If you’re still waiting at the mailbox for your acceptance letter to Hogwarts, maybe it’s time to take things into your own hands. The Harry Potter Train in Scotland (aka The Jacobite Steam Train) is a direct line to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Well, sort of. While Hogwarts may be fictional, the train shown in the billion-dollar movie franchise is not.
This steam engine makes an 84-mile round-trip journey from Fort William to Mallaig and crosses the memorable bridge (you know which one) and some of the most impressive sights.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to excite your inner child with the same nostalgic train ride as your favorite childhood wizards, this is for you. Stick around to find out how to ride the real-life Hogwarts Express for yourself.
It’s always a good idea to be prepared for any European train ride, so here are the top things for Harry Potter fans to know before taking this train journey.
Long before this steam train was featured in the Harry Potter films, it operated as a mode of transport for everyday people between Fort William and Mallaig. It is part of West Coast Railways and offers these routes seven days a week.
The Jacobite Steam Train started running in 1901 and was named after the Jacobites. These James VII supporters fought for the Stuarts to return to the British Throne in the 17th and 18th centuries.
While this isn’t the exact train used in the films (that’s at the Warner Bros studios in London), it is very similar. The train even has compartments similar to that seen in the film, but those fill up fast, so it’s best to book these months in advance.
The address to the station is Tom-na-Faire, Station Square, Fort William, Highland, PH33 6EN. You can easily reach the Fort William train station by car or train from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
If you’re starting from Glasgow, you can expect to drive for about two and a half hours. The easiest route is to get on the A82 and stay on it for the duration of the ride.
Driving from Edinburg takes a bit longer as it’s about a three-hour drive. To get to the station, you’ll first have to cross the Queensferry crossing and stay on the M90. Turn onto the A9 at the Broxden Roundabout before turning onto Wade’s Military Road or the A889.
After 28.3 miles, you’ll turn onto A86 until you cross the River Spean and cross over to the A82. Stay on this road as it takes you to Fort William Station.
Note: There is enough parking space at the station, but budget at least 20 minutes of waiting time to get a parking spot, so you don’t miss your ride.
You can take a train to Fort William from Edinburgh and Glasgow through the West Highland Line. If you travel by train, you should arrive a day early as these trains arrive after the morning session departures. But you might be able to catch the afternoon sessions.
Tip: You can plan your journey better by looking up your route on the National Rail site.
The Jacobite Steam Train starts at Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain. It then carries its passengers to Mallaig at the end of the “Road to the Isles.”
Of course, the trip is usually for the Harry Potter fan, but it’s not all about the filming locations. Throughout the entire journey, you’ll get to see mesmerizing scenery and pass beautiful villages, lochs, a waterfall, and endless greenery.
There are two sessions that the Jacobite Train operates on a morning service and an afternoon service. These run seven days a week from the beginning of May to the end of October.
The exact dates are subject to change yearly, so it’s best to check the schedule before booking any trips.
If you take the morning train from Fort Williams, you can expect the train to depart at 10:15 am. You should arrive at your final destination of Mallaig at 12:26 pm.
But, if you take the afternoon session, you should be at the Fort Williams station before 12:50 pm. You’ll then arrive in Mallaig at around 15:06 pm.
The train departs from Mallaig at 14:00 pm and 17:00 pm. Here, you’ll get some time to explore and buy lunch and souvenirs. You should expect to leave for Fort Williams by 16:03 pm and 18:52, respectively.
However, these are just the times for Sunday to Friday. While there is a morning service on Saturdays, there aren’t any afternoon sessions.
There are two classes to choose from on this train: first class carriages and standard. Of course, the carriages will have different features and price points.
If you want to travel Europe on a budget, take the standard class carriages. Adult return tickets cost £57 (roughly $70), while child tickets cost £33 ($40). This ticket gets you a seat in a four-person open compartment with a table in the middle.
This ticket doesn’t include food or drinks, so you’ll have to bring your own or buy something off the buffet carriage. However, you’ll get complimentary tea and coffee at each stop if you get first-class tickets.
The four seater first class open-compartments cost £89 ($107) per adult and £63 ($76) per child. If you want a more intimate space, you can also book a private table for two at £199 ($240).
While the train stops at a few places, the Hogwarts Express train journey experience is the main event. Along the Jacobite train ride, you’ll get plenty of time to take photos and indulge in the emphasis the railway puts in immersing Harry Potter fans into the magical adventure.
Tip: Sit on the left side of the train for the best views on the way there. When you return to Mallaig, sit on the right-hand side.
Fort William is the biggest town in the Highlands and home to Ben Nevis mountain. This is where your Harry Potter Train ride starts.
If you arrive a day early to Fort William, consider visiting Steall Falls in the Glen Nevis valley, about seven miles away. These falls are the second-highest waterfalls in Scotland and have been spotted in a few Harry Potter films.
While it’s not a focal point, you can see it in the background of a Quidditch match and Harry’s battle with a dragon in The Goblet of Fire.
It is a short two-hour hike up, but as you know, one tip to keep in mind when planning a trip to Europe is always to check the weather first. The trail can get slippery when wet.
On the way to the next stop, you might recognize the narrow Loch Shiel as seen in The Goblet of Fire. This was the lake used to film the underwater scene at the Triwizard Tournament.
This lake is also where Harry first encounters a Dementor in The Prisoner of Azkaban. However, it briefly makes guest appearances in the background of all eight movies now and then.
When you pass Loch Shiel, you’re already on your way to Glenfinnian. This viaduct is also known as the Harry Potter bridge and is possibly the highlight of the trip for all Potter fans.
This is the iconic bridge seen in The Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban, and The Goblet of Fire. It’s also where the iconic flying car scene happened in The Philosopher’s Stone.
If there is enough time, the conductor may even stop at Glenfinnan Station to allow you enough time to stretch your legs and take in the sights.
It is the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland and offers amazing views of nearby lakes, mountains, and lush green valleys beneath it.
While here, don’t forget to look for the Jacobite Rebellion monument across the viaduct built here in 1815. The Glenfinnan Station Museum is also a notable site to visit for more insight into the area not related to the boy who lived.
Arisaig has Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station. It is a small village on the shore of Loch nan Ceall.
Loch Eilt is in Lochailort between the Glenfinnan Viaduct and Arisaig. The most notable scene shot at Loch Elit is where Dumbledore is buried after his death. This lake has a few islands that are seen in a number of Harry Potter films.
If you ask nicely, the conductor may stop here briefly, too.
Mallaig is the last stop on Scotland’s Harry Potter train route. It is a small but buzzing village as it also has a port and ferry services. Before starting your return journey, you’ll have an hour and a half to enjoy the village’s charm.
As it is so lively, you’ll have enough restaurants, cafes, and activities to choose from here. But fish and chips from a coastal town never disappoint.
One shop you can’t miss is Haggard Alley. It is a Harry Potter merchandise shop that sells everything from gear to snacks seen in the movies.
Mallaig is home to Loch Morar — the deepest seawater loch in Scotland. This lake is used in a few shots for all eight movies. You can see it on the West Highland Line, so keep an eye out your window just before the stop to spot it.
How many filming scenes from the Harry Potter movies do you think you’ll be able to spot? On the train ride, you’ll surely see the famous Harry Potter bridge, Dumbledore’s grave, and some pivotal scenes in Harry’s life.
Of course, the Jacobite train isn’t just for Potter heads but for anyone that wants to see the beautiful sights of the Scottish Highlands. The entire route is blanketed with rolling hills and sparkling lochs all over.
Now that you know how to get to Hogwarts after your invite got lost in the mail, what are you waiting for?
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