In July 2017, when I was still living in Glasgow, my friend Mini visited Scotland and I had the pleasure of hosting her and showing her around. We had a full weekend to go wherever in Scotland we wanted to, and Mini asked me for suggestions of places to see. I thought about it long and hard. There were lots of great places to see that doesn’t require more time than an overnight stay, but we wanted to pick somewhere that I hadn’t been to yet so that it’d be new for both of us, which was challenging because I had been to a lot of places!
Then I thought…hey! How about Glenfinnan near Fort William? I asked Mini, “Are you a fan of Harry Potter?” She answered, “Yes!” “Well then I have the perfect place – let’s go see the Harry Potter Bridge!”
Of course Harry Potter fans who have seen the movies would know that I was talking about the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which the Hogwarts Express crosses on the way to Hogwarts. I had known about it for a while with the intention to explore during a free weekend but somehow never got to it, so Mini’s arrival was the perfect opportunity.
We set out on Friday night and took the train to Fort William on the West Highland Way, which was around 3.5 hours from Glasgow. The West Highland Way has got to be one of the most scenic train routes in the world and I could never get enough of the views along the way. As it was mid-summer in Scotland, the sun was only beginning to show signs of setting even close to 9 pm (time that this photo was taken).
The next morning, we took another train westward to Glenfinnan, surrounded by lochs (Loch Shiel shown here) and mountains (Sgùrr Ghiubhsachain on the left) and beauty everywhere. There was a trail that would lead us to a designated viewpoint for the Glenfinnan Viaduct- seems like they’ve got it all figured out for us tourists.
Greenery, sunshine, companionship – seemed like a perfect day! The destination was the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which meant that we had to backtrack a little as our train crossed it before arriving at Glenfinnan station. Ordinary trains like the one we took regularly cross the viaduct, but we were there to see the crossing of the Jacobite steam train, the real Harry Potter experience!
We found the trail and started walking. We timed our walk so that we would arrive near the viaduct viewpoint well before the Jacobite was scheduled to appear. I think there were only two crossings of the Jacobite each way per day (the regular train crosses more often) so we definitely could not be late. Thankfully the trail was clear as day, and we were still surrounded by gorgeous scenery! We also had to make sure that we got back to the station in time, after the Jacobite crossing, to take OUR train back to Fort William, so it did take some planning ahead of time. But hey that’s what I love doing, and the anticipation was building up!
What’s that? A train on the viaduct? Yes, target in sight, though that was the regular train, not the Jacobite that we were waiting for. There was still a lot of time before it was scheduled to cross, and we were glad that we were not lost. Now to find the best viewpoint…
…this was a good place, but not quite close enough. Though, this perspective does show the grandiosity of the natural setting that we were immersed in. You could imagine how grand the viaduct itself was, but it seemed like a toy compared to the hills in the distance!
Ah, finally we arrived at the foot of the viaduct, right underneath it to feel its grandness close-up. We decided to split up to take photos from different angles, and I chose this place as I thought that it’d offer some great photos of the train and the viaduct together.
We kept looking and soon after saw a place where lots of folks were already set up and waiting. And we thought, that must be it, the official viewpoint that was sought after. It was about half an hour before the Jacobite was planned to appear, so our arrival gave Mini plenty of time to adjust her gear to take the perfect photos.
THIS. This is the place where the iconic photos of the Jacobite are usually taken. No wonder there were so many others guarding their spots. Those curves and arches on the viaduct look so smooth and aesthetically pleasing ❤
Mini's "gear" wasn't complicated or high-tech – just a smartphone, actually. We had to make things work by using what was available, namely Mini's backpack, wallet, and selfie stick, which all played a part in ensuring that her phone stood upright and still. Now all was set and we wait for the main character's appearance…
…but I had to run back to my spot, quickly because the train was coming! There it comes, choo choo! (Yes the train did make the sound.) I wonder if people on the train knew that outside their windows, many people were waiting for them to pass by 😛
Here’s a closer look at the Jacobite on the Glenfinnan Viaduct. I think I’d like to be on the Jacobite one day and travel from Fort William all the way to Mallaig, then take the ferry over to Skye instead of the bus. That’ll have to wait till I see my beloved Scotland again someday…
After the Jacobite has disappeared into the distance, Mini and I still had a bit of time left before our scheduled trip back to Fort William. We wandered a little along the shore of Loch Shiel and I became amazed again at how much beauty Scotland holds. And it saddened me that I’d be leaving in three months (till today I’m STILL sad that I am not in Scotland now!!)
Selfie time! Thanks to Mini’s visit, we had a fun-filled day hiking and exploring the Glenfinnan area (and I still didn’t know where to look in the camera). Of course I didn’t know at that time that two years later, Mini would become one of my bridesmaids!
Finally, we hopped onto a train back to Fort William and another back to Glasgow, going in the reverse direction on the West Highland Way. The hills are alive everywhere in Scotland, a place that will always have a piece of my heart – or heck it could have all of it if it wants!