How To See The Hogwarts Express at Glenfinnan Viaduct

3 Aug 2021

I knew that when we decided to go to the Scottish Highlands on holiday this summer that the one thing I definitely wanted to see was the Hogwarts Express cross the Harry Potter bridge, or the Jacobite Express cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct if you want to be a muggle about it! This is a very familiar and iconic scene within the franchise and is definitely a must-see for any fellow lifelong Potterheads out there. Luckily the Glenfinnan Viaduct is very easily accessible so if you were to find yourself in the area, it's one hundred per cent worth a visit.
a photo of the hogwarts express from harry potter or the jacobite express steam train crossing glenfinnan viaduxt in the highlands of scotland

Where is it?

The Glenfinnan Viaduct, funnily enough, is located in the small Hamlet of Glenfinnan just outside of Fort William in the highlands of Scotland. It sits near to the Glenfinnan Monument which was erected in memory of those who died for the Jacobite cause as this is where the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 started, but that's obviously not why we're here. It does however have a visitor centre with a car park and that is the easiest way to get to the viaduct.

How To Get There?

Glenfinnan Viaduct as mentioned above is located just outside of Fort William so your best bet is to head there first. You'll most likely want to park your car in the car park at the visitor centre which as a national trust property you do have to pay for but there should be plenty of spaces so that's a good place to set your sat-nav for. There's also obviously a train station nearby so if you're stuck you could try that too. You can see the viaduct from the car park so once you're all parked up and ready to go head towards it and you should find a path to take you to where you need to be for the best views of the train.

When to see the train?

The Jacobite Express is the train that crosses the viaduct and it travels from Fort William to Mallaig (and back) twice a day. It does only run from April to October though so if you want to see it make sure you go during that time or you'll be disappointed. The route operates a morning and afternoon service. The morning service leaves Fort William at 10.15 and the afternoon service at 12.45 (14.45 on Saturdays). The train will cross the viaduct about 30-40 minutes after it departs from Fort William so around 10.50 in the morning and 13.20 in the afternoon but I definitely recommend checking the timetable to be sure that the times are correct because they've recently changed them. Make sure to leave yourself lots of time though so you're not rushing. We arrived at 12.30ish to see the 13.20 crossing which was probably a little too early but we weren't taking any chances. We brought a packed lunch with us though and had a little picnic so it actually worked out very well for us. We were so early that we actually got to see another train go across which gave a great opportunity to practice the shots in preparation.


Where to see the train

Once you arrive at the Glenfinnan car park there are several different vantage points that you can opt for. If you don't mind a little hike, the best place to see the train cross is from the hillside. I wasn't in the most appropriate hiking gear so don't worry if you're not great with climbing I'm not the best and I managed it perfectly fine! We found a spot on the side of the hill and played the waiting game. As we were there during COVID there weren't a ton of people about but it can definitely get busy and the crowds will definitely start to appear as it draws nearer to the crossing time. It only takes around 30 seconds for the train to cross the viaduct so make sure you're ready to get the shot. The driver does slow down and blow out the steam a bit more as they near the end to ensure you get your shots which I thought was very nice of them. I definitely recommend bringing someone with you to capture some shots of you with the train too if that's what you're after because my dad was definitely not the best at understanding my vision but he tried his best!


So there you have it - How to see the Hogwarts Express in real life, obviously, the meticulous planning takes a little bit of the magic out of it but it was definitely a super fun thing to see, just be prepared to have Going Back to Hogwarts from A Very Potter musical stuck in your head for the entire duration! You can even ride on the train if you're so inclined which I'm sure would be an even better experience to get to actually ride the Hogwarts Express over the viaduct but we opted to just view it as we were just passing through and not really staying in the area! If you have any other questions about this let me know below and I'll try my best to help!

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