In the mid nineties I took my first trip on the Jacobite steam train from Fort William to the port of Mallaig as part of my first ever visit to Scotland whilst visiting some friends.
In 2011 I ventured to it for a second time following a sponsored climb up to the summit of Ben Nevis in aid of charity. This time I made the trip with Mrs Wilbur and our poodle called Oli.
This wasn’t the only difference. In the intervening thirteen years Harry Potter had been catapulted into our universe and perhaps the most picturesque part of the journey featured in some of the feature film adaptations of the wizarding books.
I am talking about the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct, the bridge of 21 arches that overlooks Loch Shiel & Glenfinnan Monument.
The viaduct is shown as part of the line taken by the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts School.
These days it is catnip for Potter fans who ride the rails or drive to get the best vantage point to see the Jacobite steaming across it.
To many the Jacobite is now the Hogwarts and the owners of the train are not putting up any arguments, so lucrative is the association.
Like all steam trains it remains very touristy and the only local accents that you are likely to hear belong to the driver & ticket inspectors.
There is a twenty minute stop en route at Glenfinnan Station during which you can have a cup of tea in the station cafe housed in some classic train carriages.
Both times that I have been saw a few hours spent in Mallaig for pub/lunch/shops before catching the afternoon train back to Fort William.
Not quite enough time to visit the Isle of Skye across the water, but a very pleasant break in the fishing town. As well as Skye you can take a ferry to the ‘Small Isles’ of Rum, Eigg, Muck & Canna if you wish to linger and perhaps take in a whisky distillery or two.
The steam train is run by West Coast Railways and the 84 mile round trip taking about 2 hours will set you back £35 return in standard class and & £59 in first.
Check out details and times below.
There are several different steam locomotives that share the strain of the season that runs from April to October. You can read details of the four locos by clicking STEAM.
The coaches are all ex-British Railways 1960’s Mark 1s that I remember well as a child in the ’70s. The carriages were also used in the Potter films and you can now also experience them by boarding the Hogwarts Express at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
I feel that I need another Scottish holiday soon!