Chugging through the misty lochs and sweeping glens of the Scottish Highlands, the Jacobite Steam Train (or Jacobite Express) is one of Britain's greatest train journeys, taking passengers on a nostalgic train ride between Fort William in the West Highlands and Mallaig on Scotland's west coast. The 84-mile (135-km) round-trip route passes Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain, and the Glenfinnan viaduct, seen in the Harry Potter films when the Jacobite Steam Train was featured as the fictional Hogwarts Express.
Most visitors ride the Jacobite Express as part of a full-day or multi-day tour from Edinburgh that also visits other Highlands sites such as Cairngorms National Park, Glencoe, Loch Lomond, and Loch Ness. The final station at Mallaig is also the starting point for ferries to the Isle of Skye, making it a popular add-on to overnight and multi-day island tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- You can ride the Jacobite Express one way between Fort William and Mallaig, or choose a round-trip ticket that allows for an hour and a half to explore Mallaig before the return journey.
- Advance booking is highly recommended—a very limited number of same-day tickets are available.
- Due to the vintage design of the train’s carriages, the Jacobite trains are not wheelchair accessible; mobility scooters and non-folding wheelchairs cannot be brought onboard.
- Wear layers suitable for changing weather—it can get chilly in the Highlands even in summer, and there is always a chance of rain.
How to Get There
Trains run from Fort William station, which is located in the Scottish Highlands about 134 miles (216 km) northwest of Edinburgh and 109 miles (175 km) north of Glasgow. Visitors without their own transport often visit as part of a tour from one of these cities.
When to Get There
The Jacobite Steam Train runs from May to October, with morning and afternoon departures. There are also limited winter departures around Christmas. If you don’t book your ticket in advance, arrive at least an hour before the departure time (earlier if on a weekend or during school holiday periods) to ensure a spot.
The Jacobite Steam Train for Harry Potter Fans
For fans of the Harry Potter movies, the Jacobite Steam Train will forever be known as the Hogwarts Express—movie buffs will recognize a number of filming locations along the train journey. Fans can book a seat in the Harry Potter compartment, where Harry and his friends sat on their way to Hogwarts, and enjoy spectacular views of the Glenfinnan Monument and Loch Shiel as the train crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct, a memorable landscape from the films.