Harry Potter Locations in Scotland

Scotland is every Harry Potter fan’s dream! It’s where J.K. Rowling began writing the first Harry Potter series. It’s also the place where lots of the stunning scenery shots in the Harry Potter movies were filmed. And last but not least, Scotland simply is magical.

If you’re just as obsessed with Harry Potter as I am, this is the guide for you! Read on to learn more about 11 of the most magical Harry Potter Locations in Scotland

Jacobite Steam Train

You have to admit. Ever since Harry Potter ran through that brick wall onto platform 9 3/4 and hopped on the Hogwarts Express, you want to take a ride on it too. Well, in Scotland you can!

Although it is not actually called the Hogwarts Express, the Jacobite steam train will come pretty close to give you a true Harry Potter feeling. This majestic train has been operational since 1984. The train is operated twice a day, with a morning and an afternoon service, traveling from Fort William to Mallaig and vice versa. While running through the beautiful Scottish landscape, the route covers a distance of 41 miles. It passes through great scenic beauty including the Glenfinnan Viaduct, Loch Shiel and Loch Eilt.

The Jacobite steam train runs seasonally, from April to October. If you want to ride the train, I recommend booking in advance. Ever since the Harry Potter movies, the scenic train ride is in high demand, and usually sells out months in advance. Especially the Harry Potter compartment carriage is very popular!

Naturally, you don’t have to ride the train to see it. You can see the exterior of the train from up close at the Fort William or Mallaig train station. Or you can spot the train in its full glory on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the next item on this list.

In the movies

The carriages of the steam train were used as part of the Hogwarts Express, as well as parts of its train route. The most iconic scene is, of course, the train going over the Glenfinnan viaduct.

In case you want to see more of the Hogwarts Express you’ll need to go to England. The locomotive used in the movies was the GWR 4900 Class 5972 Olton Hall, which can currently be seen in the Warner Bros Studio Tour in London. Furthermore, the scenes on Platform 9 3/4 were shot in Kings Cross station, also located in London. The Goathland railway station in Yorkshire was used as the setting for Hogsmeade station.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Probably one of the most iconic scenes in the Harry Potter movies is when the Hogwarts Express is running over the stone railway bridge with Hogwarts depicted in the distance. This bridge is known as the Glenfinnan Viaduct and is used in at least three Harry Potter movies, as well as a couple of shots in the Fantastic Beasts movies. The bridge is arguably best known for its appearance in the flying car scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Harry and Ron are flying over this bridge in a Ford Anglia when the train suddenly shows up in their rearview mirror.

The bridge is also featured in Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban when dementors stop the train to search for Sirius Black.

Photographing the Glenfinnan Viaduct

The 21-arched train bridge crosses a beautiful lush valley and overlooks Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument. The Jacobite steam train crosses the bridge 4 times per day while releasing a big cloud of steam. This creates the perfect setting for some great photos!

The official viewpoint for the viaduct is located close to the main road. There are a visitor center and a large parking area nearby which costs £3 per car. From this viewpoint, you have a complete but distant view of the bridge. However, if you want to photograph the steam train crossing the bridge, I would go to a second location.

The best spot to capture the bridge and the train in all its glory requires a short walk. There is another, smaller car park just after the visitor center. This is where the walking path begins. From the back of the car park, follow the path leading to the bridge. Once you’ll pass underneath the bridge, go through a gate on your left. A smaller path will take you up the hill. Keep walking uphill until you are slightly higher than the bridge itself. Since this is arguably the best view on the bridge and the passing train, it gets pretty busy. But the view of the train on the bridge is amazing!

When to go there

Since the Harry Potter movies made the Glenfinnan Viaduct a famous and popular attraction in Scotland, it is usually pretty busy. Especially when the train passes by, a large group of people gathers at the viewpoints for that one special photo. To ensure you have time to find a parking spot and walk to the viewpoint before the train passes, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early.

Check the current timetable of the Jacobite Steam train to see when the train will cross the bridge. Usually, the train crosses the viaduct 35 to 45 minutes after departing from Fort William, and 30 to 40 minutes after departing from Mallaig.

Loch Shiel

The gorgeous Loch Shiel, near the Glenfinnan Viaduct, is one of the few lochs in Scotland used as the Great Lake surrounding Hogwarts. It’s this lake where Buckbeak dips a toe in the water in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry and Hermione look out across this lake from the Astronomy Tower in the scenic end scene of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

However, the most recognizable shot of this stunning lake is from scenes of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. During the second stage of the Triwizard Tournament, Cedric, Viktor, Fleur, and Harry have to dive into this lake to complete the task. In the scenic intro shot for this scene, the large towers for the three schools are shown, with Hogwarts in the background.

To get the best view of this lake, head to the top of the official viewpoint for the Glenfinnan Viaduct, close to the Glenfinnan Visitor Center.

Loch Eilt

True Harry Potter fans will recognize the small island on the west side of Loch Eilt. Yes, that’s right! It is the island where Dumbledore is buried after his heroic fight against the Horcruxes. At the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, this island is featured in shots where Voldemort steals the Elder Wand from the grave of Dumbledore.

The lake is also featured in a shot from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. After the sentencing of Buckbeak, Hagrid comes to this lake to seek some comfort and throw pebbles in the water.

The actual name of the tiny island is Eilean na Moine. You can see the island from the Jacobite steam train when it runs along the banks of Loch Eilt. It’s also possible to visit this island by car, although it’s not signposted and there is no designated parking. Try to park your car somewhere in a safe spot off the road. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a path leading to the lake, so you’ll have to find one yourself. Note that the area close to the lake can get very soggy, so be prepared for some wet shoes!

Edinburgh: Victoria Street

Victoria Street is probably the most colorful street in Edinburgh. It is thought to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Located just off the Royal Mile, it is home to a wide variety of bars and shops, including two Harry Potter shops (see the next item on the list) and even a joke shop, much like Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. But, unfortunately, this one isn’t run by Fred and George.

Edinburgh: Harry Potter shops

A handful of shops in Edinburgh sell all kinds of Harry Potter knick-knacks. A must-visit for Harry Potter fans! From Hogwarts scarfs to wands, and from Time-Turners to the Nimbus 2000. You can find it all in the shops in Victoria Street. The ambiance and decoration in the stores are magnificent. It’s like your actually shopping for Hogwarts school supplies in Diagon Alley.

You can find the shops on the lower end of Victoria Street. The shops are located opposite each other, near the bend in the road.

Edinburgh: The Elephant House Cafe

The Elephant House Cafe, self-proclaimed as “The Birthplace of Harry Potter”, was J.K. Rowling’s favorite place to write in the early days of Harry Potter. When J.K. was struggling as a single parent she wrote the first few books in the back of this cafe. It’s pretty easy to see why she picked this place to get creative. The cafe offers stunning views of Edinburgh Castle!

Steall Falls

Located in Glen Nevis, next to the mighty Ben Nevis, the Steall Falls provides a stunning view of a large waterfall tumbling down a massive cliff. It’s easy to imagine why they chose the Steall Falls as a backdrop in many outdoor scenes in the Harry Potter films.

The Steall Falls can be seen frequently during Quidditch matches, but it is also the setting for Harry’s battle against the Hungarian Horntail dragon in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

To get there from Fort William by car, first, you’ll follow the signs for Glen Nevis. Follow the road up Glen Nevis until you can’t go any further, and park your car on the car park. From here it’s only a short hike (3.5 kilometers/ 2.25 miles) to the Steall Falls on a clear well-walked path. But still, be careful, the path is rocky with steep drops so good footwear is recommended.

Glen Coe

Glen Coe is one of Scotland’s most impressive landscapes. Even if you’re not a Potter fan it should be on your Scottish itinerary.

The area surrounding Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe was used as the setting for Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The set included Hagrid’s hut, complete with pumpkin patch where Buckbeak was grazing, the rock formed sundial, and the last part of the wooden bridge between Hogwarts and Hagrid’s hut.

Unfortunately, the set has been removed after filming, but the true Harry Potter fan will still recognize the fantastic scenery. Click here for more pictures about the set.

Glen Etive and Loch Etive

Glen Etive and Loch Etive were used in at least 2 Harry Potter movies. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, the north part of the lake is used as the location for the camp that Harry, Hermione, and Ron set up in their search for the Horcruxes. It is here where Ron decides to leave after a heated argument with Harry. Hermione ties a scarf around a tree near Loch Etive to let Ron know they left the place.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, you can see Loch Etive again. This time as the setting where Harry, Hermione, and Ron jump off the back of the dragon, after their escape from Gringotts.

In general, Glen and Loch Etive are popular filming locations. In James Bond’s Skyfall, the road through Glen Etive is where James parks his iconic Aston Martin, and together with M enjoys the view of Scotland’s stunning landscape.

Glasgow University

A bonus location. Actually, this location is not used in any of the Harry Potter movies, nor was it the inspiration for the books. But the interior of Glasgow University’s main building has the perfect Harry Potter vibe. The hallways, courtyards, and cloisters will make you feel like your wandering through Hogwarts, on the way to your next Defense Against the Dark Arts class. It’s well worth a visit!

Are you just as crazy about Harry Potter as I am? What is your favorite Harry Potter location? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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