The Glenfinnan Viaduct is an absolutely unmissable Scottish attraction. So, where is the best view of Glenfinnan Viaduct? This viaduct is the largest railway bridge in Scotland, and that’s not even the reason many visitors show up on a day-to-day basis. Whether you are Harry Potter enthusiast, keen photographer or having a family day out; the train viewpoints at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and the surrounding area, is a great adventure!
As a Scottish Highlander myself, I didn’t expect much from this popular tourist attraction since I’ve seen many similar sights closer to home such as the Culloden Viaduct.
But, Glenfinnan is one-of-kind.
From the initial anticipation to hearing the faint sound of the train whistle moving closer between the meandering hills… Then to hear the choo-choo sound of the smoke burst into the air above… All whilst waving back at the proud train driver twirling his handkerchief in the air as he hangs out from the front window… In my opinion, witnessing the Jacobite Steam Train on the Glenfinnan Viaduct is one of the most magical experiences any visitor could have in Scotland.
Table of Contents
- Visiting Glenfinnan Viaduct
- Glenfinnan Viaduct Train Viewpoints
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Other Attractions Near Glenfinnan Viaduct
- Scottish Highlands Google Map Legend
Visiting Glenfinnan Viaduct
🏡 Best Hotel: The Princes House Hotel is within walking distance.
How to get to Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is a 30-minute drive along the A836 from the nearest town, Fort William. This beauty is conveniently located on the North Coast 500, so it’s no surprise that the easiest way to get to the viaduct is by car.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint Car Park
The main car park is easy to spot from the main road as there is a reasonably large visitor centre too. The exact directions can be found here. There aren’t too many spaces, so you are bound to have some difficulties especially if you are travelling in a large motorhome. Alternatively, there is a smaller parking area a little further along the road.
Update (July 2022): The car park at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre has recently been extended. That being said, it can still easily reach full capacity during the times in which the train is due to pass. Arrive early to secure a place as the crowds can often be overwhelming. To avoid over-congestion, you could also find your own spot. There are plenty of large laybys on the way to Mallaig that overlooks the train track within a closer distance than the Glenfinnan viewpoint.
Public Transport to Glenfinnan Viaduct
Fort William will be the easiest town to begin your journey if you are travelling via public transport. From there, you’ll be able to catch a bus straight to the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre or a train to Glenfinnan Station. Remember, you are in the Scottish Highlands, so any form of public transport will be fairly infrequent.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Walk
The Glenfinnan Viaduct Walk is a great alternative for those looking to avoid the initial crowds at the visitor centre. To do so, follow the WalkHighlands guide backwards. The entire circuit is 2.5 miles (4 kilometres) long which wouldn’t take much longer than 1-2 hours. Following waymarkers and paths, the short hike offers superb views over Loch Shiel and the famous ‘Harry Potter Bridge‘. Start the circuit at the Glenfinnan Station Museum. Return the same way from the Glenfinnan Viaduct, in the hope that you’ll catch the steam train for a second time as it departs Glenfinnan Train Station.
What time does the train pass the Glenfinnan Viaduct?
The Jacobite Train is expected to cross the viaduct around 30-40 minutes after it departs Fort William. Alternatively, you can watch the steam train return from Mallaig – you’ll catch this service approximately 45 minutes before the train is due to arrive back in Fort William.
*There is no turntable in Mallaig. Consequently, the train returns to Fort William with the front engine riding backwards. If you are aiming for the perfect photograph, then this train may not be the most picture-perfect. In addition, the train will be moving away from the viewpoints as opposed to having a beautifully framed shot of the front of the train.
There is no doubt that the best time to visit Glenfinnan Viaduct is when the Jacobite Steam Train is passing. As a consequence, it is also the busiest! Give yourself at least an hour to find a parking spot beforehand, choose your viewpoint and set up your camera gear before the train is due to pass. Parking spots can disappear fast!
The Jacobite Steam Train’s schedule is seasonal. There are no trains between the winter months of October and April. During summer, June to September, there are two daily services depending on the days of the week. For April, May and October, it tends to be just a morning service that is running.
The Jacobite Steam Train timetable for the summer months is as follows…
Sunday to Friday Train Schedule
|Morning Service||Afternoon Service|
|Dep. Fort William||10:15||12:50|
|Arr. Fort William||16:03||18:52|
Saturday Train Schedule
|(Saturday Service)||Morning Service||Afternoon Service|
|Dep. Fort William||10:15||14:40|
|Arr. Fort William||16:03||20:35|
CHECK: The timetable on the official website for the most recent times.
Know Before You Go
With the beauty of the Jacobite Steam Train, we must remember that this is authentically old-fashioned and there is a reason we no longer use steam trains. Unfortunately, the Jacobite Steam Train is no different and does quite often have its down days. If you’d like to avoid any disappointment, then call the operator or train station to confirm the service is running.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Train Viewpoints
There are two notable train viewpoints of the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The best place to view Glenfinnan Viaduct is along the trail as the vantage point is closer with a more personal and better-angled view of the steam train.
Option 1: Visitor Centre Viewpoint
There is a reasonably small viewpoint of the viaduct at the visitor centre. This signposted trail is less than a 5-minute walk. Given that a large sign directs visitors to this viewpoint from the large car park, it’s easy to understand why this spot has the largest crowds.
In terms of the view, well, it’s worth a wee look. This is a fantastic spot to admire the monument against the panoramic Loch Shiel backdrop.
As pictured below, this isn’t the closest view of the viaduct that is available. You will need a great telephoto lens if you’d like to capture the details from this one.
Option 2: Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail
If you don’t mind a small walk (15-minutes) then this is the viewpoint for you! In my experience, it’s the best angle for photographs or simply waving to the excited passengers.
There are two ways to find the trail. The easiest option would be to follow the path that heads towards the viaduct from the back of the car park. Otherwise, exit the visitor centre’s car park, turn right then turn right again after the river. Here, opposite the entrance to the Glenfinnan House Hotel, is the route to the Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail.
TIP: It can get a little boggy at the viewpoint on the trail so waterproof shoes are recommended.
Walk along this track for about 10-minutes or less. A green signpost (pictured below) will lead you onto a footpath. Go through the gate. You are now on the Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail. It is here where you choose your favourite spot to take a picture. It’s clear to see from the flattened foliage where previous crowds have taken their shots from. You may prefer a face-on view, whereas others choose to climb higher for an overview.
Don’t forget to take your midge repellent; turns out they like this spot too!
NOTE: Drones are prohibited in the area, unless you have permission. Call Alistair to enquire (07799 114 891). He tends to ask for a donation, and check that you have your drone license. Please respect the locals by doing so.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You See Glenfinnan Viaduct from the Road?
If you know where to look, you could catch a glimpse of the Glenfinnan Viaduct from the road. You can also see the viaduct from the parking area, though the 10-minute walk along the trail rewards walkers with much better views that are more than worth the small hike!
Where is the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland?
Have a look at our Scottish Google Map Legend for all of the best recommendations at the touch of your fingertips! This must-have resource pinpoints the most important locations, such as park-ups, restaurants and sites to see… All for your convenience!
Other Attractions Near Glenfinnan Viaduct
Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail
If you continued walking along this trail (described in option 2), then you’d eventually find yourself at the Glenfinnan Train Station. The whole Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail is a great way to incorporate your sightseeing into a short hike. This is 4km long, which should take you between 1-2 hours.
The loch situated within Glen Shiel is a gloriously-iconic scene of the Scottish Highlands.
From the visitor centre, you can appreciate the view along the nature trail or from the grounds of Glenfinnan Monument.
Scottish Highlands Google Map Legend
This Google Map Legend showcases 140+ need-to-know coordinates within our bonnie Scottish Highlands & Islands:
- Awesome Wild Camping Park-Ups
- Best Walks, Viewpoints, Beaches
- Bucket List Locations
- Accessible Showers & Fresh Water Taps
- Relevant Links to Online Travel Guides