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For clients who are fans of Harry Potter, James Bond and 1980s cult classic “Highlander,” Discover Scotland Tours has the perfect itinerary.
On its small-group Glenfinnan, Mallaig & Jacobite Steam Train day trip, guests embark on a scenic journey through beautiful Scottish landscapes to see both historical sites and filming locations from several “Harry Potter” films, fantasy action-adventure movie “Highlander” and James Bond spy-thriller “Skyfall."
“For visitors who are short on time but want to see the best Scotland has to offer, our one-day tour to the Highlands onboard the Jacobite Steam Train is perfect,” said Michael Colhoun, managing director of Discover Scotland Tours. “This magical tour spills over with spectacular lochs, glens and mountains, from the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond to the haunting beauty of Glencoe. Even if you're not a ‘Harry Potter’ fan, you can still enjoy one of the world's most spectacular train journeys along Scotland's rugged west coast.”
Via a luxury 16-passenger minicoach, the tour departs from Glasgow and takes clients along Loch Lomond, through desolate Rannoch Moor, past the Bridge of Orchy (named for its 268-year-old bridge) and to the dramatic peaks of Glencoe — a filming location for the “Harry Potter” franchise, “Highlander” and “Skyfall.” One driving sequence from “Skyfall” was filmed near Glencoe's Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag, but even the dashing super-spy and his famous Aston Martin couldn't upstage the spectacular Scottish scenery.
Loch Eilt, a particularly notable wizarding world filming location on the tour, is where Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s gamekeeper, Hagrid, sadly skims stones after his beloved hippogriff Buckbeak (a magical creature with the wings and head of an eagle and the body of a horse) receives a death sentence in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Eilean na Moine, one of the loch’s small islands, was used as the setting for the final resting place for Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore, as well as where the dark Lord Voldemort steals the powerful Elder Wand at the end of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.”
As the tour reaches Glenfinnan Monument, erected in 1815 to honor fallen Jacobites, clients catch their first view of the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The 416-meter-long curved railway bridge is not only famous as a feat of Victorian engineering, but also as the bridge first seen in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” The only thing missing is Harry and Ron flying overhead in the Weasley’s magical car (though clients who want to see the flying blue Ford Anglia can visit the Bo’ness Motor Museum, located about 35 minutes northwest of Edinburgh).
While a photo of the bridge that takes the boy wizard and his friends from platform 9¾ at London’s Kings Cross Station to Hogwarts is surely bucket-list-worthy for fans, the ultimate experience for any “Harry Potter” lover is actually riding the iconic red-and-black Hogwarts Express train.
“Families love this tour thanks to the Jacobite Steam Train trip over the 'Harry Potter Bridge,’” Colhoun said. “People of all ages have great fun dressing up as wizards for the journey, and when the train slows down to cross the viaduct, there’s a flurry of cloaks and wands as passengers rush to the windows to get photos.”
At the end of the one-way train journey, clients rejoin their tour leader in Fort William for the return trip to Glasgow by coach. But first, there is one last stop at a pub that appeared in the 2012 sci-fi drama “Cloud Atlas” (and that’s also rumored to be Scotland’s most haunted pub). Once a resting point for weary travelers, The Drovers Inn in North Loch Lomond, Inverarnan, has welcomed all sorts of colorful characters in its 314-year history (including the infamous outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor). So it’s a fitting place for modern travelers to rest — and perhaps enjoy a wee dram — at the end of their Scottish adventure.
My college-age son spent a week in Scotland last summer, and he chose this particular tour because he had just one free day, and the Jacobite Steam Train was on his bucket list.
“As a ‘Harry Potter fan,’ riding the train was a must,” he said. “But, thanks to my Scottish-born guide, Michael, I not only had that experience, but I also learned more about Scotland in one day than I did the whole week prior."
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