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.

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60 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 (2 years 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 (2 years ago)

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

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

      Thanks Yasmin! It was a wonderful experience.

      Reply
  6. Rachel
    October 9, 2016 at 10:09 pm (2 years ago)

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

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:22 pm (2 years ago)

      Fingers crossed you go sooner rather than later!

      Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 4, 2016 at 4:21 pm (2 years ago)

      It really is!

      Reply
  7. anggi
    October 12, 2016 at 10:31 am (2 years 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 (2 years ago)

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

      Reply
  8. Steven
    October 16, 2016 at 1:41 am (2 years 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 (2 years ago)

      Absolutely! Such an iconic thing to do.

      Reply
  9. Rhonda
    October 18, 2016 at 6:14 pm (2 years 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 (2 years 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 (2 years 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 (2 years ago)

      Glad you like it Ratheesh!

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

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

      Reply
  13. JAYAKUMAR G
    November 16, 2016 at 12:50 am (2 years 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 (2 years ago)

      You should do it!

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

    How much was it??

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

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

      Reply
  16. Robert
    June 21, 2017 at 10:06 pm (1 year ago)

    What an adventure! We are making plans to travel to Scotland in the near future and will definitely catch this train! Great pictures and travel inspiration, thanks! Rob :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 15, 2017 at 3:03 pm (1 year ago)

      Glad to help!

      Reply
  17. Karlee Conlin
    July 16, 2017 at 6:34 pm (1 year ago)

    incredible photos! Definitely need to go here someday. What camera did you use to take these?
    Thanks!
    Karlee

    Reply
  18. Patricia
    September 27, 2017 at 9:27 am (1 year ago)

    Hi Marie! So glad I found your blog! I’m planning a trip at the end of October where the one thing I gotta do, whatever it takes, is ride The Jacobite. However, I do wonder if it is worth it to do the return trip on the Jacobite or if I’m better off going back straight to Glasgow? Hope you can give me your wonderful insights (and yes, I am also obviously using your 72 hours in Glasgow guide!)

    Reply
  19. Meagan
    October 2, 2017 at 3:44 am (1 year ago)

    Hi!
    I’m planning on going in two weeks how do you purchase tickets and how did you get that picture at the bottom with the bridge in the background :)?

    Reply
  20. Aneesh Kerala
    December 14, 2017 at 3:45 am (12 months ago)

    Ooooh, I really want to go here. It has been on my bucket list for awhile now!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 19, 2018 at 10:51 pm (10 months ago)

      It needs to be done once in a lifetime!

      Reply
  21. Kristy Harrison
    March 13, 2018 at 4:31 pm (9 months ago)

    Please help me figure out how to do this! So did you get on the normal morning round trip train in Fort William, get off in Glenfinnan and not continue the rest of the train ride until the afternoon run? I am really interested in the hiking part. Any help would be appreciate!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 9, 2018 at 9:32 pm (8 months ago)

      I got on the early regular train from Fort Williams to Glenfinnan, got off to do the hike and see the train on the viaduct, and then hopped back on the next steam train in Glenfinnan onwards to Maillaig.

      Reply
  22. Heather Zapf
    April 3, 2018 at 11:34 am (8 months ago)

    Hello! My friends and I leave in a little over one week for our Scotland adventure, so excited! We have booked the train for one of our activities, does the train every stop to let you get out, look around, and take pictures? Does it go by the Isle of Skye? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 9, 2018 at 9:25 pm (8 months ago)

      It does go by the Isle of Skye but there is no time to get out the train and take photos at any of the stops, aside from Mallaig, where you have almost two hours if my memory serves. If you want to get off and hike, best to buy separate tickets.

      Reply
  23. Ann
    April 7, 2018 at 10:26 pm (8 months ago)

    How did you manage to stop in Glenfinnan? I’m on the website and it doesn’t look like there is an option to purchase Ft. William to Glenfinnan and then Glenfinnan to Mallaig.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 9, 2018 at 9:24 pm (8 months ago)

      I bought two tickets because I’m insane :-) One ticket from Fort Williams to Glenfinnan in order to do the hike and see the train on the viaduct and another full round-trip ticket between Fort William and Mallaig, which I only embarked on in Glenfinnan after the hike. If that makes sense.

      Reply
      • Raby
        April 22, 2018 at 10:17 am (8 months ago)

        Is it safe to hike alone to the viaduct? I am going to scotland this May and I am a solo female backpacker. So I really hope you could share some feedback about the hiking trail to the viewpoint.

      • Marie-Eve
        May 2, 2018 at 6:00 pm (7 months ago)

        Totally! I hiked there by myself.

      • Jessica Larsen
        May 1, 2018 at 1:22 pm (7 months ago)

        This post was exactly what I needed! I had the same question about purchasing tickets. So they didn’t have a problem with you boarding in Glenfinnan even though your ticket is from Fort William?

    • mika
      May 19, 2018 at 6:47 am (7 months ago)

      There is, on the National Rail website key in Fort William to Mallaig. Click on the advanced search or other options and type Glenfinnan as a “change at” stop. The search will throw up the results which basically allows you to stop over at Glenfinnan and catch the next regular train to Mallaig for the price of one ticket instead of buying two separate single tickets. Catch the first regular train out of Fort Willam and you will have enough time to do the hike and position yourself for the Jacobite train (see times stated in the article) to go over the viaduct.

      Reply
  24. Esther Park
    April 17, 2018 at 12:18 pm (8 months ago)

    We actually have a car so we will just drive to Glenfinnan to do the morning hike and see the morning train go by first :) I also purchased the afternoon roundtrip tickets but seems like I should be fine with the Standard ticket to get that view over the viaduct? Or do you recommend the upgrade to first class/HP-style?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 2, 2018 at 5:59 pm (7 months ago)

      It doesn’t matter which seat you get as you will need to stand at the end of the car to actually get your camera out the window. My tip: go as soon as you can, well before you get to Glenfinnan station, as everyone on the train will be trying to take the same photo.

      Reply
  25. Shanna
    April 25, 2018 at 8:24 pm (8 months ago)

    Just to confirm: you took a “normal” train from fort william to Glenfinnan. Then did the hike, got the shot of the train going over, hiked back, took a “normal” train to mallaig? Then on the way back took the jacobite train the entire way? If you didn’t do that exactly, is that an option? Trying to plan it so we can ride the actual train, but also get the shots from afar, which I know will mean multiple train tickets!

    Reply
  26. Karren
    May 7, 2018 at 4:35 pm (7 months ago)

    Great pictures…
    I will be visiting this August, super excited!!
    Did you hike starting from the visitor center ?
    Thanks for sharing the pictures :)

    Reply
    • Sara
      August 16, 2018 at 2:25 pm (4 months ago)

      Cool Karren. I will be there next week! Have you been there already?
      Thinking about catching the coach from Fort William to Glenfinnan, do the hike, catch the coach to Lochailort ( hike to Dumbledore’s grave) and then catch the coach to Mallaig to take the last Jacobite train back to Fort William. Does anyone know when the sun sets in Scotland nowadays (late august)?

      Reply
  27. Sarah
    May 31, 2018 at 10:42 am (6 months ago)

    Your photos are beautiful. What time of year did you go? Thank you!

    Reply
  28. Kathleen Normand
    June 21, 2018 at 1:19 pm (6 months ago)

    Question! If you had to choose one or the other due to time constraints, would you do the hike and watch the train pass over the viaduct, or would you ride it?

    Reply
  29. Adam McColl
    September 11, 2018 at 10:11 pm (3 months ago)

    These photos really warmed my expat heart.

    My Grandfather was the Postmaster for the area through the 80’s and 90’s. Some of my fondest memories are riding with him in his Range Rover from Strontian to Glenfinnan, getting the mailsack(s) from the trains, sorting the post in a small shack behind the monument, and delivering to all the small communities in the area.

    I always knew there was magic in those hills. The perfect setting for Harry Potter! :D

    Reply
  30. Kate
    October 1, 2018 at 2:49 pm (2 months ago)

    This is beautiful, such good information! We are planning a trip to Scottland in the spring and I need to add this to my list of “must-dos”!

    Reply
  31. Antonin
    December 7, 2018 at 6:41 pm (4 days ago)

    Hi!
    We plan to go to Scotland next year, and I wanted to know what was the best part, hiking and watch the train or take pictures from the viaduc, in the train?
    Thanks

    Reply

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