We left the Isle of Skye to drive through the beautiful highland passes once again to our destination of Glen Nevis, camping for one more night before the luxury of a Bed and Breakfast on our last night. Also, if anyone was wondering how we were still camping considering our new tent broke in our first hellish night of tentageddon – we constructed a hybrid tent consisting of leaky tent from night 1 with the more waterproof fly sheet of tent 2 over the top. Now that’s what I call improvising.
We camped at Glen Nevis campsite, at the foot of the mighty Ben Nevis the biggest peak in the UK. Immediately I wasn’t keen on the campsite. This was a huge commercialised campsite, very different to what we had on Skye, with families and their multi bedroom mega-tents that seem more like an encampment of the Bedouin than a family camping trip. It was convenient and we were only staying one night, so we set up the tent and decided to go exploring.
On my Scotland “bucket list” if you can call it that, was to see the Glenfinnian Viaduct, the famous bridge that the Hogwarts Express traverses in Harry Potter.
We drove to Glenfinnian to check it out. Again, in true Scottish form, a wee bit confusing where to go to get a viewpoint of the famous railway. It wasn’t clear if you needed to pay or not, as there were signs discussing entry fees – turns out this was for the visitor centre which was already closed, but they charge for the carpark. We were having none of that and cheekily parked without paying since it was already late in the evening. I think you could park just a little way up the road and walk back if you are stingy like us.
The walk up to the viewpoint is nice and short, quite steep but easy enough. The viewpoint is technically to view the Glenfinnian Monument, a tall tower with a statue of Bonny Prince Charlie on top, however I don’t think anyone walked up the hill to look at that view – it was all about the Harry Potter factor.
Disappointingly the view of the viaduct wasn’t so great. It certainly wasn’t the vantage point I was expecting based off all the amazing photos I have seen floating around Instagram with the impossibly curved bridge. Nevertheless, we stayed and got a few shots whilst being absolutely molested by midges (infamous in Scottish summer and VERY irritating).
Just as we had started to walk away, discussing coming back in the morning when The Jacobite aka the Hogwarts Express was scheduled to cross the bridge, we heard a chug-a-chug-a-chug – the train was coming now! The other people standing at the viewpoint must have thought we were complete idiots, since they clearly timed their visit for when the train came and we were leaving just as it was coming. Quickly we turned and ran back up the hill, to watch the surprising slow traverse across the valley. It really was pretty cool, midway through the driver let off the whistle, and childhood me let off an internal squee.
You can ride on the Jacobite, which is the actual train used in Harry Potter as the Hogwarts Express, however it is rather expensive! The train ride goes from Fort William to Mallaig from May to October and goes through the stunning highland scenery we had driven through that morning. It’s sure to be a memorable trip, but sadly we just couldn’t justify spending £68 at this stage in our penny-pinching summer break. Check out World of Wanderlust who did the Jacobite railway journey.
In all honesty, our pictures are pretty terrible. If you’re serious about getting “the shot” I think you need to walk along the river below, and then up a hill, probably the one to the left of the shot to get the best angle and close view of the train. There were people with drones which I guess would give you a good shot too. With best intentions of doing exactly this tomorrow we left to continue our exploring, but as is common when travelling, the “we’ll do that tomorrow” didn’t come.
So my advice if you want to get the perfect Harry Potter photo;
- Check the train times
- Walk to the better vantage point, not the lookout
- Bring a camera with a good zoom
- Bring midge spray!