The Hogwarts Express of the Harry Potter films really exists in the Highlands of Scotland. When Warner Bros were producing the films, they approached West Coast Railways in an effort to find a steam engine suitable for the magical journeys of Harry Potter. They used the Jacobite steam train, which became world-famous and the 42-mile journey Harry and his friends made in vintage carriages between Fort William and Mallaig has been considered since then as the greatest railway journey in the world.
The Jacobite journey between Fort William and Mallaig is a 84 mile round trip, which takes you past a list of impressive and breathtaking places. It starts at the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig, passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, before finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis. The end of the line is the fishing town Mallaig, a fascinating place where visitors can feel the atmosphere of a working fishing port but at the same time it is a peaceful and remote location. The train continues from here passing Morar and its silvery beaches used in the film “Highlander”.
During the journey the most famous part is the crossing of the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct which overlooks Loch Shiel. A location made famous in the Harry Potter films and especially in the “flying car” scene from the movie “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. The train may pause here, time permitting, to allow you to admire the magnificent view. The famous viaduct carries the railway to Glenfinnan Station and it is the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland. It is 380 meters long and crosses the River Finnan at a height of 30 meters. Its construction began in 1897 and the line opened in April 1901.
The Jacobite runs from May to October and makes morning and afternoon round trips every day. The one-way journey lasts approximately 2 hours, there is a 2 hours stop at Mallaig, and finally takes another 2 hours to return to Fort William. There are one-way and round-trip tickets. For more information visit the official site of West Coast Railways. Also if you want to stay overnight to Mallaig and return the next day find hotels and check prices on Tripadvisor or Booking.
In the words of the famous American photographer Ogle Winston Link, best known for his black-and-white photography and sound recordings of the last days of steam locomotive railroading in the United States : “the smoke and the fire and the speed, the action and the sound, and everything that goes together, the steam engine is the most beautiful machine that we ever made, there’s just nothing like it”.
This train journey is a unique destination and a once-in-a-lifetime experience either you are a Harry Potter fan, a train enthusiast or just a passionate traveller and seeker of new experiences. If you are visiting Scotland this route should definitely be on your bucket list.
*[All photos are from iStock]