How to travel on the Jacobite Steam Train (Hogwarts Express)?

How to travel on the Jacobite Steam Train (Hogwarts Express)?

Discover our guide 

The Jacobite Steam Train - made famous in the 2000s for becoming the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter series - is a tourist steam train that crosses the most beautiful landscapes of the Highlands, in Scotland.

Jacobite Steam Train (Hogwarts Express)

From 175.09 € (or £151)

From £151 (or 175.09 €)

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Operational since 1984, it connects the fishing village of Mallaig with Fort William, following an extension of the West Highland Line, the Mallaig Extension Railway.

The Mallaig Extension Railway has been awarded the title of "the most scenic railway line in the world" and "the best railway journey in the world".

History of the Jacobite Steam Train

Jacobite Train Locomotive

Mallaig Extension Railway (West Highland Line)

In 1895, the West Highland Railway company made a visionary decision: to extend the West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig. This new section winds through the iconic rolling landscapes of the Highlands over a distance of 66 kilometers.

The rugged terrain required the creation of a series of major infrastructures, with the highlight being the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which spans 416 meters. Unfortunately, the challenges posed by the robust rock formations that the railway had to traverse hindered the construction process. This unforeseen complication led to costs far exceeding initial estimates, making it imperative to obtain substantial government subsidies to complete the project.

Despite these obstacles, the railway section, named Mallaig Extension Railway, was inaugurated in 1901, marking a milestone in the history of rail transport in the region.

However, despite perseverance, this line never achieved profitability. The volumes of goods, mainly consisting of fish, were far below projections, and from the 1920s, passengers gradually began to favor the emerging automobile and bus services over the railway.

Eventually, in 1967, steam trains were gradually replaced by diesel locomotives. However, in 1984, a steam service named West Highlander was reintroduced with the intention of attracting more tourist travelers. This initiative was an immediate success and contributed to increasing the fame of the train over the years.

When British Rail was privatized in the UK in 1995, the responsibility for managing the train was transferred to West Coast Railways, which chose to rename it The Jacobite. Due to increasing demand, a second daily steam service was added in 2011, further enhancing the popularity of the journey.

The rail link between Fort William and Mallaig also continues to serve conventional ScotRail trains. Consequently, travelers have the opportunity to cross the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct without necessarily boarding The Jacobite, thus widening the options for discovering this unique and emblematic stretch of railway.

Why the name "Jacobite"?

The name of the Jacobite Steam Train originates from the Jacobite uprisings that took place between 1688 and 1746. These rebellion movements aimed to restore the Catholic King James Stuart and his descendants to the throne of England. James Stuart had been ousted from power in 1688 by his own daughter, Mary II, and her husband William III, both Dutch sovereigns and Protestants.

In 1745, a memorable attempt emerged when James Stuart's grandson, Charles Edward Stuart (known as Bonnie Prince Charlie), landed at Glenfinnan. However, his audacious venture to reclaim power came to an end in 1746 when he was defeated at the Battle of Culloden.

The Jacobite plaque located on the locomotive of the Jacobite Steam Train

The name "Jacobite" given to the train thus celebrates the legacy of the Jacobite revolutions, which were widely supported in the majestic Highlands. By perpetuating this name, the Jacobite Steam Train pays tribute to this emblematic period in history and the indomitable spirit that animated the minds of the time.

Harry Potter and the Hogwarts Express

The Jacobite train's popularity soared after West Coast Railways lent it to the Warner Bros. film studio to portray the legendary Hogwarts Express in the eight films of the Harry Potter series.

In this cinematic universe, the Hogwarts Express begins its journey at King's Cross station in London, departing from platform 9 ¾, located between platforms 9 and 10, and then travels along the West Highland Line - passing the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, which can be seen in the movie 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' - towards the iconic Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry station, represented by the Goathland Station (which is on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, in the north of England).

The Hogwarts Express locomotive, the GWR 4900 Class 5972 Olton Hall - known for its presence in the Harry Potter film series - has proudly been on display since 2015 at the Harry Potter Studio Tour (Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter). Built in 1937 at Swindon Works and restored in 1998, it remains the property of West Coast Railways, which also owns the famous Jacobite Steam Train.

After exploring all the filming locations of the Harry Potter film series, all that's left is to book your tickets for an exceptional experience aboard the legendary Hogwarts Express!

Journey aboard the Jacobite Steam Train

The breathtaking panoramas featured in the Harry Potter film series are actually the same ones that can be seen from the windows of the real Jacobite train. This journey on the West Highland Line is unanimously hailed as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world!

Itinerary

The Jacobite Steam Train travels a route of over 65 km, between Fort William - the largest town in the Highlands - and Mallaig. It follows the Mallaig Extension Railway, an extension of the West Highland Line connecting Fort William to Mallaig. It skirts the shores of Loch Eil, crosses the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, and passes through the picturesque village of Arisaig.

The crossing of the Glenfinnan Viaduct - stretching 380 meters long and 31 meters high, with 21 majestic arches - is undoubtedly the most anticipated moment of the journey! This is indeed the viaduct that the Hogwarts Express takes in the Harry Potter film series to reach the school of witchcraft and wizardry.

If the weather permits, the train sometimes stops on the viaduct to allow passengers to enjoy the view and take photos.

The train departs from Fort William (800 km northwest of central London), with a scheduled stop at Glenfinnan station and, upon request, at Arisaig station.

It is possible to board the Jacobite train at the stations of Fort William, Glenfinnan, and Mallaig. However, as tickets are only available as a round-trip, it is recommended to start your journey at one end of the line to fully enjoy the trip.

From Glasgow

The Fort William station is accessible by train from Glasgow, with the West Highland Line. A large number of trains run daily.

Count on just under 4 hours of travel, with an arrival scheduled in the late morning (by taking the first train).

From London

To get to Fort William station from London, 3 options are available to you:

  • By car:
    • M6
    • M6 and A82
    • A1(M)
  • Count on about 10 hours of driving.
  • By train: take a train (Avanti West Coast) from Euston station to Glasgow Central Station - where you can opt for a bus (9simpliCITY, X36 or 500 Airport Express) or take a second train (ScotRail) to Fort William. The Caledonian Sleeper service also allows you to reach Fort William by overnight train.
  • Count on about 9 hours of travel.
  • By plane: take a flight from London to Glasgow - followed by a train or bus connection to Fort William.
  • Count on about 1h30 of flight and 4 hours of train/bus to reach your final destination.

Schedules

The Jacobite Steam Train is in service every day (7 days a week, without interruption), from the end of March to the end of September.

Two trips are scheduled daily from Fort William station:

  • Morning service: from Thursday, March 28 to Friday, October 25, 2024
  • Afternoon service: from Monday, May 6 to Friday, September 27, 2024

Upon arriving at Mallaig station, the train begins its return journey after a break of about 1h30.

Schedule 2024 Morning Train Afternoon Train
Departure from Fort William station 10:15 12:50
Arrival at Mallaig station 12:26 15:06
Departure from Mallaig station 14:10 17:00
Arrival at Fort William station 16:03 18:52

For an optimal experience, ideally plan to arrive the day before your journey on the Jacobite Steam Train and spend a night in Fort William.

Schedules may vary, do not hesitate to check the schedule on the day of your trip on the official West Coast Railways website.

Rates

It is possible to travel aboard the Jacobite train (The Jacobite Steam Train) on an organized tour (with a guide) or by booking a train ticket only.

Organized tour (with guide)

Embark on a day of discovery of the most beautiful Scottish landscapes - departing from Edinburgh or Inverness.

Compare and get the best price by purchasing your Jacobite train tickets from one of our partners:

Jacobite Steam Train (Hogwarts Express)

From 175.09 € (or £151)

From £151 (or 175.09 €)

The guides speak English.

Train ticket only

The Jacobite train offers different classes and types of carriages:

  • Standard: carriages dating from the 1960s, renovated and equipped with tables seating up to 4 passengers.
  • First Class: carriages from the 1960s, carefully restored, traditionally furnished, and featuring tables for 2 or 4 passengers.
  • Compartments*: a carriage with private compartments, accommodating up to 6 passengers.

* The compartment carriage is available only on the morning service.

The compartment carriage is the same one used in the Hogwarts Express, a nod to the Harry Potter saga that adds a touch of magic to your rail experience!

2024 Prices* Standard First Class**
Adult Ticket £65 £98
Child Ticket (under 17) £36 £64
Private Table (for 2 passengers) N/A £210
Compartment (up to 6 passengers) £398 N/A

* Prices are subject to a minimum booking fee of £3.75.

** To access first class, it is necessary to book for at least 2 passengers. This rate includes a hot drink (coffee or tea).

In first class, you have the option to customize your booking with choices such as champagne, chocolates, flowers, or the Jacobite High Tea option, which includes delicious sandwiches, scones, and English pastries (with vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free alternatives).

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The train also has a buffet car where you can purchase tea, coffee, and light snacks.

As the Jacobite train is very popular, it is strongly advised to book your tickets in advance online. Tickets are generally put on sale in November for the upcoming season.

It is also possible to buy tickets directly at the ticket office (cash payment only), at the stations of Fort William, Glenfinnan, and Mallaig. However, it is important to note that seats are limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland

If the Jacobite Steam Train is fully booked or if you simply plan to watch the steam train pass over the Glenfinnan Viaduct (as seen in the Harry Potter films), note that it crosses up to four times a day.

The Jacobite train only runs between April and October, with a single service (two crossings) in April and October.

Getting to the viaduct

The Glenfinnan Viaduct is located 27 km from Fort William. To get there, you have 2 options:

  • By car: take the A380 to the paid parking (£3.50) at the Glenfinnan Monument.
  • Expect about a 25-minute journey.
  • By train: from Fort William to Glenfinnan (from £7.90).
  • Expect a 35-minute trip.
  • The Glenfinnan station houses a small railway museum dedicated to the history of the line and the construction of the viaduct. Admission is a symbolic £1, and you get free entry with any purchase at the Glenfinnan Dining Car, a small snack bar set up in a vintage dining car.

The best viewpoints

One of the best spots to watch the Jacobite train is overlooking the viaduct. To get there, simply follow the signs from the Glenfinnan Monument parking lot (identifiable by their black pictogram on a white background, depicting a figure and a bridge).

Expect about a 15-minute walk (approximately 1 km). Make sure to arrive well before the train passes, as you won't be the only one wanting to enjoy this spectacular view!

To reach the same viewpoint from Glenfinnan station, take the Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail.

Expect about a 20-minute walk (1.3 km).

Another viewpoint, a bit further from the viaduct, is located at the Glenfinnan Monument. To get there from the Glenfinnan Monument parking lot, take the trail to the left of the Visitor Centre.

Expect only a few minutes' walk (about 200 m).

Jacobite Steam Train crossing times

Jacobite Steam Train crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct

After leaving Fort William, the Jacobite train travels for about 40 minutes before reaching the Glenfinnan Viaduct on its way to Mallaig. In the opposite direction, from Mallaig to Fort William, the journey takes about 1h10. Here are the crossing times of the Jacobite Steam Train over the Glenfinnan Viaduct:

Direction of travel First crossing Second crossing
From Fort William station to Mallaig station 10:55 13:30
From Mallaig station to Fort William station 15:20 18:10

These times are indicative and remain approximate - it is therefore recommended to arrive early to avoid the risk of missing the train's passage!

Nearby

Enjoy your journey aboard the Jacobite train (The Jacobite Steam Train) to discover the natural and cinematic beauty of the Scottish Highlands:

  • Ben Nevis: located near Fort William, the majestic Ben Nevis stands as the tallest mountain in Great Britain. Offering breathtaking panoramas, this natural wonder invites you to an unparalleled adventure at the heart of the peaks.
  • Glencoe: this picturesque valley has served as the backdrop for several memorable scenes from the Harry Potter series. Walk in the footsteps of your favorite characters while admiring the enchanting landscapes that have captivated millions of viewers around the world.

Official sources