily, mid-morning and early afternoon.
How long is the Hogwarts train ride? Well, it depends. If you board from Fort William to Mallaig in the morning service, the journey time is 2 hours and 11 minutes, whereas in the afternoon, it is 2 hours and 14 minutes.
The service from Mallaig to Fort William in the afternoon takes about 2 hours 7 minutes, whereas the late service takes a little less than 2 hours.
When does the train pass the viaduct? The Hogwarts Express in the morning usually crosses the viaduct between 10:30 AM and 11:00 AM. On my visit I witnessed the crossing at about 10:48 AM. In the afternoon, the crossing generally occurs between 3:00 PM and 3:30 PM.
PRO TIP: Ensure you are at the viewing points well before 10:00 AM to secure your spot if you want to experience the morning spectacle.
Jacobite Steam Train Morning Service
Usually from the first Monday in April to the last Friday in October – 7 days a week.
Jacobite Steam Train Afternoon Service
From the first Monday in May to the last Friday in September – 7 days a week.
|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|
Check the timetable on the official Jacobite steam train website here.
TIP: Arriving early is advisable not only to secure the best viewing spot but also to soak in the tranquil atmosphere before the train’s appearance punctuates the quiet of the Highlands. Remember, the sight of the Hogwarts Train steaming over the Glenfinnan Viaduct is as magical as it is punctual—don’t be late, or you might just miss the magic!
Glenfinnan Viaduct Experience Train Tickets
If you’re looking to experience the enchantment of the Glenfinnan Viaduct aboard the train famously known as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter series, you’ll be seeking a ride on the Jacobite steam train.
There are various ticket options available, from standard to first-class, giving you the choice of different levels of comfort and amenities. First-class tickets often include complimentary refreshments and more spacious seating. Due to the popularity of the Jacobite steam train, it is highly recommended to book your tickets well in advance. It is also possible to appreciate this experience even if it is a last-minute decision by opting for a guided tour to ensure a secure spot.
Train Ticket Prices for the Jacobite Steam Train
|Adult Day Return||£89.00||£57.00|
|Child Day Return (16 or under)||£63.00||£33.00|
|Private Table For 2 Return||£199.00||N/A|
Prices above are per passenger, except for the Private Table For 2, which is the price for two passengers.
You could also book a compartment for sole use. Compartments accommodate up to 6 people and prices start from £385.00
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.
What I think of the “Hogwarts Express”
Having personally experienced the Jacobite steam train, I can assure you it is quite an experience from the moment the wheels began to turn. This is definitely one for the bucket list. It’s an experience that tugs at the heartstrings, and conjures up childhood memories of storybook adventures, the earthy scent of steam and coal mingling in the air, and the echo of a distant whistle that promises the onset of a grand journey. This is one experience which I highly recommend you discover for yourself when in Glenfinnan.
Specific Highlands Tour with a Ride on the “Hogwarts Express”
A guided tour could be your golden ticket to experience a hassle-free ride aboard the Jacobite steam train, the real-life “Hogwarts Express.”
From Edinburgh to The Highland via The “Hogwarts Express”
- Journey Beyond Edinburgh: Your adventure begins with a scenic bus ride from Edinburgh, crossing the majestic Forth Bridge, traversing the historic Kingdom of Fife, and passing through Perth towards the breathtaking West Coast.
- Enchanting Train Ride: Board the Jacobite Steam Train, known to many as the Hogwarts Express, and travel over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct as you make your way to the stunning landscapes of Glen Coe, reliving the magic of the Harry Potter films along one of the world’s most spectacular railway lines.
- Highland Wonders: After the train ride, delve into the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands, including the iconic Glen Coe and the expanse of Rannoch Moor, steeped in history and cinematic fame, before your return journey to Edinburgh under the evening sky.
From Inverness to The Highland, Jacobite Steam Train and Fort Augustus
- Loch Ness Exploration: Your day begins with a captivating bus journey from Inverness, hugging the shores of the legendary Loch Ness. Prepare your camera for a photo opportunity above the atmospheric ruins of Urquhart Castle, with the chance to spot the fabled Nessie lurking below the water’s surface.
- Jacobite Steam Train Adventure: From Fort William or Mallaig, embark on the storied Jacobite Steam Train, the real-world Hogwarts Express. Experience the thrill of crossing the majestic Glenfinnan Viaduct as you venture towards Mallaig or Fort William. Mallaig is a quaint fishing town where you can savour the taste of the sea with fresh, local seafood.
- Highland Highlights Route: The return journey takes you along the picturesque ‘Road to the Isles,’ with stunning views of the Caledonian Canal, Fort Augustus, and the expansive beauty of Loch Ness. The day’s adventure culminates at the tranquil Falls of Foyers and the scenic shores of Dores Beach, leaving you with a treasure trove of Highland memories.
The Experience of Hogwarts Train Crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct
There’s something almost magical about the moment when the Jacobite steam train, the Hogwarts Express Train, sweeps across the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The distant smoke whispers its approach, and the sound of its chuffing stirs the air with echoes from an earlier time.
You find yourself caught in the thrill of anticipation, waiting for that first glimpse as the train turns the corner, emerging from the Highland mists. And then, with a flourish of steam and a chorus of wheels against rails, the Hogwarts Express appears, making the leap from fantasy to reality. It crosses the viaduct—a moment suspended in time, a bridge between the pages of a storybook and the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
The train, with its heartbeating rhythm and scent of steam-infused coal, seems to pull the past forward into the present. Watching it, you’re not just a spectator; you’re part of a narrative that spans centuries, where every sight, sound, and smell is a thread in the tapestry of rail travel’s golden age.
It’s essential to time your visit to this majestic scene, ensuring you’re not just a passerby to the viaduct but a witness to a performance that has been running since the days of steam’s glory. When the train glides across, it’s more than a journey—it’s theatre, it’s history, it’s an immersive experience that grips your senses and tugs at the wanderlust rooted in us all.
The memory lingers on long after the train has passed.
The Best 6 Viewpoints of Glenfinnan Viaduct for Seeing the Hogwarts Train Spectacle
While most guides might highlight just a couple of spots to view the Glenfinnan Viaduct, I’m taking you beyond the usual with five unique viewpoints. Each offers a distinct and beautiful perspective, ensuring you capture the Hogwarts Express in all its enchanting glory from every possible angle. You can enjoy the spectacular scenery and watch trains, including the Jacobite steam train, across the viaduct. Here are some of the best viewpoints for Glenfinnan Viaduct:
1. West Side Hillside Viewpoint Description
The West Side Hillside Viewpoint is the best viewpoint for any Harry Potter fan or avid photographer. Situated on the western slope, it offers a direct and unobstructed view of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, perfectly capturing the moment the Hogwarts Express steams majestically across. This is exactly where the view of Hogwarts Express crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct was captured in the Harry Potter films!
This spot is easily one of the best spots in Scotland. It is particularly popular not just for the Hogwarts Express visual experience, but also for the immersive sensory delight it provides—you can almost feel the vibrations of the train on the tracks and smell the intoxicating mix of steam and coal as it passes by. This particular viewing spot with its elevated position offers incredible views of the mountains, valleys and Loch Shiel.
Directions: To reach this coveted elevated position, start your journey at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. From there, cross the A830 with care, and look for the signposted path indicating the way to the viaduct’s west side. The path will take you up the hill, where a bit of a climb rewards you with the most iconic view of the viaduct. Here’s the location on Google Maps.
Best Time to Visit: To make the most of your visit, aim to arrive at least 30 minutes before the train is due. This will give you ample time to set up your camera and soak in the atmosphere.
- Remember to wear sturdy footwear and take all necessary hiking precautions.
- Please Note: The hill can be quite popular, especially during peak tourist season, so consider arriving even earlier to secure the best vantage point.
2. Glenfinnan Visitor Centre Viewpoint
The Glenfinnan Visitor Centre Viewpoint is renowned for its exceptional vantage point. As one of the most popular and accessible locations, it provides visitors with a breathtaking panoramic view that encompasses the full length of the Glenfinnan Viaduct as it sweeps through the valley.
From this spot, you can see the viaduct in its entirety, curving gracefully over the land and framing the stunning Highland scenery beyond. It’s an unparalleled place to experience the full spectacle of the Hogwarts Express—seeing the train emerge from one end of the viaduct, traverse its full span, and disappear into the landscape on the other side.
The viewpoint also allows visitors to appreciate the valley below, often lush with local flora or shrouded in mystical Highland mists. The rumble of the train and its echoing steam whistle truly bring the scene to life, connecting you to the pulse of this historic railway.
Directions: Located just a short stroll from the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre’s car park, the viewpoint is well-signposted and can be reached via a brief walk on a well-maintained path. This proximity to the visitor centre also means you have easy access to amenities, making it convenient for visitors planning to spend several hours waiting for the perfect moment to capture the train’s crossing.
Approximate GPS Coordinates: 56.8725° N, 5.4327° W or see it here on Google Maps.
TIP: Aside from its easy accessibility, the Visitor Centre Viewpoint is perfect for those who prefer not to hike too far. The expansive view offers a chance to appreciate both the engineering marvel of the viaduct and the natural beauty of the valley—a photographer’s dream. The viewpoint is also an excellent spot for families, providing safe and spacious areas from which the spectacle can be enjoyed by all ages.
3. Loch Shiel Viewpoint
The Loch Shiel Viewpoint presents a serene setting from which to observe the Hogwarts Express as it crosses the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Positioned at the edge of the tranquil waters, this spot is a favourite for those who seek to capture the train with the added beauty of a natural mirror when Loch Shiel’s surface is glass-like and still. The reflective waters double the visual wonder, creating a symmetrical display of the train and the landscape that is nothing short of magical.
Beyond the stunning reflections, this viewpoint allows you to take in a broader canvas, where the viaduct is just one part of a majestic highland tableau. It’s an excellent spot for landscape photographers and nature enthusiasts who appreciate the interplay of architectural marvels with the grandeur of the natural environment.
Directions: To reach this idyllic spot, follow the signs from the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre towards the shores of Loch Shiel. The walk to the viewpoint is as picturesque as the destination itself, taking you through areas of scenic beauty, with opportunities to spot local wildlife along the way.
Approximate GPS Coordinates: 56.8710° N, 5.4306° W or you can view it on Google Maps here.
TIP: The walk to the viewpoint is a gentle walk, suitable for most visitors, and the path leads directly to the shores where you can settle in and await the train’s appearance.
Loch Shiel Viewpoint offers a unique perspective not just of the train and the viaduct but of the broader landscape that has made Glenfinnan a place of pilgrimage for photographers, nature lovers, and Harry Potter fans from around the world. Whether you’re there for the perfect photo or to simply soak in the atmosphere, the combination of the loch, the viaduct, and the Highlands’ splendour makes for an unforgettable experience.
4. Glenfinnan Station Museum Viewpoint
The Glenfinnan Station Museum Viewpoint offers a unique blend of visual pleasure and educational enrichment.
This location allows visitors to view the Glenfinnan Viaduct and witness the Jacobite steam train, doubling as the Hogwarts Express for delighted fans—while also delving into the rich history of the West Highland railway. It’s an excellent spot for families and history buffs, providing an insightful backdrop to the dramatic spectacle of the train crossing the viaduct.
From this viewpoint, you can expect to see the train emerge from the landscape and watch as it passes along the viaduct, all with the informative context provided by the museum exhibits.
Directions: Located right at the Glenfinnan Station, the museum is a short walk from the dedicated parking area. After exploring the museum, you can step outside to the platform or nearby viewing areas, where you can anticipate the train’s arrival. The station itself provides a charming and nostalgic setting for your photographs, adding depth and character to your images.
Approximate GPS Coordinates: 56.8705° N, 5.4390° W or you can view it on Google Maps here.
TIP: The proximity to Glenfinnan Station means this viewpoint is not only easily accessible but also enriched by the historical significance of the railway itself. It’s an opportunity to step back in time and appreciate the journey of the Jacobite steam train from both a historical and contemporary perspective.
The Glenfinnan Station Museum Viewpoint doesn’t just offer a view—it provides a narrative, enhancing the visual experience with stories of the past. Whether the train is steaming past or you’re waiting in anticipation, the museum offers a way to connect with the viaduct and the train’s history on a deeper level, making it a richly rewarding spot for an all-encompassing visit.
5. Glenfinnan and Jacobite Trails Viewpoints
The Glenfinnan and Jacobite trails are not just paths through the Highlands, but journeys to the best viewing points of the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
As you walk these trails, each turn and climb offers a chance to witness the viaduct from various vantage points. Whether it’s a serene look from a leafy glade or a panoramic vista from atop a gentle rise, the trails are dotted with spots that frame this engineering marvel in all its glory.
Directions: Begin your scenic trek at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre, where the trails are clearly signposted. Follow the waymarkers and be ready to pause at the numerous viewpoints along the routes that offer prime sightlines of the viaduct.
TIP about the Trail Points: Make sure to pick up a trail map, available at the visitor centre, to locate the exact spots that are celebrated as the Glenfinnan Viaduct best viewpoints. These are the places where you can fully appreciate the scale and beauty of the viaduct, with ample opportunities for those all-important photographs.
Always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, keep to the marked paths, and respect the stunning natural habitat you’re in. By doing so, you contribute to the conservation of the area, ensuring that this magnificent view remains accessible for future visitors.
6. Capturing the Glenfinnan Viaduct from the Jacobite Steam Train
Last but not least, one of the best viewpoints of the Glenfinnan Viaduct is in the journey of the Hogwarts Express itself. You can capture the majestic Glenfinnan Viaduct from within the train. There are specific strategies to secure those enviable photographs.
Select the best seat in the best coach for the perfect shot: To feel the viaduct’s curve and snap up-close photos, where you sit is key:
From Mallaig to Fort William: To witness the viaduct as the train curves elegantly along its path, choose a seat on the right-hand side of the train. However, for a truly immersive experience, aim to be towards the rear of the train. This allows you to capture the locomotive as it bends into the arc of the viaduct, a perspective that gives life to your photos.
From Fort William to Mallaig: In this direction, you’ll want to secure a spot on the left-hand side, again towards the end of the train. Here, you’ll be treated to a front-row view of the viaduct as it approaches, offering a dramatic angle as the train hugs the curve.
Photography Tips for the Perfect Capture of the Hogwarts Express Crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct
When it comes to photographing the Hogwarts Train as it crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct, here are several key tips which you may find helpful:
Camera Settings: Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the train, especially if you’re looking to capture it crisply against the backdrop of the moving landscape. A speed of 1/500th of a second or faster is ideal.
Angles and Perspectives: Try to find a unique angle that includes elements of the landscape, like the hills or water, which adds depth to your photos. The rule of thirds can be a helpful compositional technique, placing the viaduct along the intersecting lines to create a balanced image.
Creative Composition: Wait for the moment when the train is midway across the viaduct for a compositionally pleasing shot. The mid-morning light and mist can add a dramatic effect, on the scene.
For the ultimate photo of the Glenfinnan Viaduct and its steam-powered Hogwarts Express, you’ll want to make your way to the west hillside viewpoint. It’s the spot where those iconic Instagram snaps you’ve admired are captured – the ones where the train seems to be caught in a perfect moment of motion and magic. However, its popularity means it’s often bustling with other photographers and enthusiasts also, all aiming for that magical shot.
Additional Things to Do When Visiting Glenfinnan Viaduct
Glenfinnan is home to more than just the viaduct. Add the following to your day when visiting the viaduct and the Jacobite steam train.
Glenfinnan Monument: This striking monument honours the Jacobite clansmen and offers its own historical significance and scenic views.
Loch Shiel: Take a boat tour or simply enjoy the serene beauty of the loch, which can be a peaceful experience after the excitement of the train.
The Glenfinnan Church Description: The quaint and picturesque Glenfinnan Church, also known as the Church of St. Mary and St. Finnan, is perched on a hill overlooking Loch Shiel. With its stunning gothic architecture and peaceful surroundings, the church provides a quiet space for reflection and an opportunity to appreciate the craftsmanship of earlier times. It’s a lesser-known gem that offers a different kind of tranquility away from the bustling train-viewing spots.
Local Eateries at Glenfinnan
Glenfinnan is a small village and doesn’t have a traditional High Street lined with shops and eateries like larger towns. Dining options in the immediate area of Glenfinnan are limited due to its size and remote location in the Scottish Highlands.
However, the Glenfinnan House Hotel and the Glenfinnan Dining Car are two well-known local dining spots that visitors frequent. For a wider variety of dining options, visitors often travel to nearby towns such as Fort William, which has a High Street with a range of restaurants, cafes, and pubs offering everything from quick bites to fine dining experiences.
Fort William is about a 30-minute drive from Glenfinnan and can be a good option for those looking for more culinary variety during their stay in the region.
Where to Stay in Glenfinnan?
Cradled among the peaceful grandeur of the Scottish Highlands, the area around Glenfinnan and Loch Shiel is a haven for tranquility and natural beauty. Whether you’re looking for luxury or simplicity, there’s a range of accommodations that promise a stay as captivating as the landscape itself.
When it comes to planning where to rest your head, Booking[dot]com is my trusty companion. From my own adventures through the Highlands, I’ve handpicked three top-rated places to stay, each offering a unique experience to fit your budget and style.
Each of these accommodations come with its own unique charm:
Glenfinnan House Hotel: Perched on the shores of Loch Shiel, Glenfinnan House Hotel is a beautiful country house offering a warm Scottish welcome. It boasts traditional décor, a renowned restaurant serving Scottish cuisine with a contemporary twist, and stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.
What makes it special is its historical ambiance, combined with personalized service, making guests feel as though they’ve stepped back in time to a more sophisticated era.
The Prince’s House Hotel: This quaint and historic hotel is one of the oldest buildings in Glenfinnan. With a cozy, family-run feel, it provides comfort and charm in equal measure. Each room is uniquely decorated, and the hotel’s restaurant is known for its delicious local food.
The Prince’s House Hotel stands out for its connection to the Jacobite history, offering a deeply immersive Highland experience.
Glenfinnan Station B&B: For railway enthusiasts or those looking for a quirky place to stay, the Glenfinnan Station B&B is set in converted railway carriages right next to the Glenfinnan Railway Station.
This B&B offers a truly unique experience where you can sleep in a restored vintage train carriage. Its specialty lies in its authenticity; the original features and memorabilia provide a nostalgic trip to the golden age of rail travel. Each of these accommodations offers a distinct experience that goes beyond just a place to sleep, enriching your visit to Glenfinnan with their respective characters and stories.
People Also Ask
Why is the Glenfinnan Viaduct Important?
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is important as a symbol of Scotland’s industrial heritage as well as a representation of resilience and progress. Straddling the West Highland Line, this towering structure forms a vital link between Fort William and Mallaig.
Historically, it played a pivotal role in revitalizing the Highlands’ economy, particularly the fishing industry, in the aftermath of the Highland Clearances—a time that saw significant upheaval and depopulation in Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The viaduct, therefore, stands as a testament to the region’s ability to rebuild and reconnect communities, while today, it also represents the cultural bridge between Scotland’s rugged past and its cinematic allure, immortalized by the Harry Potter series.
Who Owns the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is owned and maintained by Network Rail, the company responsible for managing most of the railway network infrastructure in Great Britain.
The surrounding land, including the areas that are popular with tourists for their views of the viaduct, is owned and cared for by the National Trust for Scotland. This conservation organization is responsible for preserving the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the area for both locals and visitors alike.
The bridge used in the Harry Potter films is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, located in the Scottish Highlands.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is constructed from mass concrete, a type of un-reinforced concrete.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct’s construction cost was approximately £18,904 upon its completion in the early 1900s.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct was completed in 1901, making it over 120 years old as of the 2020s.
The construction of the Glenfinnan Viaduct took four years to complete, starting in 1897 and finishing in 1901.
…as the deliberate escapist, and a mindful wanderer…
Each of the Glenfinnan Viaduct best viewpoints for the most captivating views of Hogwarts Express offers its own unique embrace of the Highlands. Amongst the six vantage points, viewpoints 1 (west hillside) and 2 (visitor centre) stand apart as the crème de la crème.
For the Potterheads seeking that thrilling proximity to the magic, the west hillside viewpoint provides an up-close encounter with the Hogwarts Express as it steams across the viaduct—a moment to make any fan’s heart flutter.
The visitor centre viewpoint, on the other hand, gifts onlookers with the full grandeur of the viaduct, a spectacular tableau of the train’s silhouette against the Highlands, complete with the rhythmic chug of the engine and a trailing veil of smoke that weaves a spell over the valley.
Whether you crave the intimate detail of the train’s journey or the expansive awe of the Glenfinnan Viaduct in its entirety, these viewpoints promise a spectacle that lingers long after the last echo of the train’s whistle fades into the misty air.
Yet, to truly capture the essence of this storied journey, to feel the pulse of history and the whispers of tales untold, one must step aboard the Jacobite. It’s an experience that completes the Glenfinnan narrative—a visceral plunge into the heart of the Highlands, where every chug and puff against the stunning vistas becomes a cherished memory. Don’t leave without the soul-stirring ride through the very scenery that makes the Glenfinnan Viaduct such an iconic spectacle.
I, Georgina, getting ready to experience the journey aboard the Jacobite steam train in Mallaig.
Add to Your Scotland Travel List
Before you go, take a look at some of my articles about Scotland which you may find helpful in designing your itinerary.