We couldn’t visit the Scottish area of Fort William without a visit to the Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct (famously known as the Harry Potter bridge). In this article we’ll share reasons why we think you should add a visit to Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct to your itinerary if you’re planning a Scotland road trip.
Steeped in history, jaw dropping scenery and magical moments, Glenfinnan is a great family and dog friendly day out. Here’s why we think you should add this to your Scotland holiday plans…
Glenfinnan is a tiny hamlet in the Lochaber area of the Highlands of Scotland. Located 18 miles west of Fort William, Glenfinnan has a lot to offer and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
The 200 year old Glenfinnan Monument is cared for by the National Trust of Scotland. It marks the spot for one of Scotland’s most important events, the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Eight months before the Battle of Culloden, 1,200 Highlanders gathered in Glenfinnan to pledge their allegiance to Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonny Prince Charles).
In 1815 the monument was built as a poignant reminder of the clansmen who gave their lives to the Jacobite cause. After raising the royal standard (flag) and sharing a brandy, they set off on a fateful campaign to regain the British throne for a Stuart king.
Today, visitors can learn all about the history of Glenfinnan at the visitor centre, which is open April – October. From the visitor centre take a short walk down to the Glenfinnan Monument and shoreline of Loch Shiel. When we visited the sun was shining and several families were having picnics on the sand and pebble beach. Children and dogs were having a wonderful time paddling in the Loch, which was crystal clear. On a hot day like ours, the cool paddle was such a welcome for our dogs Poppy and Coco.
Whilst researching this site I discovered that it’s also possible to climb the Glenfinnan Monument for spectacular views 60ft above the shoreline of Loch Shiel. From the top of the tower apparently there are 360° panoramic views across the loch, mountains and the viaduct. Advance booking is required via the National Trust Scotland site, tickets cost approx. £5.00.
Gift A Membership To National Trust Scotland
Built in the 1890s, the Glenfinnan viaduct provides a dramatic backdrop to the iconic Glenfinnan Monument. The viaduct has an impressive 1,000 ft span and is 100 ft above the ground, which carries the railway to Glenfinnan Station. It was designed by the rail and road engineer, Sir Robert McAlpine, who became known as Concrete Bob.
A Jacobite steam train can be seen during the summer months crossing the 21 arches of the viaduct, which was made famous by the Harry Potter Movies. The filming of the second and third Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban took place in this area with the Hogwarts Express calling at Glenfinnan! To find out the steam train times and directions across the bridge (from left or right) visit the West Coast Railways site.
When did we visit:
We visited the Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct in late August on a glorious sunny day. It was very busy as it was the summer holidays and the viaduct is a very popular visitor attraction for families wanting to see where two of the Harry Potter movies were filmed.
How to get to Glenfinnan
To visit the Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct head to the visitor centre car park clearly signposted from the A830 between Fort William and Mallaig.
Ordnance Survey – Personalised Gift Map
What we liked about this site
Watching the steam train cross the viaduct was magical, the train slows down as it crosses the bridge to allow plenty of time for waving at the passengers and photographs. I loved hearing the train pick up speed again as it pulled away, the chuff of the steam engine echoed through the valley as it bounced off the mountains on either side. Very cool and well worth a visit for steam train fans as well as Harry Potter fans 🙂
Points to note
- When we visited (Aug 2021) the car park charges were £3.50 cars and £6.00 Motorhomes.
- The car park gets extremely busy the hour before and after the Jacobite Steam Train is due to pass over the bridge.
- There is a cafe and toilets available at the visitor centre.
- Drones are not permitted at this location
- If you want to see the steam train crossing during the summer months my suggestion would be to arrive at least an hour before it’s due to cross, check out the times here. Whilst you wait you can visit the Glenfinnan Monument and visitor centre, which has toilets and refreshments available. Give yourself half an hour to find a good spot to view the steam train following one of the walking trails. We climbed up above the visitor centre for views looking straight across to the viaduct. This gave us a good landscape photo opportunity as seen above however, what it doesn’t show is the magnificent curve of the bridge. So if you’d prefer that angle in your photos head down towards the bridge itself.
- Glenfinnan Monument – National Trust Scotland information pages
- Glenfinnan Viaduct Walking Trail – we didn’t have time to do this but it looks like a lovely walk if you have time to explore.
- West Coast Railways – Timetable and further information about when the Steam Train Trip that passes over the viaduct
Our Scotland Road Trip – an introduction to our Scotland road trip series
Findhorn Beach and Motorhome Stopover – Fabulous dog friendly beach and Motorhome Aire on the North Est Coast 250 route.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my review of the Glenfinnan Viaduct (Harry Potter Bridge).
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