Riding the Harry Potter Train in Scotland Is Just as Epic as It Sounds

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a completely hopeless Potterhead. I was lucky enough to work in a bookstore during those last few glorious years where J.K. Rowling still blessed us with her writing; you can bet I was always beelining for the HP aisle at the end of my shift and getting that much-coveted first-sold Harry Potter book the day before they even went on sale— haven’t had that sweet of a job perk since, if I’m honest! I would mindlessly pull an all-nighter, unable to put the book down until I got to the very last page, once again wholly infatuated with the wizarding world and its subtleties, once again grateful and deeply content for this almost sacred experience.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that I actively sought out Harry Potter locations in the UK during my trips there. From the Harry Potter studios in London to the colleges in Oxford, I have seen a lot of places where Harry Potter was either set in the books or was actually filmed but nothing even compared to the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland in terms of awe and grandeur.

I spent hours on end doing research on this specific Harry Potter filming location and because I’m happy to share the knowledge with fellow Potterheads, here’s everything I know about riding the iconic Hogwarts Express train in Scotland.

Harry Potter Train in Scotland – in Photos

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandThe first part of the hike is in a lovely woodland

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandHarry Potter Train in ScotlandMy view as I got closer to the viaduct

Harry Potter Train in Scotland
harry-potter-train-in-scotland-4
 
Harry Potter Train in ScotlandSome views on the hike

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandMy first sighting

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandFinally made it!

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandEeeeeeek!

The hike from the train station to the viewing point takes about an hour there and back; it’s very well-marked and you absolutely cannot get lost. The hike is uphill for the second half but it was nothing that even I couldn’t manage.

There are a few places from which you can admire the train; the most popular is the small plateau right before the trail heads downhill towards the viaduct itself. Another option, if you have waterproof hiking shoes, is to walk down towards the river, cross the small wooden bridge, take a left and hike up the mountain on the right-hand side; weather permitting, you’ll be rewarded with shots like these. I initially planned on doing that but didn’t have the proper footwear and the ground was muddy.

Harry Potter Train in Scotland
Harry Potter Train in Scotland
 
Harry Potter Train in ScotlandSome of the 21 arches

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandMy I-saw-the-Hogwarts-Express face (not pictured: the puffy post-cry eyes)Harry Potter Train in ScotlandThe viaduct is also used by regular trains, too!

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandThe viaduct as seen from the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandThe locomotive

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandFirst class carriage

What we call the Hogwarts Express is actually the Jacobite Train, which runs the 84-mile stretch separating Fort William from Mallaig on the West Highland Railway Line. It’s often dubbed one of the greatest rail journeys in the world, and rightfully so if I do say so myself.

The scenery, aside from the Harry Potter-related bits of course, is absolutely stunning.

Glenfinnan and The Jacobite Train Views

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandLoch Shiel and the Jacobite monument as seen from the train

Harry Potter Train in Scotland Harry Potter Train in Scotland Harry Potter Train in ScotlandHarry Potter Train in ScotlandHarry Potter Train in ScotlandThere are plenty of other good-looking viaducts on the way to Mallaig, too!

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandMallaig

Harry Potter Train in Scotland Harry Potter Train in ScotlandHarry Potter Train in Scotland Harry Potter Train in ScotlandLeaving Mallaig

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandThe dramatic coastline at golden hour

Harry Potter Train in ScotlandChoo choo!

Harry Potter Train in Scotland Harry Potter Train in Scotland Harry Potter Train in ScotlandHeading back to Fort William

Harry Potter Train in Scotland – Know Before you Go & Practical Tips

  • Tickets cost £34 for a standard and £58 for a first class adult return.
  • The summer schedule (roughly June through September) is the easiest to work with for Harry Potter fans as the train passes over the viaduct four times daily, at precisely 10:45, 11:00, 15:00 and 15:15. In May and October, the train only passes twice daily, at 10:45 and 15:15.
  • My schedule was a bit extreme, but I have no doubt true Harry Potter fans will agree that it was very much worth it. I got the early ScotRail train from Fort William to Glenfinnan, which left me with ample time to complete the hike, set up my equipment, record the train passing over the viaduct, cry a little bit, hike down to and visit the Jacobite monument and get back to the train station to grab a bite in the dining car just in time for the next train to Mallaig. It was a long day, but I regret nothing as I got the two iconic shots I needed.
  • Should you want proper footage of the train passing over the viaduct from inside the train, you’ll have to get a spot by the opening window at the very back of the carriage —either on the left-hand side if you’re westbound or on the right-hand side if you’re eastbound— and be prepared to elbow a few people in order to keep it. Most passengers will spend the entire journey comfortably seated in the carriage and will frantically get up once they realise we are getting closer to the iconic viaduct; because I was desperate to get the shots I needed for this article, I stood up at the back of the carriage for the better part of two-hour ride and had to firmly stand my ground when the much-awaited moment arrived.

* I was a guest of Visit Scotland on this trip. All opinions are my own.

32 Comments on Riding the Harry Potter Train in Scotland Is Just as Epic as It Sounds

  1. Amanda
    October 3, 2016 at 2:49 pm (7 months ago)

    Eeee so awesome! I’ve ridden the train (amazing), and have seen the viaduct from a bus, but I haven’t hiked to that viewpoint to see the train actually going over the viaduct! Bucket list for next time…

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      October 6, 2016 at 11:55 am (7 months ago)

      Totally! It’s such a beautiful place to hike, too.

      Reply
  2. Miriam
    October 3, 2016 at 2:59 pm (7 months ago)

    Love your photos, especially the Hogwarts selfie <3 Still wish I could have joined you.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      October 6, 2016 at 11:55 am (7 months ago)

      Aw, thanks Miriam! Would have loved to have you there with me.

      Reply
  3. Krystal // The Krystal Diaries
    October 3, 2016 at 3:18 pm (7 months ago)

    That is so amazing! I love Harry Potter and would love to take that tour one day! Such beautiful views.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      October 6, 2016 at 11:55 am (7 months ago)

      It really was a scenic train ride, with the added bonus of being linked to HP.

      Reply
  4. Stacey
    October 3, 2016 at 11:32 pm (7 months ago)

    These are beautiful photos and even this not-that-much-of-a-Harry-Potter fan is now dying to take this ride. That scenery! Actually my son was very much into Harry Potter and flew through the books and I watched all the movies with him (twice) and he was in heaven at the Harry Potter studios even though at 13 he was trying his best to be “so cool” but the look on his face when he got to put a cape on and ride the broom in front of the green screens was priceless. There was no more “Mr. Cool Guy” after that and we all loved our day at the studio. I guess I’d have to be sure he could come along if I rode this train eh? :-)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      October 6, 2016 at 11:54 am (7 months ago)

      That’s great Stacey! You know where to take your son for this birthday now ;-)

      Reply
  5. Yasmin Qureshi Photography
    October 4, 2016 at 5:10 pm (7 months ago)

    I’m dreaming of the day when I can finally go here! These photos and the views look so great. Thanks for posting this :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      October 6, 2016 at 11:50 am (7 months ago)

      Thanks Yasmin! It was a wonderful experience.

      Reply
  6. Rachel
    October 9, 2016 at 10:09 pm (7 months ago)

    Wow, this looks so magical! I can’t wait to go someday soon!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:22 pm (6 months ago)

      Fingers crossed you go sooner rather than later!

      Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:21 pm (6 months ago)

      It really is!

      Reply
  7. anggi
    October 12, 2016 at 10:31 am (6 months ago)

    hello Marie, i really love to read all your traveling story. im from Indonesia and im way too far from Scotland. Since im one of die hard fans of Harry Potter i wish once in my life time i can also ride that train. It must be an awesome moment to be there and feeling like you are traveling to Hogwarts. Thank u for showing me your photo and the story. Its marvelous and i love it so much

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:21 pm (6 months ago)

      It was an awesome moment indeed, I will never forget it!

      Reply
  8. Steven
    October 16, 2016 at 1:41 am (6 months ago)

    Everyone who are fans of harry Potter should visit this place and riding the train for sure.The landscape is so incredible and the train is just similar to the Hogwarts Express. Really a great photos and wonderful post. I thing Scotland Gov must build a Hogwarts castle near the track too, it will be more stunning. Thank u for sharing Marie

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:19 pm (6 months ago)

      Absolutely! Such an iconic thing to do.

      Reply
  9. Rhonda
    October 18, 2016 at 6:14 pm (6 months ago)

    Oh my! We are traveling to London and Scotland on a HP Pilgrimage in April. Planning to take a train from Kings X to Edinburgh. Wondering how to fit this in too — is this a day trip from Edinburgh? Or too far?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:18 pm (6 months ago)

      It would be too far I’m afraid, as the train leaves from Fort William, which is 2 hours from Glasgow, which itself is an hour from Edinburgh.

      Reply
  10. Ratheesh R Nath
    October 31, 2016 at 4:10 am (6 months ago)

    Spectacular sights! I, too, wish that I was there. Thanks for sharing this beautiful images

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm (6 months ago)

      Glad you like it Ratheesh!

      Reply
  11. Faim de Voyages
    November 2, 2016 at 6:07 pm (6 months ago)

    Amazing ! This train does exist in real life ? I want to take it too ! :)
    It looks wonderful !

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm (6 months ago)

      Yes the train exists! The actual train used for filming is at the Harry Potter studio in Watford-London but the steam train that served as inspiration (and is actually identical) does run in the summer.

      Reply
  12. Marlies
    November 2, 2016 at 7:13 pm (6 months ago)

    Yep I am so doing this when the weather is better!
    Love your photos!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:04 pm (6 months ago)

      THanks Marlies! This train is definitely a must-do.

      Reply
  13. JAYAKUMAR G
    November 16, 2016 at 12:50 am (5 months ago)

    wow….nice to hear harry potter train…..i had seen all chapters of harry potter movie…its an amazing all kind of kids like that movie…..but you feel real experience like with Hogwarts train and also your pictures are very interesting to see..after i reading your blog am also want to ride with Hogwarts train…..

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 17, 2016 at 10:00 am (5 months ago)

      You should do it!

      Reply
  14. ALLISON STUBER
    January 25, 2017 at 2:58 pm (3 months ago)

    How much was it??

    Reply
  15. Ioanna
    March 8, 2017 at 1:43 pm (2 months ago)

    I was there in August and did the same hike – twice :) I took the regular train to Glennfinnan and hiked from there, stayed for the night in a bothy and hiked some around the place. I also watched the Jacobite riding over the viaduct and my Potterhead fangirl was squeeeing inside :) One day I will also go on the actual Hogwarts express ride! :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 13, 2017 at 8:13 pm (1 month ago)

      Woah, that must have been an amazing trip! There seems to be gorgeous hikes out there.

      Reply

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