Wednesday 31st May 2017
Whether you are a fan of vintage old Steam Train Travel or a die hard Harry Potter fan, this day trip is an experience I would recommend to anyone visiting the Fort William area. A definite not-to-missed; if it’s not on your top 3 things to do in the highlands make it so! I promise you wont regret, or experience anything else quite like it anywhere else in Europe 🙂
It is no secret I am one of those hideously infatuated souls addicted to anything and everything Harry Potteresk. Therefore one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Fort William so badly was to witness the iconic sights and locations used for the movies here, as well as ride on the train which was used in the films! Not to mention steam trains have massively come into fashion again of late, with people wishing to travel and experience the romantic charm that comes with travelling on-board an old world glamourous steam train.
So, a little info on the train itself and its Itinerary:
Did you know the Jacobite Steam train has been voted the Greatest railway journey in the world? It is still very much a working train, and during the summer season departs from Fort William twice a day to transport passengers who want the experience of using a classic Steam Train to get from A to B. The journey is 84 miles long with incredible scenery along the entire route. Really, the fact it is also the Harry Potter train is just a bonus, so you get to explore a steam train rail experience and say you have been on the Hogwarts Express. Epic Win!
Looking out the window, I can completely see why this trip has been rated so highly. The scenery is jaw-dropping the whole length of the journey, and I find it hard to believe I am in the UK! The only annoying thing is there are a lot of trees which block the view at times. Oh well, nature I can forgive.
This epic train Journey only runs in the summer period (May – September weekdays, with limited weekend bookings) and for two weeks over Christmas in December. The Jacobite offers a morning and afternoon service, departing from Fort William Station at 10am and 2pm sharp.
As the train slowly pulls out the station you begin your journey in the shadow of the almighty Ben Nevis, giving way to magnificent views of the canal and landscapes beyond. The First stop is Glenfinnan, where you can alight for 15 minutes to explore the tiny museum on the platform and visit the dining carriage permanently stationed here. Enjoy views of the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct Bridge before re-joining the train and continuing the journey en-route to your next stop Arisag, which just so happens to be the most westerly mainland railway station in Britain.
Your final stop is Mallaig, a busy fishing port and ferry terminal where you are free to alight for your onward destination. However if re-joining the train, we have around 90 minutes to enjoy lunch, and take a wander to explore the town before re-joining the train for the return journey.
Things to know!
I think it’s important at this point to highlight some important bits about the day which I think you should know based on my experience!
- Get seats the right side of the train!
No I’m not joking; there is a better side of the train to sit for the views. If you take note of any of my pieces of advice, make it this one!
On the outbound (Fort William- Malliag), select seating on the left hand side of the train.
On the Inbound (Malliag – Fort William) sit of the right hand side of the train.
Obviously make sure they are window seats!
This will ensure you get those all-important picture worthy views, especially as you travel over the Glenfinnan Viaduct bridge! You can thank me later 🙂
- Coach or First Class? You could even book a Harry Potter compartment!
First Class all the way! It is definitely worth the extra money believe me. The coach is gorgeous and makes the experience quite special.
Coach is still an experience, however it is cramped. If trying to save money, you could do what I did which was travel one way in first class and one way in coach for the experience of both. Just make sure you book window seats on the correct side of the train as stated above!
For the Harry potter crazies, you can even book compartments used for the filming of Harry potter in the movies! These are every limited, so ensure you book these tickets literally as soon as you have booked your plane ticket to Scotland.
- Book the train at least 3-4 months in advance
No, again I am not joking. I booked 2 months in advance, and was very lucky to get tickets. It had already sold out on-line, and I called the ticket office in desperation. Of the 3 days I gave the lady on the phone, the first two were completely full and we were super lucky to get tickets for the morning service on the last day of our trip. Phew! Can you imagine how gutted I would have been not to do this trip? Not even worth thinking about.
For the last minute type of people, the ticket office sometimes have a few tickets available on the day. Get there early if you want to try your luck at a last minute ride on this legendary train!
- Do not book the afternoon tea or ‘extras’
They are expensive for what you get, and the food is much nicer in Mallaig. I purchased the afternoon tea extra for my boyfriend and I as part of his birthday surprise, however I regret this as you have a decent amount of time in Mallaig to enjoy lunch and the food was nicer and cheaper than this pre-packed tea. So don’t be tempted by this.
- Arrive at least 30-40 minutes before departure if driving – Parking at the station is limited!
Stupidly my partner and I arrived only 15 minutes before the departure time and there was no parking in the station! Argh! Jamie managed to get parked across the road in the Aldi supermarket car park and we just made the train. As in they were closing the compartment doors when we boarded. Phew.
I hope this has been informative for you! If you have any questions please let me know below, I will be happy to answer anything regarding this awesome trip 🙂