Glenfinnan (or Gleann Fhionnain in Scottish Gaelic) is a hamlet in the Highlands area of Scotland and one of Scotland’s most iconic places. If you haven’t saw it in the Harry Potter films or on the back of a tenner, you’ve probably seen it somewhere else. It’s an area rich in history and a place that is fantastic for a day out with friends, yourself or with your family. It lies about 30 minutes’ drive, west of Fort William along the A830 on the road to Mallaig.
It’s an area drenched in history dating back hundreds of years. On the 19th of August, 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his father’s standard on the shores of Loch Shiel which was a pivotal moment as this marked the start of the Jacobite rebellion and what would ultimately change Scottish history and culture forever.
In 1815 a monument was erected in tribute to the Jacobite clansmen who had fought and died in the cause of the Bonnie Prince. It was designed by a Scottish architect by the name of James Gillespie Graham. It stands at 18m high, and at the top there is a lone kilted Highlander which serves as reminder. The visitor centre offers guided tours to the top of the monument which are well worth doing, the views of Loch Shiel and the surrounding areas are truly breath-taking.
The visitor centre tells the story of the Bonnie Prince and his campaign, from Glenfinnan to Derby then all the way back to the final defeat at Culloden. It gives a good insight into the Jacobite Rising and is well worth a wee venture to. If you are travelling by car then the car park at the visitor centre is probably the best place to park, it costs to park but gives you the best access to the centre and to the monument and saves a lot of hassle.
The viaduct is another famous landmark which is simply stunning. Constructed in 1897 by Sir Robert McAlpine it has a staggering 21 Arches and reaches a height of 100ft above the valley. It is made completely of concrete and is used by passenger trains from Glasgow Queen Street & Mallaig. Police had to issue a warning to people walking on the viaduct due to a number of near misses so if you are visiting the viaduct, gonnae no walk on it. A plague was unveiled at the base of one of its Arches in 1997 to commemorate it’s centenary so if you are walking down at the Arches then that’s something to look out for.
The Jacobite steam train has been operating on the line every Summer since 1984. It is an 84 mile round trip which starts in Fort William and ends in Mallaig and travels through some of the most beautiful areas in Scotland. If you ever get the chance to go on it then honestly do it, some of the views and scenery you will see are jaw droppingly beautiful. There’s a reason it has been called “the most beautiful rail journey in the world”. You may recognise the steam train from the Harry Potter films as it was used as the Hogwarts Express with the viaduct also being included in the films.
If you want to see more of the area or to get some spectacular views then the Viaduct trail is perfect for you. It is around a 2.5 mile walk and lasts usually between1 and 2 hours. The start of the trail is at the car park on your first right if you are heading from the visitor centre, if you are coming from Mallaig then it’s the first car park on the left before the visitor centre car park.
Glenfinnan is honestly a cracking day out for everyone. If ever get the chance to visit, whether it be on the train or bus or car then you should jump at the chance to go. It’s a place that you showcases some of the finest beauty in Scotland and a place that you will never forget.
Cùm gàidhlig beò!