So you’ve been on the Harry Potter Studios Tour and you’re wanting to expand your Potter experience, then look no further, Scotland’s Harry Potter train is for you.
We boarded our carriage at Arisaig, Scotland’s western most train station, with excitement. Whilst officially known as the ‘Jacobite Steam Train‘, it has been lovingly renamed the ‘Harry Potter Train’ by many, after the track was used in several of the movies. The Potter fans were particularly excited and had been waiting for this moment the whole trip. The non Potter fans, were just as excited, anticipating the beautiful scenery that lay ahead on what is one of the world’s famous train journeys and one of the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands.
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Setting off on the Harry Potter Train
It didn’t take long before we were met with the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands, in my opinion, one of the best places in Scotland. The journey is unique as it passes by mountains, streams, expansive lochs and rocky outcrops. The landscape was so stunning that despite the cold, we opened the windows and poked our heads out in order to take photos and get the best views. This was a fabulous idea until we went through a tunnel and ended up getting covered in coal. It seems the windows were a little tricker to close than open and we didn’t quite make it in time
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Look out for the hints at Harry Potter
Whilst the train itself isn’t Harry Potter themed (the posh amongst us can sit in plush first class, however us mere muggles sat back in 3rd class) there are a few throw backs from the movie to look for. When you reach Glenfinnan station, if you look carefully, you’ll find a broomstick very similar to a Nimbus 2000 resting up against an arch at the station.
Travelling over the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct
The most exciting part of the ride, and the most memorable from the films, is the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct. Made famous when Ron and Harry take Ron’s enchanted Ford Anglia to school instead of the Hogwarts Express and nearly have an accident!
Thankfully riding across on the train is a little less hectic, although nonetheless exciting! At 100 feet high and around 1000 feet long, this gently curving viaduct is simply majestic. We all vied for a spot by a window to film the train as it negotiated the viaduct. The train was certainly abuzz with enthusiasm! The scenery around the viaduct is also spectacular, so it was hard to know where to look. All in all the beauty of the location, uniqueness of the viaduct and connection to the Harry Potter Films made it an iconic and unforgettable experience.
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Journeying on to Mallaig
Whilst the viaduct certainly is a highlight of the trip, the change in scenery as the train steams on to Mallaig keeps your eyes firmly focussed out the windows. Slowly green hills are replaced with rockier outcrops and large lochs.
With heavy hearts we pulled into Mallaig. What a spectacular experience.
What you need to know about riding the Harry Potter Express
If you’d like to ride the Jacobite train, its best to book in advance. The train runs from May to October. An adult first class ticket is £59.00 return or £54.00 one way. An adult third class ticket is £35.00 return or £30.00 one way. If you’re feeling fancy, you can book a private table for two in first class for £121.00.
Several locomotives run the route and you can learn a little more about them here. If you would like to book to sit in the traditional compartments like what the children in Harry Potter did, make sure to book well in advance!