As an opener, I had no idea the Glenfinnan Viaduct had anything to do with Harry Potter. I only knew it existed because I was planning a trip to Mallaig - which I had been assured was a very picturesque drive, at the end of which I could get some excellent kippers (true!) - and I’d spotted the viaduct on the map. But I’m told it IS The Harry Potter Viaduct and the steam train that chugs over it IS the Hogwarts Express. O-kay.
Magic or no magic, the viaduct really is quite a sight to behold and it’s well worth taking a few hours to explore the little area and view it from a variety of angles.
Park in the main visitor centre car park (free for NTS members, as is the Monument on the other side of the road). From there, there’s an ‘official’ viewpoint, which you can get to by following the path that goes up behind the centre building. That gives you a pretty decent view of the loch and the Monument, but not so much of the viaduct.
Loch Shiel & the Glenfinnan Monument
To get up close’n’personal, come out of the car park onto the pavement, walk across the bridge and take the first lane to the right. You can pretty much let your dog wander freely from here on. The lane takes you right under the viaduct, then if you take the trail path to the left, you’ll end up at the second official-ish viewpoint and the angle from which most of the photos featuring the Jacobite steam train are taken.
Taken from just off the trail path
We haven’t managed to catch the Jacobite going over yet – tried twice but the place was mobbed and I couldn’t find anywhere to park, so we drove a few miles down the road towards Mallaig and found an amenable lay-by…
Back to the viaduct. If you want a lovely view of it with Loch Shiel in the background, you can go yomping up one of the larger hills either side the glen or, if you’re after a quicker, easier solution, there’s a wee hillock you can scamper up for a relatively decent shot. While Ledi and I both love a fantastic view, we’ve still to invest the time and effort in a more serious climb, but we’re pretty happy with what we’ve achieved so far:
Back down at base camp, make sure you cross the road and have a look at the Monument, then take a while to mooch on the banks of Loch Shiel before you hop back in the car.
Getting there: Follow the A82 north to Fort William; from there, take the A830 towards Mallaig. After around 14 miles, you reach Glenfinnan.
Sat Nav: PH37 4LT
OS Landranger map: 40 MALLAIG & GLENFINNAN Loch Shiel
Terrain: Footpaths, grass, rocks & heather. If you’re planning on taking the trail path or climbing hillocks/mountains, wear decent walking boots.
Nearest facilities: Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. Although I’d highly recommend you make the trip to Mallaig (just 40 mins up the road) and grab some famous local kippers – I had mine in The Tea Garden Cafe.
Whippet Snippet… The Mallaig Tea Garden Café is very dog-friendly – they even sell doggie ice cream!!
All maps in the blog are from Google Maps
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