Glenfinnan Viaduct: 44767 takes a Fort William - Mallaig special over Glenfinnan Viaduct in August 1986.
Peter Todd 17/08/1986

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Location type


Name and dates

Glenfinnan Viaduct (1901-)

Opened on the Mallaig Extension (West Highland Railway).


This viaduct is one of the highlights of the Mallaig Extension (West Highland Railway). It is much photographed both from the train and the surrounding land.

While on the viaduct a view down Loch Shiel and of the Glenfinnan Monument can be had from the left hand side of a Mallaig bound train.

It is a single track viaduct of mass concrete on a curve. The curve is on a radius of 12 chains (241.4 metres). It has 21 arches and is 100 ft high. It is the longest concrete viaduct in Scotland at 416 yds. It is on the rise to a summit to the west, required by the climb up from Loch Eil past Glenfinnan to cross the high ground before dropping down to Loch Eilt. Without this climb such a large viaduct would not have been needed.

The piers of the viaduct taper. The reason for this is that the viaduct is built on a 12 chain radius and the 50ft spans are maintained on both the inner and outer sides. Piers 8 and 13 and more substantial than the others. The eastern abutment and six of the piers have foundations on rock, the other piers are on gravel and boulders. Rock extracted from the cuttings at either end was crushed on site and used in the viaduct's construction.

It was initially a striking white colour, considered a bit of an imposition on the landscape, but has darkened and mellowed looking more like weathered stone.

It is at the south end of Glenfinnan and crosses the River Finnan.

In relatively recent years, it has featured in the Harry Potter films.

The view of the viaduct from most directions is largely clear of trees and can be easily photographed. It is a short walk from the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre, or the even closer Glenfinnan Viaduct Car Park just off the A830 on the west bank of the Finnan (the road up to the viaduct is private). The hillock above the visitor centre affords a good view (the "Glenfinnan Viewpoint") and a longer circular walk can be had from the centre to the viaduct, then along the rougher hillside footpath to Glenfinnan station and back to the centre by either the A830 taking in the St Mary's and St Finnan's Chapel or via the minor road which drops down from the Prince's Hotel

Glen House, seen in older photographs and which sat to the north of the viaduct, no longer stands having been demolished in the 1970s.

The locomotive 37425 was formally named 'Concrete Bob' at the west end of the viaduct in 1986 by William H McAlpine (great-grandson of Robert McAlpine the builder) and James Cornell (General Manager of ScotRail).

13.65 miles from Banavie Junction [2nd].


The Jacobite
This is a famous steam hauled train which operates in the summer between Fort William and Mallaig, running in addition to the regular ScotRail service.

Glenfinnan Visitor's Centre
This has a car park, is within a short distance of the Glenfinnan Monument and has a cafe, shop and toilets. It is possible to walk to the viaduct from here - initially by heading out along the roadside to a second car park on the west side of the River Fillan.

Glenfinnan Estate
The owners and managers of the estate which the viaduct and line cross.

The films made of these books made the viaduct even more famous than it already was.

The viaduct features in many artworks, including Rob Hain's Magical Glenfinnan .

The viaduct is seen in several films including IMDB - Glenfinnan Viaduct .


Viaduct Harry Potter scenic

External links

Canmore site record
NLS Collection OS map of 1892-1914
NLS Collection OS map of 1944-67


Gaelic name: Drochaid Gleann Fhionnainn
Listing: A

Nearby stations
Lech-a-vuie Platform
Loch Eil Outward Bound
Fort William [1st]
Fort William
Banavie Pier
Ballachulish Ferry
Queen^s Tree
Craigag No 62 Tunnel
Brein Choille Navvy Camp
Abhainn Shlatach Navvy Camp
Fionn Lighe Bridge
Leachabhuidh No 78 Tunnel
Leachabhuidh No 79 Tunnel
Allt Lon a^ Mhuidhe Pneumatic Power Station
East Loch Eilt Navvy Camp
St Mary and St Finnan^s Church
Glenfinnan Monument
Loch Sheil
Glenfinnan Pier
Craigag Lodge
Sgurr nan Coireachan
Location names in dark blue are on the same original line.

Glenfinnan Viaduct from a train

It is reached by train about 30 minutes after leaving Fort William. If you are planning to take a photograph from the Jacobite or a ScotRail train it would be advisable to find a suitable window much earlier, perhaps around Locheilside station. The viaduct can be seen from the left (when heading to Mallaig) side of the train.

Glenfinnan Viaduct on foot

By rail -

The viaduct is east of Glenfinnan station. There are two convenient walking routes to the viaduct.

The easier is to walk down the hill from the station and turn left onto the main road, follow the pavement downhill past the church and turn left before the road crosses the River Finnan (just beyond is the Glenfinnan Visitors' Centre) and follow the dirt road to the viaduct.

The other route is to use the scenic footpath which climbs above the station and east, past a viewpoint which looks out over the station, to approach the viaduct from above at its west end.

The two can be combined to make a circular walk.

By road -

The viaduct is north of the Glenfinnan Visitors' Centre and Glenfinnan Monument. There are two car parks - one at the visitors' centre (there is a nearby viewpoint above from which the viaduct can be seen slightly distantly) and another car park to the west, just over the River Finnan. A dirt road runs north east from the latter car park to the viaduct (the view is interesting from below, but you will not see the trains quite as well - see banner image above). A footpath runs from here to Glenfinnan station on the high ground above the railway, the first part of this affording a good view of the viaduct. For the more adventurous there are many good local viewpoints on the higher ground to the north west and east (which can be started by following the dirt road which crosses east over the River Finnan).

At the height of the summer the Jacobite runs twice a day and before and after this just once. See The Jacobite website.

The locomotive is not turned at Mallaig, so looks best on its outward journey.

Chronology Dates

23/02/2003Mallaig Extension (West Highland Railway)
Major lineside fire at the Glenfinnan Viaduct attributed to steam train used for filming scenes for the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film.
  /  /2012Mallaig Extension (West Highland Railway)
Footpath between Glenfinnan station and Glenfinnan Viaduct opened.
05/05/2019Mallaig Extension (West Highland Railway)
Footpath between Glenfinnan station and Glenfinnan Viaduct re-opened after repairs and improvements.

News items

07/12/2023And the nation's favourite movie location is Glenfinnan Viaduct, famous for Harry Potter steam train [Press and Journal]
01/08/2023Repair plans submitted for Glenfinnan viaduct [Network Rail]
21/07/2023Cancellation of journeys on Jacobite Steam Train known as Hogwarts Express across Glenfinnan Viaduct extended [STV]
02/07/2023Glenfinnan: How a Highland hamlet is cracking under Harry Potter mania [The National]
01/06/2023Glenfinnan biodiversity project on track [Network Rail]
30/04/2023Its no a wizard, Harry! Warning over Scottish Pottermania as tourists mistake Bonnie Prince Charlie for spellbinding schoolboy [Sunday Post]
12/03/2023Harry Potter bridge set to be repaired as Network Rail vow to fix urgent defect [ScottishDailyExpress]
15/02/2023Scotland's Railway invests in the future of our natural environment [Network Rail]
14/04/2022Glenfinnan Viaduct featured in new stunninghigh-definition drivers eye footage of West Highland Line [Scotsman]
10/02/2022Engineering work planned at famous Glenfinnan Viaduct [BBC News]


A Mallaig Boyhood (Flashbacks)
All Stations to Mallaig!: West Highland Line Since Nationalisation
Captains and Commanders: Memoirs of a Scottish West Coast Fisherman

Chapels of the Rough Bounds

Highland Steam: A Scrapbook of Images from the 'Kyle, Mallaig and Highland Lines

History of the Railways of the Scottish Highlands: West Highland Railway v. 1

History of the Railways of the Scottish Highlands: West Highland Railway v. 1

Iron Road to the Isles: A Travellers and Tourist Guide to the West Highland Lines

Iron Roads to the Isles: A Travellers and Tourists Souvenir Guide to the West Highland Lines

Landranger (40) Mallaig & Glenfinnan, Loch Shiel (OS Landranger Map)

Mallaig Line: An Illustrated History and Guide

Old Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig

On West Highland Lines

Railway World Special: Fort William and Mallaig

Railway World Special: West Highland Lines

Rannan Rathad Iarainn nan Eilean =: The West Highland Line
Steam to Mallaig
The Mallaig Railway
The Mallaig Railway: The West Highland Extension 1897-1901 (RCAHMS Broadsheet)
The Story of the West Highland

The Story of the West Highland: The 1940s LNER Guide to the Line

The West Highland Mallaig Extension in B.R.Days

The West Highland Railway

The West Highland Railway (Railways of the Scottish Highlands)

The West Highland Railway 120 Years

Walks from the West Highland Railway (Cicerone Guide)

West Highland Extension: Great Railway Journeys Through Time

West Highland Railway
West Highland Railway (History of the Railways of the Scottish Highlands v. 1): West Highland Railway v. 1