The wizarding world of Harry Potter has enchanted millions of people over the years with best-selling books and box office hit movies, but did you know the inspiration for much of the story is in Scotland?
While not officially confirmed by J.K. Rowling, many speculate, that the magical school of Hogwarts is actually in Northern Scotland. Most notably, you can find the Harry Potter Train in Scotland is known as the Jacobite Steam Train and is located in Fort William, Scotland.
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As a massive Harry Potter fan, I have only ever dreamed of riding this train and buying my very own chocolate frog as I whisk through the enchanting forests and dreamy lochs.
I finally got to ride on the Jacobite Express. Yes, it was everything.
In this post, I have put together all my knowledge about the Harry Potter Train in Scotland, including how to get tickets, what makes it so popular, where to stay, what to expect, and more!
Harry Potter Train in Scotland: A Magical Guide to the Jacobite Express
What is the Jacobite Steam Train?
The Jacobite Steam Train is a popular train that has gained worldwide recognition for its historical significance and enchanting appeal. Located in Fort William, in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, this iconic steam train has captivated both locals and tourists alike.
This famous steam train gained popularity because of the popular Harry Potter Films. Often referred to as The Harry Potter Train Scotland, this train takes you to one of the most iconic spots in all the films, the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
The Jacobite Steam Train dates back to the late 19th century. Originally designed to transport goods and passengers between Fort William and Mallaig, the train has become a symbol of Scottish heritage and a beloved tourist attraction.
Steam trains have become increasingly rare in modern times, making the Jacobite Steam Train a unique experience. Riding this unique train offers a glimpse of what it was like back in the day in the Scottish Highlands.
Additionally, the scenic landscapes that unfold outside the train’s windows further enhance the journey. The Jacobite Steam Train offers breathtaking views of Scotland’s rugged mountains, picturesque lochs, and iconic landmarks like the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Harry Potter and the Jacobite Steam Train: The Harry Potter Train in Scotland
Since its debut in 1997, Harry Potter has become a global phenomenon captivating audiences of all ages and transporting them into the wizarding world. The Jacobite Express has been the inspiration for one of the most iconic scenes in the books and movies. Students board the famous Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station in London and make their way to their wizarding school, Hogwarts.
The Harry Potter train in Scotland makes a cameo in the first three films, The Philosopher Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban.
This steam train’s outside appearance is nearly a replica of what you see in the film. Besides the changing of the name from The Jacobite to Hogwarts Express, it’s almost the same.
Inside, however, is a bit different. The standard class most resembles the student’s carriage in the films, but they still differ quite a bit. In the films you will find doors to each compartment, offering a more private experience. On the Jacobite Express standard class, you won’t find as much privacy, but you can see where they drew a lot of inspiration.
What to Expect During Your Journey on the Harry Potter Train in Scotland
Planning your Harry Potter Train in Scotland journey in advance is crucial to maximizing your time!
Stop 1: Gennafinn Viaduct
The Jacobite Express is a half-day round-trip journey through the heart of the Scottish Highlands. There are no one-way tickets available for purchase. The Jacobite Express runs two trains every day during the summer, departing Fort William at 10:15 am and 12:50 pm.
Your journey begins in the adventure capital of Scotland, Fort William, and will have some noteworthy stops along the way. The first and most famous stop will be at Glenfinnan Viaduct (as seen in the photo below).
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will immediately recognize this iconic view from many of the movies. But, if you haven’t seen Harry Potter, I am here to help. This Viaduct is famously featured in three Harry Potter films as the way first-year students arrive at their wizarding school, Hogwarts.
The train will cross over the Glenfinnan Viaduct about 35-40 minutes after the train’s departure.
Protip: For the best views and picture opportunities, secure a seat on the LEFT side of the train. I also recommend opening your window for the best views.
The train conductor will make an announcement as you approach the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Then, the train will slow down allowing you optimal amounts of time to take photos, but the train will not stop.
You will notice a large crowd standing at the base of the viaduct on the left side, or ahead of you on the hill. Many tourists who are unable to secure tickets take pictures of the train from these spots.
Stop 2: Rest Stop and Bathroom Break
About 1 hour into your 2-hour trip to Mallaig, the train will approach as a rest stop. The train gives you a quick 15-minute stop here to stretch your legs, use the bathroom, or shop in its Harry Potter shop! Yes, the train reserves a room inside of it just to shop all things Harry Potter!
If you are feeling extra motivated, you can head past the bathrooms and down a walking trail. This walking trail is gorgeous and worth a look, even if you only have 5-minutes to spare. You will find the enchanting garden is quintessential Scotland. The path continues onward for a long time and connects to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Please be mindful of your time, as the train will not wait for late passengers!
Stop 3: Mallaig Fishing Village
The famous Harry Potter Train Scotland is about the journey and scenic views, but after just over 2 hours of riding you will reach your destination of Mallaig. Mallaig is a beautiful fishing village. It also doubles as a ferry port connecting the Scottish Highlands to the popular Isle of Skye and other smaller isles.
Where to Eat in Mallaig
You will have a 2-hour stop here. I recommend grabbing lunch first. It’s a small and very walkable town with a handful of options for lunch. Not surprisingly, most of the menus are made up of seafood but there are other meats and vegetarian options available.
Start by having a quick wander when you arrive to decide where you want to eat, but don’t too long, as the restaurants will fill up QUICK!
Once you finish dining, you will probably have some free time to wander the town.
A must-do for Harry Potter lovers is to visit Haggard Alley. Haggard Alley can be found by locating a big yellow flag on the sidewalk. Head down the alley and you will enter an amazing self-made Harry Potter shop. In these 3 rooms, you can buy Harry Potter merchandise and be amazed by the magic and details the owner has put into creating this space.
Additionally, you can shop at traditional souvenir stores that will sell t-shirts and Scottish memorabilia. Most of which can be found in other tourist gift shops in Scotland.
Add On Excursion
If you have the luxury of booking your train tour in advance, consider booking a wildlife boat tour during your stop. These companies guarantee you will make it back for your train in time, and are a great way to maximize your time! Be sure to pack your lunch if you choose this option.
Planning your Harry Potter Train in Scotland Journey
The Jacobite Steam Train operates seasonally from mid-April to mid-October. During this time, the train will run twice a day, 7 days a week. In my opinion, the best time to visit is during late September or early October as the autumn leaves and fall foliage are beautiful.
I rode the train in late May on a beautiful sunny day. Scotland doesn’t receive many days of sunshine, so I feel very lucky! Don’t worry, if your train ride is booked on a rainy day, it adds to the cozy atmosphere and Harry Potter vibes.
Types of Tickets available for the Harry Potter Train in Scotland
There are two classes available for purchase on the train, first class and standard. Please see online for updated prices. You can buy tickets online here!
The First-Class ticket price includes more spacious chairs, armrests, and a lamp on each table. This overall provides a more luxurious experience onboard the train. Additionally, with this ticket, you will receive a complimentary non-alcoholic drink and a snack box. You can also pre-order champagne.
The first-class ticket is ideal for someone who wants extra room or an elevated experience on the 5-hour train journey. If you are a Harry Potter fan, I would not recommend this cabin upgrade because the lamp on each table will block parts of the window. This will obstruct some of your views.
The Standard ticket comes at a cheaper price point than the First-Class ticket. This is what I would recommend you purchase as a Harry Potter fan. This cabin is best because it is the cabin that closest resembles what the Hogwarts students traveled in! Additionally, the window views are unobstructed (request the left side of the train!).
Onboard amenities on the Harry Potter Train in Scotland
In the Harry Potter films, Harry, Ron, and Hermione first meet on the train journey. They order lots of sweet treats, like chocolate frogs! One of the more exciting parts of riding the Jacobite Express is during your journey, the trolly cart will come around selling all sorts of magical goodies to passengers, including the famous chocolate frogs!
While riding the Harry Potter Train in Scotland, there is also a carriage in the middle of the standard class where you can buy simple snacks and drinks.
Protip: Purchase your snacks and drinks before you board the train as the train snack selection is small and more expensive. There is a grocery store across the street from the Fort William train station.
Day-Of Tickets for the Harry Potter Train in Scotland
The Harry Potter Train in Scotland is a must-do for anyone visiting Scotland! Whether you are a Harry Potter enthusiast, or just enjoying beautiful views, everyone should have this on their list. This means it sells out MONTHS in advance.
If you can secure your tickets in advance, have no fear! The train offers day-of tickets to be sold in CASH ONLY! These tickets are the same price as you will see on the website and they usually have both first-class and standard tickets available.
The Day-Of tickets are on a first come first serve basis. So, arrive early at the Fort William Train Station on the day you wish to ride.
I recommend showing up at least an hour before the train’s scheduled departure.
In late May of 2023, I bought day-of tickets for the Jacobite Express. I arrived just over 1 hour early and was the first in like, a short 15 minutes later, others joined behind me. By the time the train arrived, the line was about 15 people. Some days the line becomes very full, so arrive early!
Where to Stay for the Harry Potter Train in Scotland
The famous Harry Potter train is located in the heart of Fort William, Scotland. It is best to stay as close to the city as possible, but if you have a car you can always drive in. Fort William is about a 1.5-hour drive from Inverness, another popular spot.
Fort William is known as the outdoor and adventure capital of Scotland. So, there is no shortage of things to do in the area. I highly recommend checking out Ben Nevis, a beautiful national park just a quick 15-minute drive from the train station!
Additionally, here you can even visit another famous Harry Potter filming location, Steall Falls.
The Harry Potter Train in Scotland is a must-do experience for visitors wanting to see the beautiful Scottish Highlands. This train ride treats passengers with some of the best views in Scotland, an authentic steam train ride, and a lot of Harry Potter magic.