The Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint and the Train

by Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders
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How to see the train from the Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint

This post does need to start with a disclaimer. I didn’t actually see the infamous steam train from the Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint. However, I was there in the right place at the right time. The train wasn’t. It had broken down in Mallaig, and so never left the station. So, while I might not have seen it, I know exactly how to – and will make sure I do see it on my return trip!

Image of the Viaduct from the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint

So, please use this post to make sure you are at the Glenfinnnan Viaduct viewpoint at the right time and in the right place. And then just hope the train doesn’t break down for you as well!

How to get to the Glenfinnan Viaduct

The nearest town to the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint is Fort William. This is a good place to arrive to if you are planning on taking public transport. From Fort William you can catch a public bus to the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. Alternatively you can take the train from Fort William to Glenfinnan Station. Be aware though, both of these options are fairly infrequent.

The other option is to drive to Glenfinnan, which will take approximately 20 minutes from the town of Fort William.

However, if you wanted to join a tour from one of Scotland’s major city there are plenty of options. A tour such as this one is a great option. It includes the Isle of Skye and the highlands, as well as actually taking a ride on the train. CLICK HERE to book.

 

 

Where to park

If you are arriving by car there are a few options on where to park. If you are driving from Fort William the first one you will come across is the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre car park, which will be on your right hand side as you enter Glenfinnan. However, this is often busy so there is a high chance there might not be a space, so keep driving along the main road.

There is another small car park on the right, which is located at the entrance to the trail. Again this one fills up fast, so don’t be disappointed or stressed if you don’t get in here either!

A little further along the road there are a few spaces outside the church. There are signs on the edge of this car parking space asking people not to park there bit it did fill up with people wanting to see the train. On returning to the cars, later in the day, there were notes attached to them. These however, were not aggressive but merely suggested it would be nice to visit the church after seeing the train. And actually, it is a lovely and interesting church so well worth popping your head in!

image of Glenfinnan church in front of Loch Shiel

The final car parking spot, which also might be the best, is near the entrance to the Glenfinnan rail station. This is a little further from the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint. However, is near the entrance to a short hike to the viewpoint. So you can either walk back down the road to the main trailhead or follow the path that starts next to the station. I left the viewpoint at the same time as two other girls, who I then saw walk along the road as I arrived back to the car park, so either route takes about the same time. With the hike (it is an easy one) being the more scenic!

When to visit

The Jacobite steam train is seasonal, so make sure you have the right time of year as well as the right time of day! The train timetable does also vary depending on the time of the year. Throughout the summer months (June through to September) there are two daily services. These being the morning and the afternoon. In the shoulder season months (April, May and October) only the morning train runs. Check when the reduced service starts, as the one service will be introduced during the week a little earlier than at the weekends. There are no trains at all between  October and April.

image of viaduct from Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint

The morning services does mean a train to Mallaig from Fort William and then a return, so there are two times to see the train. In the summer season there is a train there and then a train back, meaning it crosses the bridge four times in a day.

The ideal service to see from the Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint is the train going from Fort William to Mallaig as it will come towards you as it crosses the bridge.

When to arrive at the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint

The timing of arriving at the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint is crucial. The train will cross the viaduct at around 30 minutes after it has left Fort William. On it’s way back from Mallaig it should cross the viaduct around 45 minutes before it is DUE back into Fort William.

Take a look at this website to look at the current timetable for the season, to make sure you know when the train leaves or is due to arrive into Fort William. Make sure you leave enough time to park and walk to the viewpoint to ensure you don’t miss the train.

Real talk – the viewpoint does get busy, there are a lot of people waiting to see the train. But there is plenty of space, so you should get an uninterrupted view of the viaduct.

image of people standing on the path at the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint looking towards the bridge

Walking to the Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint

There are two options for walking to the Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint. The first is to take the wide track from the visitor centre parking lot. At the bottom of the valley is a gated driveway which leads to the bottom of the viaduct. From there you take left up an often muddy path up the hill. This should take about 15 minutes from the  parking lot to the viewpoint.

The second option is to incorporate a small hike. This is not lengthly and very accessible. So, it is a great option if you want to see a little bit more of the surrounding scenery.

image of Loch Shiel from hike to Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint

The entrance to this hike, is located at the Glenfinnan Rail Station. You walk past the carriages, and follow the signs to the view point. The walk takes you through a small wooded area, under a bridge and then out on to the hills. By taking this hike you also incorporate views over Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan monument. The hike will take you half an hour to the viewpoint so make sure you leave a little bit more time.

Where to Stay

If you are using public transport the easiest place to stay would be hotels in Fort William, providing the easiest access to either the bus or train to get to the Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint.

Have a look at some of the options by clicking HERE to browse the hotels in the town.

For an alternative and slightly quirky option, you can stay in one of the old railway carriages. There is one located next to the Glenfinnan Station which has been turned into a hostel. You can book a bed, an entire compartment or exclusive hire for bigger groups. If you are interested – take a look here.

Final thoughts

The Glenfinnan viaduct is an incredibly impressive monument in it’s own right. But even if you dont manage to see the train, it is still definitely worth the trip! I just hope you do manage to see!

image of Where Charlie Wanders overlooking Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint


Heading to Scotland? Take a look at this post on St Andrews for a great day out from Edinburgh!


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