About half-way along the picturesque Scottish West Highland Railway line between Fort William and Mallaig lies Glenfinnan station. The Jacobite Steam Train (and more mundane locomotives) regularly run this route, and just before arriving at Glenfinnan from the direction of Fort William, the line crosses a spectacular arched viaduct, which has appeared in one of the Harry Potter films. The site has historical significance too, since it was here that Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) first raised his standard and gathered his forces for the ill-fated Jacobite rebellion of 1745. A stone tower commemorates the event, and stands dramatically on the shore of Loch Shiel. A National Trust for Scotland visitor centre provides further information on the historical background, and the whole place is a photographer's dream, as hills, loch, tower and viaduct compete for the eye's attention.
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Charles Edward Stuart raised his standard at Glenfinnan on 19th August 1745, inviting rebel Jacobite clan chiefs to gather there in support of him and his father, James, who claimed the British throne was his by right. Several chiefs answered the call, providing hundreds of troops at Charles' command. The 1745 Jacobite rebellion, which would end disastrously at Culloden, had begun.
In 1815, Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale built a memorial tower at Glenfinnan commemorating the events above. The tower was designed by the Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham. Hundreds of Jacobite enthusiasts gather there each year on the 19th of August.
The National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre at Glenfinnan provides tickets, information and exhibitions, and a shop, cafe, and toilets. Just behind the centre a short climb leads to a viewpoint with spectacular views of the memorial tower, loch, and viaduct.
A short walk from the visitor centre you can see the viaduct close-up, complete with occasional trains. The viaduct was built in 1897-1901 by the engineer Sir Robert McAlpine. It has 21 arches, reaching as high as 100ft. A plaque at the base of one of the arches commemorates the centenary of the viaduct.
The Glenfinnan viaduct recently came to prominence in the Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second in the trilogy, when the Jacobite Steam Train became transformed into the Hogwarts Express and was filmed crossing the viaduct.
All in all, Glenfinnan is well worth a day trip, featuring attractions that will appeal to all ages and interests.
Chronicle of Britain, Chronicle Communications