Location Guide

The Glenfinnan Viaduct and Jacobite Steam Train

The ultimate guide to the Glenfinnan Viaduct and Jacobite Steam Train including travel information, vantage points, and train crossing times. 

Glenfinnan Viaduct Sunrise
  • Location: 17.3mi from Fort William
  • Parking: £3
  • Train Crossing Times: 10:30am and 3:00pm
  • Schedule: 15th July to 23rd October 2020

Popularised by Harry Potter, the Jacobite Steam Train has been described as one of the greatest railway journeys in the world. 

Map

Where is the Glenfinnan Viaduct?

The Glenfinnan Viaduct is a 30-minute drive west of Fort William, situated just off the main road (A836).

The stunning railway line is an easy-access and jaw-dropping location, attracting visitors from all over the world.

As can be seen from the map above, the viaduct is located at the head of Loch Shiel which stretches an impressive 20 miles. 

Although now synonymous with “The Harry Potter Bridge” the viaduct is spectacular in its own right.

Being the largest railway bridge in Scotland, even if you’re not here to catch a glimpse of the famous Jacobite Steam Train, you’ll not be left disappointed.

Constructed in 1898, legend has it that during the building phase, a horse and cart tumbled into one of the large concrete piers.

Through the use of radar technology, it was discovered in the early 2000s that the incident, in fact, happened at the Loch-nan-Uamh viaduct.

Edinburgh160 miles
Glasgow125 miles
Dundee140 miles
Glenfinnan Viaduct Sunrise

How to Get There

and where to park

One of the easiest ways to get to the Glenfinnan Viaduct is by car since it is located just off the main road.

For many, Glenfinnan is a stopping point on a much longer Scottish road trip. It is conveniently located on the west of Scotland, often visited after passing through Glencoe and Fort William, on the way to the Isle of Skye. 

Coming from Edinburgh and Glasgow, Fort William will be your last main pit-stop before reaching the viaduct. If this is on your way back from a trip further north, you’ll likely pass through Mallaig (just off the ferry back from Skye) or Fort Augustus.

As you pull up to the viaduct, you’ll notice the visitor centre which is where the main car park is located.

Warning: if you’re here to see the steam train, you should aim to park the car a good half-hour before the train actually passes. Otherwise, it can be near impossible to find a parking space.

There is a ‘pay and display’ system in place, costing £3 which is a contribution to the visitor centre. Alternatively, there is a smaller parking area just a couple of hundred metres along the road. 

Harry Potter Bridge Location

Jacobite Steam Train Tour and Timetable

The Mallaig-bound steam train tour, which covers 84 miles of incredible Scottish landscapes, is said to be the greatest railway journey in the world.

The magical train trip begins near one of Scotland’s most iconic locations, Ben Nevis.

Should you be lucky enough to be on the train yourself, you’ll pass through a variety of jaw-dropping landmarks such as Britain’s deepest freshwater loch, Loch Morar, and Europe’s deepest saltwater loch, Loch Nevis.

You’d best be sure to pack the camera to capture the stunning scenery. 

Arguably the most magical part of the journey is when you cross Glenfinnan Viaduct, featured in the Harry Potter films. At this point, the train slows down and may occasionally stop on the viaduct to allow you to snap away. 

  • Mon-Fri Morning Service: Friday 1st May to Friday 23rd October 2020
  • Sat-Sun Morning Service: Saturday 2nd May to Sunday 27th September 2020
  • Mon-Fri Afternoon Service: Monday 11th May to Friday 11th September 2020
  • Sat-Sun Afternoon Service: Saturday 13th June to Sunday 30th August 2020

Jacobite Steam Train Times

 Morning ServiceAfternoon Service
Dep. Fort William10:1514:40
Arr. Mallaig12:2616:42
Dep. Fort William14:1018:40
Arr. Mallaig16:0320:31

Jacobite Steam Train Ticket Prices

 1st ClassStandard
Adult Day Return£65£43
Adult Single£N/A£36
Child Day Return (16+ under)£45£26
Child Single (16+ under)£N/A£22
Private Table for 2£146N/A
Glenfinnan Viaduct Best View

Glenfinnan Viaduct Best View

Glenfinnan Viaduct’s best view, in my opinion, is from the hillside on the left of the bridge as you face it from the carpark. The walk to this viewpoint takes a mere ten minutes at most.

Starting at the visitor centre, you should exit the car park, turn right and walk along the side of the road until you get to the second carpark.

From here, follow the path all the way to the bridge. You will pass underneath the bridge and go through a gate to your left which will take you up to the hillside. 

Since this is arguably the best view you’ll get of the viaduct and the passing train, it gets pretty busy. 

Another cracking viewpoint is from the hill by the visitor centre. Personally, I wouldn’t head here to get a shot of the steam train because you won’t get a face-on view.

Nonetheless, it is still a stunning vantage point to see the entire bridge stretching across the stream below. To get here, follow the path which leads on from the back of the visitor centre.

This route will take 5 minutes at the very most and there is a slight gradient.

Tips for Photographing the Steam Train

Including positioning, framing and camera settings

The viaduct with the steam plummeting out of the train is one of the most sought-after shots from a Scottish getaway.

There’s no denying how photogenic this place is so, no matter your skill level, you’re bound to come away with a shot to be happy with. 

If you are planning on shooting the steam train, your main challenge will be avoiding the crowd of people.

Of course, Photoshop can help you somewhat but it’s easier to not have people interfering with your shot in the first place.

You should aim to set yourself up on the hill a little bit higher than other people. 

By doing so, you will still get a nice face-on view of the railway bridge and train as well as having a decent enough angle to make sure people are outside your shot.

The last time I visited, I did just this and managed to cut out most people. 

Another sneaky way to cut people out your shot is to frame it with fern leaves. It’s a common tactic among photographers to frame a shot nicely but it works especially well here when you need to block people out.

As long as you’re at the bridge in plenty of time, don’t panic about missing the train. You will hear the beautiful chugging sound before you see it.

It tends to travel slowly over the viaduct so that people on the train can admire the view over Loch Shiel. This means you don’t need to worry about putting the camera on a fast shutter speed.

You’ll also have time to switch between portrait and landscape to get a variety of shots. 

 

Drone Regulations

There is a sign up near the viaduct that says for permission to fly a drone you need to call a phone number and pay £10. Heads up: this is not legally enforceable at all and you do not need to phone this number to fly your drone here.

The sign was put up by the landowner, Alistair Gibson, who claims “It takes me time to speak to people and try to regulate it. I explain it’s an administrative charge to do this, and issue them with a drone receipt – 99.9 per cent are prepared to pay”.

I understand that he may be trying to regulate drone usage here so that it doesn’t get out of hand. But, do keep in mind that the money goes to his estate and there is no legal basis on regulating drone usage on the land. Network Rail reminds people that they shouldn’t fly drones over the railway line for safety reason and full care should be taken flying drones near crowds of people. 

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14 Responses
  1. Dan

    Thanks for the great info. But I’m confused about the time chart. If “Morning Service” is Apr-Oct and “Afternoon Service” is May-Sept, do the summer months have both? But they can’t if the schedules overlap. I’m going to guess that summer uses the “Afternoon Service” times and Morning Service is actually Apr to mid May and then mid Sept to Oct. Would that be correct?

    1. Connor Mollison

      Hi Dan. To answer your question, yes, the train does run twice per day! Taken from the official website: “The morning service runs from Monday 22nd April to Friday 25th October 2019 (Monday to Friday). The afternoon service runs from Monday 13th May to Friday 13th September 2019 (Monday to Friday)”. Hope this helps.

  2. Liene

    Sadly the instructions led us to a long steel fence that we couldn’t get through and a less than ideal viewpoint. 🙁 just follow the main instructions, those lead you to where this blog was pointing at, we could see it through the fence.

    1. Connor Mollison

      Hi Liene, was the fence near the visitor centre car park? I can’t think of another one that would stop you getting to the good vantage point. I’ll try to clear up the directions so other people don’t get confused!

  3. Nicholas Coulter

    Evening!
    Firstly i’d like to give a congrats on your photos, they are truly stunning. Secondly I must say that i’m aware of these “No Drones” signs and just want to let you know that these signs are complete and utter bollocks, drones for the most part can operate under the “right to roam” law which allows people to visit this historic masterpiece in the first place and the Glenfinnan Viaduct is not exempt from this law. This person is committing daylight robbery to put it simply. If you could the article to make sure people aren’t paying this grumpy old git their hard earned cash.
    Thanks
    Nicholas

    1. Connor Mollison

      Thanks for the kind words, Nicholas! I have been meaning to update the information about drones – thanks for the reminder.

      1. Michael

        It’s still up there. There are also quite a few tourists giving us aerial photographers jip over this. To the point I saw one trying to forcefully take the controls away from such an operator because he deemed it “illegal” due to Mr Gibsons signage.

        Being a fully-qualified pilot and drone-pilot I intervened reminding the individual about interference with any flying object and the potential for his interference to cause a crash / injury. However, it is concerning that a lot of the members of the public, particularly those who are not even aware of the right-to-roam thus vetoing where you can launch the drone from will play the “Do-gooder” card when seeing these “no drones sign”.

  4. Medet

    Hi Connor! Thanks a lot for such informative article! You took great photos! I don’t have driving license that allows to drive in UK. Therefore, I wanted to ask you if you know how to reach that spot for photographing viaduct by public transport? If I take the stream train, will I be able to go there by walking or by bicycle from a nearest station?

    1. Connor Mollison

      Thanks for the kind words! I believe you can get a train from Fort William to Glenfinnan which is not far from the viaduct. Alternatively, you can get a bus from Fort William to the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. If you’re on the Jacobite Steam Train, it does stop at Glenfinnan Station but I’m not sure how much time there is to go to the viaduct.

  5. Laura

    Hi Connor, I was wondering if you know of any other good view points of the Jacobite Steam Train between Glenfinnan and Mallaig? My problem is that I wish to take the ferry from Skye to Mallaig however the first ferry doesn’t arrive into Mallaig until 10.30, therefore missing the train passing the viaduct at 10.45. I will be driving facing the oncoming direction of the train so I wondered if I may see it somewhere else on the way where it would be worthwhile stopping? Many thanks, Laura

  6. Pete Goodwin

    Hi Connor,

    Thanks for this – but I think there’s a mistake on the timetable paragraph. All the trains appear to go Fort William to Mallaig, and don’t come back!

    In practice, the return journey of the morning train, and the outward journey of the afternoon train must cross somewhere where there’s a passing loop – presumably Glenfinnan station?. Any idea what time that would be?

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