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How to Visit Harry Potter Train Bridge - Glenfinnan Viaduct from Inverness

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Hogwarts Express – the Jacobite

Scotland is considered to be one of the most beautiful countries in the whole of Europe and Highland is probably the most beautiful and popular part of it. Many tourists come to this iconic corner of Europe every year for one reason or another, but often the most frequent destinations are dictated by popular culture. One of those almost legendary places is Glenfinnan Viaduct, which together with the Jacobite Steam Train appeared in a cult – already becoming a classic – movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Most of us love Harry Potter, right? Though the railway between Fort William and Mallaig is considered to be one of the most spectacular train routes in the world, the planet’s most famous wizard is the reason for the Jacobite’s and Glenfinnan Viaduct’s popularity in the first place. About 330 000 visitors come to visit this epic human-engineering achievement annually.

Glenfinnan Viaduct from below on a sunny summer day, Scotland. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Visiting Glenfinnan Viaduct: Bus vs Car

Of course, a car is the most convenient way to visit Glenfinnan, but if you are not a local – understand that driving in Scotland is not the easiest thing to do. Especially, if you are not used to driving on the left side of the road. Confidence is not enough here, experience is required as well. After spending some time in Scotland, I know for sure that many locals would thank you if you would choose to see Glenfinnan Viaduct by bus instead of a car. Even more, with the increasing numbers of visitors and a lack of parking space, a visit by an automobile might be very complicated, as more and more visitors come each year.

Bus Itinerary Details

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Typical landscape view in Highland of Scotland. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Visiting Glenfinnan Viaduct by Guided Tour

While traveling either by bus or car has its own advantages and disadvantages, a guided tour to Glenfinnan Viaduct could be the most convenient way to visit the famous Harry Potter train bridge from Inverness. This way you’ll avoid all the trouble caused by a very limited parking space, and will save a lot of time caused by traveling by a means of public transport, you’ll visit the famous Urquhart Castle by Loch Ness, but most importantly – you’ll get to ride Hogwarts Express yourself. While there a various guided tours to the Jacobite, at least this one offer the magical ride.

This is very convenient because you don’t have to worry about moving in-between the cities. After visiting the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct vistas, the driver will take you to Mallaig, where you’ll start the epic train ride to For William. There you’ll be collected and brought back to Inverness. You can read more details about this guided tour on the official GetYourGuide website.

Wherever I decide to visit some places by guided tours, I always pick one on GetYourGuide. This way I get better guarantees for quality service and proper cancelation policies. Thanks to that, even after my booking I can remain flexible with my travel planning, hear interesting stories only a local guide could tell, and simply relax and enjoy the trip with all the wonders it has to offer.

Tour Itinerary Details

Loch Shiel view from Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail, Scotland. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots
Greig Street Bridge in Inverness during a nice summer day, Scotland. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Things to See

I suspect right now there is no need to talk about Inverness itself. You have planned your stay there for a reason. I hope you left an evening or two to explore the capital of Scotland Highlands. It is a small, but very charming city. I bet you won‘t regret it if you give it some time to reveal its Scottish spirit.

Loch Ness surrounded by hills on a sunny day, Highlands of Scotland. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Loch Ness

First, I should mention that the road from Inverness to Fort William goes by the fault line between the east and the west of Scotland Highlands along legendary Loch Ness. If you have seen Loch Ness already, you probably feel like „whatever“, but if it is your first time, I know you are excited. Every extra minute to spot the iconic Nessie monster counts, right?

But honestly, if you are planning a separate day visit to this famous Scottish landmark – know that it is not worth it. There is a reason local businessmen had to invent a mythical creature to attract visitors and the sad reality is that except mythical Loch Ness monster there is nothing special about the lake. It is beautiful, of course, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of lakes like Loch Ness in Scotland. As a matter of fact, I bet nobody could tell if these photos are of Loch Ness or any other lake in the country.

Can you tell if this is Loch Ness or any other lake in Highland of Scotland? I bet nobody can tell the difference. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Ben Nevis

This is a hidden gem of the trip to Glenfinnan Viaduct. Almost at the end of the route from Inverness to Fort William, you‘ll get to see the highest mountain, not only in Scotland but the whole United Kingdom – Ben Nevis. If you have time, I would suggest delaying your return trip to Inverness and spend an extra day to experience the mountain, or, at least, its surroundings. Wherever you find the highest mountain in the region, a dramatic landscape should be expected.

Duncansburgh MacIntosh Parish Church in Fort William, Scotland. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Fort William

Even though Fort William is the second biggest town in the Highlands of Scotland, it has the most impressive title. This remote beautiful town is often described as the „Outdoor Capital of the UK“. It might sound like a bit too much, but once you look at the map it becomes obvious. Fort William is not only surrounded by the highest mountains in the whole UK, but many popular tourist destinations are easily accessible from here like: Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Oban, Isle of Mull, and the iconic destination from Harry Potter movies – Glenfinnan Viaduct.

The actual Harry Potter train “The Jacobite” doesn’t spit out as much of a steam as it does in the movie. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Glenfinnan Viaduct and the Jacobite

Finally, the legendary picturesque scenery of the Jacobite steam train riding through Glenfinnan Viaduct. After a such long journey, the famous Harry Potter Hogwarts Express steam train is a sight to see. As it slowly rolls through the giant viaduct connecting the ends of the mountains above the valley, you’ll have plenty of time to make as many pictures as you want, thus be respectful to other people. Hopefully, you’ll find some time to enjoy the view directly with your own eyes and not via a mobile phone screen. Have in mind that the view won‘t be exactly the same as from movies. These days, the Jacobite locomotive doesn‘t spit out as much steam as it does during its appearance in the famous scene of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Nevertheless, it is a hell of a sight to see for any Harry Potter fan.

Oh, and did I mention that if you arrive on Saturday, you‘ll get to see the Jacobite twice? A returning train to Fort William will arrive just about 15 minutes later.

Though you might need to wait for a while, the whole experience of magical Jacobite train will pass by pretty fast. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The Precise Timetable 2021

I‘ll try to update this, but be sure to double-check if the buses are still going at the same time. There were no changes in the last two years.

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Inverness – Fort William

Fort William – Glenfinnan

The main vista for Harry Potter train is only around 10 minutes of walking from the bus station. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

How to See Harry Potter Train on Glenfinnan Viaduct

The train moving from Fort William should reach Glenfinnan viaduct after 30-40 minutes after its departure and from the opposite direction – around 45 minutes before reaching Fort William. Note that the Jacobite has a different schedule during Saturdays. It runs the railway only twice a day so be sure to come plan to come a bit early to guarantee that you’ll not miss it.

Sunday – Friday Schedule

Fort William – Mallaig – 10:45 – 10:55, 13:15 – 13:25
Mallaig – Fort William – ~ 15:20, ~ 18:10


Saturday Schedule

Fort William – Mallaig – 10:45 – 10:55, 15:10 – 15:20
Mallaig – Fort William – ~ 15:20, ~ 19:50

Most of the vistas are on the Glenfinnan Viaduct trail, I highly recommend walking this beautiful hike and appreciate the history of the region after both trains have passed you by.

Hogwarts Express Ride Details

Map of Glenfinnan Viaduct Vistas

Glenfinnan – Fort William

Fort William – Inverness

Fort William – Oban

Pro tip: Traveling Cheaper in Scotland – Explorer Pass

One of the most important things to do before you start traveling by bus in Scotland is to get Explorer Pass. Unless you are booking your tickets in advance traveling in this country can get really expensive. The best way around is Explorer Pass. Depending on the duration of the trip across the country you can choose from 3 different Explorer Pass options:

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Obviously, the more you travel, the better the offer is. Just have in mind that Explorer Pass belongs to CityLink and more companies are providing their commuting services across Scotland. Nevertheless, CityLink partners with most of them, and Explorer Pass can at least give you a discount – like in this case 50% in price reduction for Shield Bus 500 ticket from Fort William to Glenfinnan.

Personal Experience

I know what you are thinking – this itinerary has a lot of bus changes – and I know it‘s scary. In the beginning, I didn’t feel comfortable as well, but I decided not to touch a car on this trip to Scotland. All I can say that during my week-long traveling across the Highlands of Scotland, buses always arrived and they never arrived early. The schedule I provided has big-time windows, so if you mess something up, it is on you. If you don’t want to risk ruining your holidays, consider taking a guided tour to Glenfinnan Viaduct from Inverness instead.

Though you might need to wait for a while, the whole experience of magical Jacobite train will pass by pretty fast. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Visiting Hogwarts Express

It is one of those places which for die-hard fans just have to feel like „I have to see it no matter what“, but rather more reasonable people would probably ask themselves – „is it actually worth visiting Glenfinnan viaduct?“. For sure, you‘ll get beautiful Instagram pictures, but then again, is it really worth it?

I would have to say that for a sole destination maybe not, but this is why you have to plan your travel route better. I visited Glenfinnan Viaduct on my way from Inverness to Oban and together with all the places I have mentioned before made it an exciting day. For a nature lover like me, the highlight of the day is not going to be the Jacobite train slowly rolling through Glenfinnan Viaduct, but the local hiking trail. Not to disrespect the Jacobite, but the views of Loch Shiel and the surrounding mountains totally steal it.

All content and photos by Alis Monte. If you want to collaborate, contact me on info@ctdots.eu Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

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