The Real-Life Hogwarts Express

Being a Harry Potter fan coming to the UK, apart from that 'Warner Bros. Studio' (The Making of Harry Potter) at London, I personally was most interested in the Hogwarts Express bridge which I am going to introduce here. Let's put it this way - If King's Cross was the entrance for little Harry to get into the the magic world, the railway viaduct connecting the muggle's world and Hogwarts would be a bridge for him to enter it. Therefore, however inconvenient the traffic is, I squeezed like a day and a night out of my 3-day itinerary in Scotland, coming to Glenfinnan on the Scottish Highlands so as to see the 'real-life' Hogwarts Express - 'The Jacobite Steam Train' and the hundred-year-old Glenfinnan Viaduct that's loading it.

This is quite a remote place. The frequency of public transportation is very low with only four trains a day and for the Jacobite, only two trains a day during the peak season.People have to wait for the official announcement every year for the actual train schedule.

I was having too many wishes that I would like to have a view of the steam train running on the viaduct while it'd also be great to ride on the steam train in the first place. Thus I arrived at Glenfinnan at night, got to the Glenfinnan Trail View Point which overlooked the steam train at 10:45 in the morning then took the afternoon train to Mallaig - the end point of the Jacobite route. There I caught the return train all the way back to Fort William (for details you may want to take a look at:the 8th Day of the Itinerary).

Although the atmosphere should be quite scary when I got to the remote Glenfinnan, it's gonna be super late at night at 11 pm, I was not really scared as I got similar experience in Southern Germany. At least I was in an English speaking country, and the accommodation was super close to the railway station: yes this is that train-carriage-converted inn 'Glenfinnan Sleeping Car'.

I arrived there at around 10 or 11 pm and it's just too late that I could find no man there so I made a call to the host. I notified the host beforehead but I was sorry to have to bother that elderly gentleman who seemed to stay nearby. It turned out that they posted my name on the room door with a sticker, the entrance was unlocked and it seemed that I could actually just get in and check myself in. Later in the day I met that elderly gentleman at the station and learnt that he's working for the museum and the station, how multi-tasking. During my journey the elderlies were very chatty. I just could not relate the Brits to the so called indifferent people.

I had to pay the difference for single occupancy of the compartment XD but I found it worthy for the safety of female solo traveller. There I spent 30 pounds (5 pounds for bedding) for one-night-stay. I only used the bathroom in the common area and left early in the morning. The luggage can be stored at the museum for free while the museum accepts donations to support their operation. Well you know what to do.

The tiny little building is a real historical heritage. Actually I did not recall much about the museum from the rough visit but one thing did impress me was that the viaduct was like at least a hundred years old. If you watch Netflix then you may recall the popular series 'Outlander', the characters and stories were just popping into my mind. Glenfinnan was exactly where the drama's important cannon fodder Bonnie Prince Charlie staged his uprising in 1745.

If you do not find this piece of history familar, then let's speak of the Glorious Revolution. The grandfather of Bonnie Prince Charlie, James II, was exactly whom deposed in the Glorious Revolution. The Jacobites aimed to restore James II the House of Stuart to the throne and the whole thing related to the Anglo-French Second Hundred Years' War. After all these Britain became the empire on which the sun never sets. Therefore the 1745 rising was actually aftermath of the Glorious Revolution. Scotland was on the Jacobites' stand for some religious, political and historical reasons. They erected a relevant monument here in Glenfinnan because this was where the uprising started. Go take a look at it if you have time. When Bonnie Prince Charlie failed his cause, he disguised as woman and fled away with the help of his lover. Later people wrote the song 'The Skye Boat Song' to recall the event. Here may I share the Outlander's version of the song, please turn on the audio to enjoy the Scottish tune if interested.

Alright let's get back to the Hogwarts Express, I was so excited. I don't know whether non Harry Potter fans would travel all the way here just to see the train passing by for a few minutes but really, really, that's really what I was looking forward to. I even gave up the Loch Ness Monster to come and have a look at the bridge XD The Glenfinnan railway station was a really small one that it only had two platforms. The entrance to the Trail View Point was a bit difficult to find - it was blocked by some kind of weeds next to the Platform No.2 stand. I'm not gonna make a guide here as you can find many on the Internet with detailed descriptions and photos.

The direction just could not go wrong as I was walking along the trail following the Google Map. During the walk I saw a fund-raising box on a wooden gate and found that the trail was maintained by the local people using the raised money. I always feel that the repair and maintenance works on mountains in foreign countries are quite nice done, given that the territories are vast but the population is low. Unlike in Hong Kong, we have too many people and the pollution is severe, yet we seldom see people doing voluntary maintenance for the nature such as this (or because people just keep littering).

Along the trail, fences did not exist but the walk was easy and signages indicate the current location pretty clearly. In addition to the Google Map, you couldn't get lost. Views were not extraordinary but still good, I took several photos by the way. Walking and stopping for like 30 minutes, I saw packs of tourists coming for the same goal and I knew the place was there.

You can find many guides on the internet teaching how to find the best viewpoint. Apart from where I stood, another shooting spot was beneath the viaduct. Since they only have two steam trains a day, unless you're staying at Glenfinnan for a few days, you'll have to choose a favourite and set the camera. I was pretty random on finding a good location as I was not that professional using single lens on tripods but only used a non-flagship-phone camera. All set in a second. Feeding mosquitoes and waiting for the train...

The train came at around 10:45 and only took like a minute to cross the viaduct. Every day people are waiting for a view of the steam train from this particular angle, this particular perspective for such a particular minute! I had come so far and it really worth the time and efforts to see this classic scene when the train entered the Glenfinnan station!

The train stops at Glenfinnan for 20 minutes and I was wondering whether I can buy a part ticket for this same train and get on the train within these 20 minutes. However the schedule would then be really tight and it seems that they don't have parted ticket for the journey but only 'one-way' or 'return' ticket. I actually sent email to ask and the reply says the stop at Glenfinnan is not guaranteed. SO? Then I was like fine just let it go, and I took an ordinary train to the endpoint of the Jacobite route - Mallaig then a return Jacobit steam train trip. It's quite an experience on board of the Hogwarts Express!

I used to book everything for the journey in advance because I just cannot bear the uncertainty for closures and shutdowns after coming from such a distance. Therefore I bought the train ticket right upon the sale started. The date was fixed, my ticket booked and printed, only the journey from Edinburgh to Fort William was not released yet. Unfortunately once they began to sell tickets, the price was unexpectedly high. It's just too popular that a one-way ticket was quoted more than 50 pounds. Eventually I had to take the Citylink coaches instead.

By the way let me introduce Citylink's 'Explorer Pass', it's something like a railway pass but a bus version. If your journey covers quite a number of locations, that should be a better deal than mine. 49 pounds for a 3-day pass, valid in 5 days. An additional 2.5 pounds is charged for international postage and they'll send the pass directly to Hong Kong.

The trains and coaches on the Scottish Highlands are competitive to each other in terms of time and frequency. To me they're both very convenient. However you have to check the bus timetable thoroughly beforehead and perhaps even reserve a seat in advance for long-haul coaches to secure a seat on board. You won't want to miss the bus since there're only several buses during a day...

霍格華茲特快的行程以乘搭霍格華茲特快告終,這個列車上的旅程反而沒甚麼驚喜,而且玻璃都髒髒的>”< 拍照的話在Warner Bros. Studio Tour London' is superb enough. I think the viaduct is more magnificent. Well on this train if you're lucky, you may get some nice shots in an appropriate corner, able to capture photos of the locomotive is making a turn...obviously I was not that fortunate. Of course I can't deny it can still be an unique experience especially when ashes keep floating in which I guess was coal dust... Yea, interesting.

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