Sometimes we think that when Hollywood makes it movies, it builds these elaborate sets in order to make the worlds they are creating come alive. We are amazed at these elaborate set pieces, and wish that if it were possible, we would go visit them. What we do not realize is that these set pieces have sometimes been around much longer than the stories that they inhabit. One of these places was used in the Harry Potter series, the Hogwarts Express, and it has become quite the tourist destination sight.
Every morning on the hillside outside of Glenfinnan in Scotland, a group of people will gather to watch this steam-powered train take a ride over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a bridge that spans across a valley and over a river. The train, whose real name is the West Highland Railway Mallaig Connection, is actually a passenger train that will take people from Fort William to Mallaig, the port city for the ferry that will take people over to Isle of Skye. Of course, this train has been running for a lot longer than the Harry Potter series has been around, and has always been a tourists attraction, but since it has been featured in the movies, it has gained in popularity.
If this is something that you wish to do, you will need to be there in plenty of time before the train arrives. Not only does it take about fifteen minutes to hike up to the hillside, and find a good viewpoint away from all of the other tourists, there is also the problem of parking nearby. There is a pay to park lot which costs four pounds, and there are limited spots, so it can be hard to find one.
The scenery out there is spectacular, and there is a gift and coffee shop connected to the parking lot. It is worth seeing, but the train is a little bit of a disappointment. The train does not go over the viaduct fast enough to make it as exciting as it is in the movie. It will stop for pictures, and to allow the passengers to wave at the people on the hill. It will blow the smoke once, and it was only a little plume, so it didn’t make that great of a picture. But that does not mean you should skip the sight. The viaduct is cool, and worth the time out there, but if you go when the train does not come by, it is not as touristy.
There is another historic sight right across the street from the parking lot as well which does not attract as many tourists, the Glenfinnan Monument. This is the spot where Prince Charles Edward Stuart started his campaign to take the crown of England and where he gained support from 1,200 Highlanders. The significance of this place is just as great to visit as the viaduct, but most people skip coming here when all they would have to do is cross the street.
Both sights are worth your time if you are in the area, and should be made a part of your itinerary before going off to other places in Scotland, and I hope that you get the chance to make the voyage.