In addition to Glencoe, another highlight of our Highland trip was the visit to Glenfinnan, which is an interesting place for many different reasons. Firstly, the scenery is quite stunning. Glenfinnan is on the shore of Loch Shiel, a loch with dramatic hills rising up from its shores. Secondly, the place is historically remarkable – in 1745, the Jacobite rebellion was begun in Glenfinnan, lead by Bonnie Prince Charlie. Today, the event is commemorated by the Glenfinnan Monument, standing tall on the shores of the loch. Thirdly, the Harry Potter movies used Loch Shiel as the Black Lake, and the Glenfinnan Viaduct as one of the spots where Ron and Harry fly above the Hogwarts Express on their enchanted Ford Anglia. In real life, the Hogwarts Express is actually the Jacobite Steam Train, which still runs between Fort William and Mallaig from April to October.
The Glenfinnan Monument
Our day in Glenfinnan was a pretty gloomy one weather-wise, but that didn’t matter one bit – the fog creeping down from the hills made the atmosphere very Harry Potter -like, which I didn’t mind at all 😉 We started the day off with a pre-booked cruise on the loch with Loch Shiel Cruises. It was quite chilly sitting in the front of the boat with the wind in our hair, but the amazing scenery was well worth a few chattering teeth!
One of the purposes of the cruise was to try to spot some eagles, and my friend Ida was especially keen on seeing some. We didn’t see eagles, but we spotted some deer on the hills instead (and after the cruise, Ida did manage to see an eagle after all, circling the above the Glenfinnan monument)!
We caught our first glimpse of the Jacobite Steam Train on board our little ship. The train runs through Glenfinnan twice a day, towards different directions, so we viewed it from the cruise in the morning and from the hills in the afternoon. It was fun seeing it from different perspectives, but I wouldn’t count seeing the train from the cruise as its main event – getting up closer in the afternoon was much more impressive!
After the cruise, we warmed up a bit at the Glenfinnan House Hotel, where we also paid for the cruise. It was wonderful to sip tea in front of the fireplace in their main parlor. If you’re ever going up to Glenfinnan with a higher budget, I can only imagine how romantic a stay at that beautiful old country house by the shores of the loch would be!
Glenfinnan House viewed from the loch – just imagine what it would be like in the summer!
From Glenfinnan House, we walked to the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre, and took a stroll closer to the monument (which, sadly, was closed that day). Next, we walked up to the viewpoint on a hill behind the visitor centre. At this point, we were location scouting for viewing the train again in the afternoon, and apparently this viewpoint was a very popular spot for doing just that. When we got up, though, we weren’t quite satisfied with the distance – it was a bit too far for our taste, and you couldn’t really see the curve of the viaduct (seeing the curve would make for better photos, we thought). The views over to the lake and the monument were splendid, though!
Our last task of the day was to get up close to the viaduct and find a good viewpoint before the Jacobite would cross through Glenfinnan again. We had no idea where we were going, we just headed up towards the viaduct and tried to find a nice spot. When we finally did find a nice place, we were all cold and wet from treading through the muddy fields, and passed the time by playing those kinds of guessing games everyone played as children. But when we finally saw (and heard!) the train approaching in the distance, oh, it was so worth all the trouble.
Practice shot 😀
I was just so happy, even though I was almost numb with the cold – I’d wanted to see this for such a long time, ever since seeing the Potter films. Some day, I’ll actually take the train and pretend I’m off to Hogwarts. <3
Needless to say, if you’re heading up to Scotland and are a Potter fan, Glenfinnan is a must.