Steam Trains and Harry Potter on the Glenfinnan Trail

First, I should start with a confession.  I have never read a Harry Potter book.  I have never seen a Harry Potter movie.  Moreover, I never intend to read a Harry Potter book or see a Harry Potter movie.

However, I am not ignorant to the fact that scenes from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban were filmed at Glenfinnan, and that the Hogwarts Express even stopped at Glenfinnan Station.  And, judging by the number of passengers packed into the Jacobite Steam Train, which runs a regular service between Fort William and Mallaig, passing through Glenfinnan, neither are most of my fellow visitors to this beautiful stopping-off point in the Scottish Highlands.

However, the reason for my visit is not location-spotting but walking.  A short, but very attractive walking trail runs from Glenfinnan Station, past the Glenfinnan Viaduct, down to the edge of Loch Shiel beside the Glenfinnan Monument, and then loops back again in a circle to the railway station.  The entire route is not much more than two miles in length, but it affords beautiful views of the surrounding hills, loch and countryside, and it is a walk to dally over and enjoy, not one to treat as a route-march.

Despite my lack of Harry Potter credentials, nevertheless the viaduct was a site that I was keen to see and, although I didn’t spot a Ford Anglia flying above it, better still, I did spot a beautiful rainbow.

Golden eagles are sometimes seen flying high above the surrounding hills; on the day that I visited, I was fortunate enough to spot a large flight of Whooper swans, just arrived from the Arctic.

At the Glenfinnan Monument, I extended my walk along the westerly shore of Loch Shiel on a paved track, which I could have followed for 15 miles, all the way to Polloch.  However, I was conscious that time was not on my side, and the number of trains from Glenfinnan Station sufficiently infrequent that I didn’t want to miss my designated departure and so, after eating my packed lunch in splendid isolation by the tranquil shore of the loch, I retraced my steps, coinciding my arrival with that of the Jacobite Steam Train and its returning horde of Potterheads.

I let them all crowd aboard and was happy to wave them goodbye from the station platform.  I was booked on the regular West Highland service: not quite so atmospheric or nostalgic, but a fraction of the price and a lot less crowded.

© E. C. Glendenny

E. C. Glendenny is off down a mysterious tunnel quicker than a Jack Russell Terrier.

E. C. Glendenny is the author of four volumes of travel writing:
Easy on the Eyes
Resting Easy
Easy Pickings
Easy Come, Easy Go

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