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Okay witches and wizards, did you know that you can ride a real life Hogwarts Express in Scotland?
It’s called The Jacobite steam train that takes you on a journey through the Scottish Highlands and you can see many Harry Potter filming locations in the process.
So, if you have ever wanted to feel like a student heading to your first year of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry then you need to book this magical experience ASAP.
Keep reading to find out how to ride the Harry Potter train or the Hogwarts Express in Scotland!
Where is the Harry Potter train located in Scotland?
So, if you wanted to ride the Hogwarts Express in real life, then you will need to make your way up to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.
Fort William is nicknamed the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ and is the largest town there with many hotels, restaurants, and outdoor activities in abundance.
You can hike or take the cable car to the Ben Nevis range, explore Glencoe, visit Neptune’s Staircase, or find hidden gems like the Corpach shipwreck.
Where does The Jacobite train go?
The Jacobite is often described as one of the greatest train journeys in the world and takes an 84-mile round trip from Fort William to Mallaig in the Western Isles of Scotland.
There are many scenic highlights on this magical train journey that you can expect to see. Some of these are;
- Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in Britain
- Arisaig – the deepest freshwater loch in Britain
- River Morar – the shortest river in Britain
- Loch Nevis – the deepest seawater loch in Europe
For Potterheads, the highlights of the real life Hogwarts Express will be passing by many of the Harry Potter filming locations used in the movies.
They used scenes of The Jacobite train journey in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when the train passes over the famous Glenfinnnan Viaduct.
Plus, you’ll see many of the lochs that they used to portray the lakes on the Hogwarts grounds surrounding the castle.
These include Loch Shiel aka the Black Lake, Loch Eilt, Eilean Na Moine where Dumbledore was buried, and Loch Morar.
How to get to Fort William in Scotland
As a large town in the Highlands, Fort William has many transport links. But, the easiest and most convenient way to get there is to drive.
Fort William will be around a 3-hour car journey from Edinburgh and a 2-hour 30-minute drive from Glasgow.
If you’re using public transport, you can get a direct train to Fort William from Glasgow and it takes around 4 hours. If you’re in Edinburgh, I would make your way to Glasgow by train and switch services.
I would recommend spending the night in Fort William before your Hogwarts Express journey. Or, book a few days here if you wanted to explore the area.
Many hotels are located near the train station so you can walk over or you can park at the long-stay car parks like West End and the Transport Centre.
The Harry Potter train runs out of Fort William station. The address is Tom-na-Faire, Station Square, Fort William PH33 6TQ. Click here for a Google Pin!
When does The Jacobite run?
The Hogwarts Express runs seven days a week but it’s good to know that The Jacobite doesn’t run all year round in Scotland.
The magical season usually runs from early April to around the end of October. It doesn’t run at all in November – March.
From April – October there will be at least one-morning service running per day and from May – September there will be a morning and afternoon service.
How long is the Hogwarts Express train journey?
You should plan an entire day out of your itinerary for a journey on the Harry Potter train in Scotland.
The trip will take around 6 hours in total and, depending on the season, there is a morning and afternoon service.
If you’re on the morning service, you’ll board the Hogwarts Express around 10.15 am in Fort William and then you’ll arrive in Mallaig around 12.30 pm.
You’ll then have a 90-minute break in Mallaig and then board the train again around 2.10 pm to return to Fort William at 4 pm.
If you’re on the afternoon service, this will leave around 12.50 pm from Fort William and then get you back around 7 pm. So, it depends on your preference which one you pick.
Personally, I always prefer the morning service. Then, you have some time later in the day to do something else like chase some Harry Potter filming locations!
How much does it cost to go on the Hogwarts Express?
In 2024, the Harry Potter train ticket prices are £57 for a standard seat and then £89 for 1st class seat. For children, it’s £33 for a standard seat and £63 for a first-class seat.
They don’t sell single journey tickets on The Jacobite, you can only buy return journey tickets.
It’s not the cheapest experience but it is one of the most scenic steam train journeys in the world. Plus, it’s so worth it to feel like a student who is heading to Hogwarts through the Scottish Highlands.
If you wanted to purchase a Harry Potter carriage, this will set you back £385 per compartment but this does sit up to six people. So, you can split the cost between you.
There are many tours that run through Scotland that will organize a journey through the Highlands and The Jacobite for you from Edinburgh. Click here to book!
How to buy tickets for the Hogwarts Express aka The Jacobite
The best way to buy tickets for the Harry Potter train would be online via the West Coast Railways website.
But, I will warn you now, tickets for The Jacobite sell out months before so make sure to book your tickets as far in advance as possible.
Once you’ve booked your ticket, you will receive a confirmation email with your booking reference. Your actual ticket with your seat number will be sent to you a few days before your trip!
If the day you want to book is sold out, they do often have cancellations. So, I would keep checking back on the website to see if any more seats become available.
Can you buy tickets for The Jacobite on the day? YES, if you didn’t manage to get tickets online sometimes they will have a small number of tickets available to purchase at the station on the day. These are usually cash-only sales. It’s not a guarantee but it’s worth trying! I would get to the station really early to queue.
What are the best seats on the Hogwarts Express?
There are three different seating options to choose from when booking the Harry Potter Train. These are;
- Standard class
- First class
- Harry Potter carriages
In all the class tiers, the best seats will be on the left-hand side of the train (from Fort William) as this is where you will get the views of the Glenfinnan Viaduct and the Hogwarts Express crossing over the bridge.
Unfortunately, you cannot choose your seats on The Jacobite when booking your tickets online.
Your seat will be randomly selected and is the luck of the draw so you will just need to decide what class of ticket you want to buy.
I’ve now journeyed on The Jacobite in both first class and standard class so I can compare both options and let you know if spending the extra money is really worth it.
Seating options on The Jacobite
Standard Class seats
The Standard Class carriages feel like you’ve stepped back in time and they all feel like the carriages from the Hogwarts Express with their wooden features and tartan seating.
The seating plan is on a 2-2, 2-2 basis so if there is only one of you or you’re a pair be prepared to share your table with another couple.
Regardless, the seats are comfortable in standard class and there is a sharing table where you can place your potions, books, familiars, chocolate frogs, and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.
You can’t pre-order food in standard class but there is a tea trolley that comes through so you can ‘take the lot’!
First Class seats
The Jacobite first-class carriages are set up a little differently than standard class on a 2-2, 1-1 seating plan.
This means that there is the option to book a ‘table for 2’ online and these tables provide more of an intimate setting for your journey if you were a couple.
The first-class carriages have comfier seats and vintage lamps on the tables. Plus, in this tier, you get the option of ordering an afternoon tea at an extra cost.
I had the Jacobite afternoon tea and I found it strange that they served this at around 11 am! But, it was still delicious.
It comes served in a box and you get a selection of finger sandwiches, scones, and cakes. Plus, your choice of tea or coffee.
Personally, I found this carriage a far nicer experience as it was a lot comfier.
Harry Potter Carriages
If you really wanted to make your journey memorable and feel like you’re riding on the Hogwarts Express then you can book a Harry Potter carriage.
This is a compartment onboard The Jacobite that seats up to six people and looks similar to the ones on the Harry Potter trains in the movies.
It costs £385 to rent out which is pretty expensive. But, as this seats six people, you could easily split the bill between friends or family!
If there were six of you sharing, it would be £64 each which actually works out cheaper than a first-class ticket. A wee saving of your Gringott’s Galleons.
What is the best side to sit on The Jacobite?
The best side to sit on The Jacobite is on the left-hand side of the train in the direction of travel from Fort William.
This is the site where you can see highlights of Glenfinnan Viaduct, Loch Shiel, and Dumbledore’s Grave.
Before, The Jacobite used to sit you in the same seat for both directions of the journey and so if you were on the right-hand side, you didn’t get as great a view.
You didn’t even get a great view on the way back as the train doesn’t turn around at Mallaig. They ‘shunt’ the engine which means that the steam engine gets moved from back to front.
But, don’t panic as it’s all changed for the better now. These days, The Jacobite actually switches your seats around on your outward and return journeys.
So, if you were facing backward on the right-hand side of the train on the way there, you will be facing forward and on the left-hand side on the way back!
Likewise, if you were on the left-hand side and forward facing outwards, you’d get a right-hand side backward seat on the return journey.
This is what happened on my last trip and it was SO much better as everyone had a chance of getting amazing views on one leg of the trip.
Jacobite views & Harry Potter filming locations
So, the main reason why people book this train journey is for the panoramic views of the Western Isles.
You’ll see many sparkling lochs, mountain peaks, and attractions on your Jacobite train journey.
But, for Potterheads, the best part is seeing some of the Harry Potter filming locations. Here are some of the best magical views to watch out for;
Glenfinnan Viaduct aka Harry Potter bridge
The highlight of the Jacobite train journey has to be when the train crosses over the Glenfinnan Viaduct aka the Harry Potter bridge (watch out for a Flying Ford Anglia overhead!).
It’s the most popular Harry Potter filming location to visit in Scotland and it featured in three of the Harry Potter movies.
You’ll remember it most when Harry and Ron miss the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. So, they try to catch up with the train in Ron’s flying Ford Anglia and nearly get hit.
I would make sure that you position yourself by an open window to capture the train crossing over the bridge as it will make you feel like you’re on your way to Hogwarts.
Loch Sheil aka the Black Lake
As you pass over the Glenfinnan Viaduct don’t forget to look over Loch Shiel that’s behind the Glenfinnan Monument.
This loch played Hogwarts Lake and the Black Lake in five of the Harry Potter movies.
We first see this location in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when the students arrive at Hogwarts by boat and again when they travel by carriage in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The Durmstrang Institute arrives by boat and the Beauxbatons arrive by flying carriage over this lake during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
And there are many other scenes where we see this lake in the movies like the second task of the Triwizard Tournament when we meet the merfolk!
Eilean Na Moine aka Dumbledore’s Grave
Another lake you will pass on the Jacobite is Loch Eilt which was used to portray parts of Hogwarts grounds in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
You’ll see this lake when Harry and Lupin discuss Dementors and when Hagrid skips stones after Buckbeak has been sentenced during the Prisoner of Azkaban.
But, the thing most Potterheads will recognise is the little island on Loch Eilt called Eilean Na Moine which is where Dumbledore is buried in the movies.
The Hogwarts Express will make an announcement when they pass by this island so make sure to have your camera ready!
Want to visit this location for yourself? Click here to read my complete guide on how to find Dumbledore’s Grave in Scotland!
Harry Potter train photography tips
The one downside about the views on The Jacobite is that when it’s raining, the windows do tend to steam up and then it can be a struggle to see outside.
My top tip would be to stand up and head to the end of the carriages to use the little windows that open so you can take photos without the glare from the windows.
The staff will announce when they will be approaching the big sites like the Glenfinnan Viaduct and Dumbledore’s Grave so make sure to listen out.
I would personally secure your spot by a window to take photos of the Glenfinnan Viaduct a few minutes before the train actually gets there (you can keep track of your location on Google Maps).
It’s the highlight of the train journey and windows tend to get taken up as everyone wants a photo/video of the train passing over the viaduct!
Anything from the trolley dears?
Just like in the Harry Potter movies, there will be a sweet trolley that comes through the Hogwarts Express.
This trolley sells official Wizarding World sweets like Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and Jelly Slugs. You could easily take the lot!
There are also some Harry Potter souvenirs to buy like Platform 9 3/4 mugs, t-shirts, and keyrings.
If you fancy some drinks, there is another tea trolley that comes through as well. They serve up coffees, teas, and soft drinks as well as some sweet treats and snacks.
But, if you were a wizard seeking a grown-up potion, you can even purchase alcoholic drinks like a Butterbeer Cocktail which was really tasty!
It’s good to know that you are also allowed to bring your own food and drinks on board The Jacobite. There is a Morrison’s supermarket right outside Fort William station.
What else is there to do on The Jacobite?
If you find that you’d like more distractions than the panoramic views, there are many things that you can bring along to pass the time.
You could bring a Harry Potter book to do a little bit of light reading like Hermione, buy some snacks from the trolley or bring some puzzles, games or a deck of cards.
There is a small part of the train that is reserved for a Harry Potter shop in one of the carriages. This also opens up at Glenfinnan station when you make a stop here.
But, don’t stress about being bored. Although it’s a long stretch of time on a train, you will honestly find that time flies!
Things to do in Mallaig
You will stop for around 90 minutes at Mallaig station which is the terminus of the West Highland railway line.
Mallaig is a small place with a fishing port but there are many things that you can do here to pass the time before your return train to Fort William.
If you were looking for some lunch, there are a few cafés like the Tea Garden and a fish and chip shop called Jaffy’s.
But, know that eateries here can get very busy when The Jacobite comes in and the wait times for food can be really long.
I always bring lunch with me as you may spend the whole time in Mallaig waiting on food.
There is a boat trip by Western Isles Cruises that runs from the harbour which is a one-hour wildlife cruise. You’ll get to chance to see dolphins, seals, and sharks.
You can also visit the Mallaig Heritage Centre which is a small history museum and archive. But, if you’re a fan of Harry Potter, I would recommend making a stop at Haggard Alley.
Maillaig Harry Potter shop – Haggard Alley
If you’re a Potterhead, then you have to make a stop at the Mallaig Harry Potter shop which is called ‘Haggard Alley’. It’s really easy to find the shop in a wee alley just around the corner from the station.
As it’s only a small shop and many Potterheads will be riding the Jacobite, you may have to queue to go inside. But, it’s well worth the wait!
You’ll find lots of Harry Potter souvenirs like t-shirts, bags, keyrings, mugs, posters, and even some collector items on sale.
It’s the perfect place to purchase some magical souvenirs to remember your journey on the Hogwarts Express!
Heading back to Fort William
After you have boarded the train in Mallaig, all that’s left is to head straight back to Fort William.
You’ll be following the exact route back and so you’ll get to see any viewpoints you may have missed on the way there.
Due to the switching of seating arrangements, you should be on the other side of the train now so you can see something new on your return.
Personally, I always get up to photograph the Glenfinnan Viaduct out of the windows on both ways.
I can never get over the fact that you can ride the real-life Harry Potter Train from the movies! It’s completely magical.
Is riding the Hogwarts Express worth it?
100% YES! If you’re a Harry Potter fan then this is one of the top experiences you can have to make you feel like you’re on your way to Hogwarts in the Wizarding World.
It’s not every day that you get the chance to ride the Hogwarts Express in real life and I thought it was worth every single Gringott’s Galleon.
I’ve been on this steam train journey twice now and every time it feels like a dream come true. It’s one of the most magical experiences you can have in Scotland and you won’t regret booking.
My top tips for riding the Harry Potter train in Scotland
- Book your tickets early – tickets for the Hogwarts Express train can sell out months before and so you should book tickets as early as possible!
- Bring your wizarding supplies – Don’t be afraid to dress up in your Hogwarts house robes, don your scarf, swish and flick your wand, eat a chocolate frog – go to town, you’re on the Hogwarts Express!
- Windows fog in the rain – If it is raining the windows can sometimes fog up due to the heat inside. If this happens, I’d move to the windows that open at the end of the carriages for photos.
- Bring cash for the trolley dears – Although they do have card machines, these can often lose signal. So, bring some cash with you for drinks and the sweet trolley!
Are you a Potterhead on a budget?
Did you know that although riding The Jacobite is an amazing experience you can still enjoy this train journey on a normal train at a far cheaper rate?
ScotRail has a service that runs from Fort William to Mallaig on the exact same train route but at a fraction of the cost. Tickets start from £7.80 one way.
You’ll still see the highlights like The Glenfinnnan Viaduct, Dumbledore’s Grave, and Loch Morar, you just won’t be riding on the steam train with the Harry Potter carriages.
It’s the perfect option for backpackers and Potterheads who can’t splurge on a pricey steam train ticket.
Harry Potter train / Jacobite FAQs
- Can you go on the Hogwarts Express? YES, you can ride the train they used in the Harry Potter movies in Scotland. It’s called The Jacobite.
- Was The Jacobite used in Harry Potter? Yes, they used scenes of The Jacobite crossing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
- Where does The Jacobite leave from? Fort William and travels to Mallaig and back.
- What is the Harry Potter train called? The Hogwarts Express!
- How much is the Harry Potter train in Scotland? In 2024, it’s £57 for a standard seat and £89 for 1st class. For children, it’s £33 for a standard seat and £63 for first class.
- Does the Jacobite train have toilets? Yes, there are many free toilets to use onboard the train.
- Is the Harry Potter train dog friendly? Yes, you can bring your furry friends on the Jacobite and they can travel for free in standard class.
Are you looking for more Harry Potter locations in Scotland?
Did you know that there are plenty of other Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland that you can visit? You’re in the perfect place to find them as most are located around Fort William!
If nothing else, you have to make a trip to Glenfinnan if you’re a Potterhead. Here, you can catch a view of The Jacobite steam train heading over the Glenfinnan Viaduct which stood in for the Hogwarts Express.
Afterward, make sure you head down to the Glenfinnan Monument and to Loch Shiel which stood in for Hogwarts Lake scenery.
You could then drive onto Eliean Na Moine to see where Dumbledore is buried. Loch Morar is another location and the famous Silver Sands beach nearby is also a Highlander filming location.
Loch Arkaig is also another great location to see but this would probably just be for dedicated fans as the drive is horrid.
You could also hike to Steall Falls or the Harry Potter waterfall which is located a short drive from Fort William in the Nevis Gorge.
Up near Inverness on the NC500, you can visit Black Rock Gorge which is another location in this scene of the Triwizard Tournament.
After Harry gets chased by the dragon, they fly through the gorge under Hogwarts!
Finally, who could forget Edinburgh? Although there were no filming locations here it’s the city that started it all. Click here to read my complete list of Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh
Where to stay in Fort William
I would recommend staying in Fort William to visit Corpach. There are lots of hotels to choose from as it’s the Capital of the Highlands.
Here are a small selection of the top recommended hotels;
- The Garrison – Set in an old jail you can spend a quirky few nights ‘in the clink’! It may sound creepy but the rooms look so cosy. They have won multiple Tripadvisor Rewards. Click here for dates and rates.
- Cruachan Hotel – Set in a building that looks like Hogwarts, the Cruachan has been established for many years and has affordable rooms for the night. Click here to book.
- Inverlochy Castle – This beautiful 19th-century castle next to a loch has been transformed into a 5-star hotel. It’s a little further out of Fort William but it’s a peaceful retreat of pure luxury. Click here to check rates.