Have you ever dreamed of hopping on the Hogwarts Express, just like Harry Potter? Well, now you can make that dream come true! In fact, Scotland is home to one of Europe’s most iconic steam train rides: the Jacobite Steam Train (a.k.a. “The Hogwarts Express”).
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know for either watching the train or taking a ride aboard it! For those who want to view the famous Harry Potter train as it passes by and take a photo, we’ll detail exactly where to stand for pictures as well as timing.
Or, if you’re not in a hurry, why not plan to ride the train to Mallaig and back? In this case, we’ll review where to purchase tickets, the cost, and important tips for enjoying your journey. Just remember: tickets sell out fast, especially in the high season. By the end of this post, you’ll be ready to explore the real-life Wizarding World!
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Table of Contents
Where is the Harry Potter train in Scotland?
In the Harry Potter films and books, the Hogwarts Express runs between London King’s Cross Station at Platform 9¾ and Hogsmeade Station. It picks up students at the beginning of the school year at 11 o’clock in the morning on September 1st and then brings them back to London at the end of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry term in June.
However, you can find the real-life Hogwarts Express running twice daily, seven days per week, traveling between Fort William and Mallaig. West Coast Railways, the company operating the Jacobite Steam Train, actually provided the locomotive (steam engine and carriages) that was used as the Hogwarts Express in all the Harry Potter movies.
Additionally, they allowed Warner Brothers to use The Jacobite’s route for filming. The exact train used for the series–the GWR 4900 Class 5972 Olton Hall–is currently on display at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.
However, we would argue that it’s much cooler to experience a similar train in action in the Scottish Highlands! Plus, the photos of The Jacobite as it passes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct are way more impressive than one in a dimly lit studio.
How to see the train on the Harry Potter Bridge
If you want to visit this famous Harry Potter filming location, you’ll first need to head to the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. Here, you’ll find two car parks for visitors located across from Loch Shiel. After parking, you’ll need to walk over to the visitor center and pay £3.50 for parking.
Keep in mind that this area can get very busy, especially during the high season. So, one of our best travel tips is to arrive an hour before the train crosses the viaduct to secure parking.
After paying for parking, walk out towards the lot that’s farthest from the gift shop. There, you’ll see signs pointing you along a trail for the Glenfinnan Viaduct. If you aren’t sure where to go, you’ll likely see other people walking the correct way.
The walk from the parking lot to the bottom of the viaduct only takes a few minutes. From there, you’ll take a left turn and climb up a small hill. This hill is where you’ll need to find a spot to sit and wait for the train from Harry Potter to appear.
What time does the Jacobite Train cross over the Harry Potter viaduct?
To experience the magic of the real life Hogwarts Express in Scotland, you must arrive at the Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint at specific times. When both morning and afternoon service run, you can catch the train as it travels to Mallaig around 10:45 a.m. and 1:20 p.m.
Additionally, you can watch as the Jacobite Steam Train returns to Fort William at 3:20 p.m. or 6:10 p.m. We would argue that, for photos, seeing the train as it travels to Mallaig looks cooler.
However, remember that only the morning service will be operating if you’re visiting outside of the high season. Therefore, you would only have the option of 10:45 a.m. or 3:20 p.m. Click here to check the timetables during your vacation dates.
Essential tips to see the Hogwarts Train in Scotland
- Arrive an hour before the train crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct. We suggest arriving early to quickly find a parking spot–ideally, at 9:45 a.m. or 12:20 p.m. After all, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is one of the most popular Harry Potter film locations! You can always spend time in the gift shop, grab a snack at the café, or even cross the street to see the Glenfinnan Monument.
- Wear waterproof shoes. The hill where you sit to view the Jacobite Train as it crosses the viaduct can get very muddy, and you don’t want to ruin your shoes!
- Bring something to sit on. Although there are some rocks along the viewpoint hill that you can sit on, they aren’t very comfy. Plus, you may have to sit in the grass on a busy day. We suggest bringing a blanket or waterproof jacket you use as a seat to avoid getting your clothes muddy.
- Sit closer to the bottom of the hill for unobstructed views. We noticed that most people arrived at the viewpoint and walked to the top of the hill. However, once everyone arrives, you’ll have many other people in your pictures if you sit at the top.
- Make sure you arrive at the viewpoint early. Remember that it takes a few minutes to reach the actual train viewpoint after parking at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. The train only takes approximately one minute to cross the viaduct, so you don’t want to miss it!
How to ride “the Hogwarts Express” in Scotland
Where to buy tickets
If you plan to spend one day experiencing the Hogwarts Express train journey, you’ll need to plan to book tickets at least two months in advance via the West Coast Railways website. As you can imagine, this train ride is insanely popular, especially among Harry Potter fans.
When purchasing your tickets, there are two options for ticket class: standard or first class. The price for a first class adult day return ticket is £89, while the standard is £57 per person. If you’re traveling with family, tickets for children 16 and under are £63 for first class or £33 for standard.
So, what are the benefits of a first-class ticket vs. standard? Well, first-class features private tables for two as well as tables for four–each with extra legroom compared to standard class. Moreover, complimentary tea or coffee is included. The first-class carriages also have a more stylish setup, with traditional table lamps and upholstered seats.
For an even fancier experience, choose to add on a cream tea when buying your first-class tickets! It’s important to note that each booking is subject to a £3.75 fee. Plus, if you decide you need to change your ticket dates, you’ll have to pay a £15 admin fee.
Where does the Jacobite Train go?
The Jacobite Train takes an 84-mile round-trip journey along the West Highland Line between Fort William and Mallaig. Mallaig is the terminus as well as the gateway to the Small Isles of Canna, Rùm, Eigg, and Muck, offering a daily ferry service. There are no one-way tickets, so you will make the trip from Fort William to Mallaig and return back to Fort William.
Embark on a picturesque journey starting near the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. Then, make sure you grab a window seat as the Jacobite travels over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. If time allows, you’ll also have a chance to visit the West Highland Railway Museum at Glenfinnan Station.
You can also request a stop at Arisaig Railway Station, the most westerly mainland railway station in all of Britain. As the route continues, you’ll marvel at the beauty of Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, and River Morar, the shortest river in Britain. Finally, this delightful journey ends in Mallaig, which sits beside the deepest seawater loch in all of Europe, Loch Nevis.
What time does the train depart and arrive back?
There are two options for times to ride the Jacobite Train: a morning and afternoon service. So, your exact timing will depend on which of these trips you choose. Just be aware that the afternoon service is only available during high season.
Morning service runs from Monday, April 3rd to Friday, October 27th, in 2023, seven days per week. It departs from Fort William at 10:15 a.m. and arrives in Mallaig at 12:26 p.m. You’ll then need to be aboard the Jacobite in Mallaig at 2:10 p.m. to come back to Fort William at 4:03 p.m.
Meanwhile, afternoon service begins Monday, May 1st, and ends Friday, September 29th, in 2023, operating seven days per week. It departs the Fort William train station at 12:50 p.m., arriving in Mallaig at 3:06 p.m. The train begins the return journey at 5 p.m. sharp, returning at Fort William at 6:52 p.m.
Sometimes Saturday service runs a bit later; however, West Coast Railways will confirm the timing at least two weeks before you’re set to depart.
How long is the train ride?
The ride on the Jacobite Steam Train takes approximately two hours in each direction. After you arrive in Mallaig, you’ll have just under two hours to explore the busy fishing port and maybe grab some lunch! All in all, the entire experience round trip takes about six hours, plus however long it takes you to arrive at the Fort William train station from your hotel.
Jacobite Steam Train guided tours
If you’re not planning to drive during your trip to Scotland, you’ll need to book a guided tour to see or ride on the Jacobite Steam Train. Here are some of our favorite options:
Experience the best of Scotland’s beauty on this day tour from Edinburgh, including the Scottish Highlands, Glen Coe, and the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct from the Harry Potter films. Take a Hogwarts Express ride (Jacobite Steam Train), and capture memorable photos as you cross the viaduct. Then, enjoy a stop at Pitlochry before returning to Edinburgh. This tour includes the train journey, guided tour, and snacks!
Embark on a thrilling day trip from Inverness to the Scottish Highlands, featuring a scenic bus ride along Loch Ness and a visit to Urquhart Castle. Board the Jacobite Steam Train in Fort William and travel through breathtaking landscapes to Mallaig, where you can enjoy fresh seafood or explore the charming town. Experience the beauty of the Glenfinnan viaduct before returning to Inverness, with a short stop in Fort Augustus.
Experience a guided day trip from Glasgow, exploring Mallaig, Glencoe, and Loch Lomond. Witness the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct as the Jacobite Steam Train, known as the Hogwarts Express, crosses the bridge. Learn about the history of Glencoe and enjoy lunch in Mallaig while taking in the stunning sea views. Note that this tour does NOT include a ride aboard the steam train.
This two-day guided tour from Edinburgh to Fort William features highlights of the Scottish Highlands and a scenic steam train ride. Explore Dunkeld, the Cairngorm National Park, and Culloden on the first day, ending with a stay at a cozy B&B in Fort Augustus.
Then, on the second day, you’ll experience the iconic Jacobite steam train journey with a short visit to Mallaig. Indulge in Scottish seafood for lunch before returning to Edinburgh via Glen Coe, witnessing the beauty of Rannoch Moor and Stirlingshire along the way.