The Glenfinnan Viaduct: A Cinematic Icon

Words by Belmond Editors

The Glenfinnan Viaduct: A Cinematic Icon

In a valley scene of plunging hillsides, the Royal Scotsman looks miniature as it crosses the span of the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Made iconic by the Harry Potter franchise, the Glenfinnan Viaduct offers peerless views of the stunning Scottish Highlands. Aboard the Royal Scotsman train, you witness its beauty in unparalleled luxury.

Fans of the Harry Potter film series will immediately recognise the Glenfinnan Viaduct, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell. They may ask, however: where is the sky-blue flying Ford Anglia car, driven by two hapless teenagers on their way to a magical Wizarding school?

In many of the film series’ instalments, we see teenage witches and wizards board the gleaming Hogwarts Express at Platform 9¾ at London’s Kings Cross station before embarking on a picturesque rail journey through the British countryside. Much of the sweeping scenery you see during their journey was filmed in and around Glenfinnan, a Highland gem that is home to possibly one of the most famous viaducts in the world. Such is the impressive allure of the structure that the producers of the Wizarding franchise chose it as a shooting location for Harry and his en-route adventures. It is one of many Scottish locations that appear in the series, with the rugged Highlands offering a visually stunning landscape to help bring the enchanting world to the big screen.

One of the more famous scenes involving the Glenfinnan Viaduct comes in the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. After their passage to Platform 9¾ is blocked by the mischievous house elf Dobby, Harry and Ron are forced to steal Arthur Weasley’s flying car to get to school. The car has been hexed, however, so when they finally catch up with the Hogwarts Express, they’re flung around and around the Glenfinnan Viaduct, swooping in and out of its arches. In other Harry Potter films, the viaduct simply offers a beautiful backdrop to the train’s peaceful journey to magical Hogwarts Castle.

Even before it was made famous by the Harry Potter films, the Glenfinnan Viaduct was an iconic crossing. Set among some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery—flanked by rolling green hills and roaming red deer—it’s considered one of the most picturesque rail routes in Scotland. Eagles often soar in the sky, made all the more awe-inspiring with the backdrop of dramatic mountain peaks.

Scottish businessman Robert McAlpine, who built the viaduct, was the first to use concrete for such a structure; it remains exactly as it was built to this day and remains the longest concrete railway bridge in the country. The viaduct, which stands 30 metres high with 21 arches, was constructed in the 1890s between Fort William and the port of Mallaig on Scotland’s Western coast. It’s a stone’s throw from the Road to the Isles, considered one of the most beautiful drives in the United Kingdom.

Many tourists flock to the site in the hopes of snapping a photograph of the famous filming location. The viaduct also looks over a different Harry Potter filming location: the stunning Loch Shiel, which stood in for The Great Lake at Hogwarts Castle.

While the train used during filming was the Jacobite Steam train, run by Scotland’s West Coast Railways, the majestic Royal Scotsman, A Belmond Train, allows you to journey across the Glenfinnan Viaduct and back in time to the golden age of travel. Our journeys are alive with myths, legends and timeless elegance, featuring convivial dining cars bedecked with stunning design details.

Sample seasonal seafood and sip single malt whiskies as the views change from sloping valleys to sparkling lochs. With en-suite cabins, a Dior Spa carriage and an open-air observation car, we offer an unparalleled experience for anyone who wants to experience the beauty of Scotland. When it comes to cinematic escapades, Royal Scotsman offers a front row seat.

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