If you are a fan of Harry Potter, in our opinion, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is the number one Harry Potter spot in Scotland, and is a MUST see.
For any Potter Heads, seeing the Hogwarts Express chugging along this trainline is something magical that you could only dream of seeing.
Even if you aren’t a Harry Potter fan, the viaduct is pretty impressive in it’s own right, and the scenery surrounding the viaduct is simply breath-taking too. If you’d like to know more about the Glenfinnan Viaduct then please read on!
What Is the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is a railway viaduct in Glenfinnan and the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland. The viaduct spans a length of 414 meters (1,362 feet) across the valley of the River Finnan near Glenfinnan.
It consists of 21 arches made from granite and concrete, each 20 meters (66 feet) high. The viaduct is located in the Highlands of Scotland and offers a stunning view of Loch Shiel and the surrounding hills.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct played a starring role in the Harry Potter films, with the Hogwarts Express (The famous Jacobite steam train) chuffing along the bridge. The viaduct features in three of the films – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
What is a viaduct?
Viaducts are a form of bridge that cross over large distances. They may be used in both rural and urban areas, and they are most commonly used to carry roads over long stretches of land or deep valleys.
The term viaduct comes from the Latin word via meaning “road” and ducere meaning “to lead.” A viaduct is so called because it leads through a valley via a series of arches, or pillars, that support the roadway above the ground level at intervals along its length.
A viaduct is typically composed of large spans that are built to support heavier loads than typical bridges would need to bear. The spans may be composed of steel trusses, iron girders, reinforced concrete beams supported by steel rods; or combinations thereof.
Does the Glenfinnan Viaduct Have a Historic Backstory?
The viaduct was designed by John Fowler and built in 1897-1899 for the North British Railway to carry trains from Ballachulish to Mallaig. It was constructed by the engineer Robert Mcalpine who was knighted for his achievement.
It was constructed as part of a major upgrade to what became known as the Great North of Scotland Railway in order to provide access southwards from Glasgow and Edinburgh via Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen; it opened for trains on 1 October 1901.
Where Is the Glenfinnan Viaduct Located?
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is located in Glenfinnan, Lochaber, Scotland. The address is A830 Rd, Glenfinnan PH37 4LT.
How To Get to the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
There is parking on site at the Glenfinnan Viaduct visitor centre. It cost us £6 to park there all day at the time of writing this post. From the car park there is a short walk to the viaduct, around 30 minutes at most, depending on how fast you walk. The walk is not too strenuous at all.
Is There Accessible Parking Available When Visiting the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
There is accessible parking at the visitor centre but as mentioned, there is a walk to the viaduct which is not really accessible for anybody with walking difficulties.
Black Rock Gorge is another great Harry Potter filming location in Scotland. If you’d like to find out more, you can check out our blog post here – Black Rock Gorge – The Mystical Harry Potter Filming Location You Need To Visit
Do You Have to Hike to Reach the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
Yes – there is around a 20 – 30 minute walk to the viaduct from the visitor centre car park. It is not a strenuous walk at all, there will just be a short uphill walk depending on high up you want to position yourself to see the train.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
The Glenfinnan Viaduct can be visited all year round, but the best day to go would be a sunny clear day so that you get the best views (which can be difficult in Scotland!)
The reason you’re going to the Glenfinnan Viaduct is most likely going to be because you want to see the Jacobite train, so you need to ensure you time your visit right with when the train runs.
Below you can see the current timetable for the train. The train should arrive at the Glenfinnan Viaduct around 30 – 40 minutes after the train departs the Fort William station.
We recommend getting in position at the Glenfinnan Viaduct at the time that the train is departing the Fort William station to get a good spot to see the train on the bridge as this is a spot that attracts thousands of visitors and it gets extremely busy. Visiting in off-season is recommended if you want to beat the crowds.
You will want to get to the car park quite a bit earlier than that to ensure you get a parking space, as the car park gets extremely busy also.
For more information on the Jacobite Steam Train and it’s timetable, you can check the website here – The Jacobite Train — The Jacobite Trail
What Should I pack if I plan on visiting the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
We recommend taking some midge spray with you as we were there on a sunny day and there were lots of midges about, especially if you get there early and you will be standing around for a while waiting for the train to come.
Also, if it is a warm sunny day then you may want to wear sun cream as the sun was really beating down on us whilst we were there, and perhaps sunglasses and a sun hat.
On the other hand, it does rain more days than not in Scotland, so the weather could change at any moment so if the forecast says rain then it is also best to wear waterproof clothing to prepare for this.
You will want to take some water for the walk and also a camera, because if you’re anything like us, you’ll be taking lots and lots of photos! If you have a wide zoom camera lens then we recommend using this to get some good close-up photos of the Jacobite train.
How To Incorporate the Glenfinnan Viaduct into Your North Coast 500 Route?
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is a little further south of the NC500 in the west of Scotland and is very easy to incorporate into your NC500 route if you have the time to explore a little further.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct was one of our favourite things that we did in the whole of Scotland. For any Harry Potter fan this should be top of your list of things to do in Scotland and we can’t recommend it enough – a truly magical place!
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I have always wanted to travel and luckily I always got to travel to some amazing countries while I was growing up with my family and this really encouraged me to continue this and get out into the world on my own when I was older.
My goal growing up was really to see as much of the world as I could, but then I started going to work and really concentrating on my career and travel took a back seat. I still tried to get away a few times a year but I always knew there was an end goal which was to travel as much as possible.
So I got my head down and worked as hard as I could as an e-commerce manager. I have always been techy, I love computers and websites, so that’s where it gave me the idea to start this blog and also have my own web design agency. If you want to check it out or need any help then please take a look rrwebdesign.co.uk (shameless plug there)
But after covid, we both knew this was now the right time to take the leap and go and see the world after being trapped inside our house and working from home for a couple of years. We realised more than ever that you only get one life and you really need to make the most of it and do what you love!