Monday, 23 December 2013


At Christmas you just know that certain films are going to make an appearance on TV: It's A Wonderful Life for vintage film buffs, Love Actually for fans of modern romances, the obligatory sprinkling of James Bond films for the guys, while for the kids (and some of the adults!) it just has to be Harry Potter.  One of the most prominent features of the Harry Potter films is the Hogwarts Express, and probably the most memorable image from the journey taken by this vintage steam train is that of a magnificent viaduct set among classic Scottish mountain scenery.  In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets a turquoise Ford Anglia is seen flying over it.  The viaduct which features in the films is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and the train carriages used in the filming are those of the Jacobite steam train, a heritage railway open to visitors which follows a route generally considered to be one of the finest railway journeys in the world, an 84-mile round trip between Mallaig and Fort William on the west coast of Scotland, taking in both the deepest freshwater loch in Britain and the deepest seawater loch in Europe.  The steam train runs from May to October and makes a stop at Glenfinnan, where there is a railway museum, and also stops at Arisaig, from where there are boat trips to the Small Isles. 

File:Train across Glenfinnan Viaduct (239397344).jpg
Photo by Tony Hisgett, via Wikimedia Commons
The Glenfinnan Viaduct has 21 arches and a maximum height of 30m and was built in the years 1897-1898 as part of the Mallaig extension of the West Highland Railway.  The viaduct overlooks Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument.  The monument marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard at the start of the Jacobite Rising in 1745.  However, the monument was not built until the following century, by which time the Jacobite cause was a spent force.  Standing at 18m high, the monument takes the form of a column with the figure of a kilted highlander on top.  Visitors can climb a spiral staircase to the top of the monument, where there is an observation platform with sensational views over the loch and mountains.  The National Trust for Scotland now looks after the monument, with the addition of a visitor centre with exhibitions, a shop and refreshment facilities.  An additional diversion available to visitors to Glenfinnan is a boattrip on Loch Shiel, with some trips offering a guided "Eagle-Watch".  

File:Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument - - 701693.jpg
Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument. Photo by Peter Levy, via Wikimedia Commons.   

Map of the area.

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