A magical series like Harry Potter has had to be created in the most magical place on earth, Scotland. With its diverse landscape, encompassing mountainous terrains, dense woodlands, and miles upon miles of golden gorgeous beaches, it comes as no surprise that Harry Potter films can happily claim to have their wonderful beginning firmly rooted in the enchanted land of Scotland.
If you are reading this article chances, are you are a big Harry Potter fan and want to live out your Harry Potter fantasies by visiting the enchanted lands, where the series was filmed. Therefore, in this article, we will provide you with the ultimate guide for touring the 10 best Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland.
So, witches and wizards, hold on to your wands and hats as we transport you to a realm where sunlight and weather come together to play on the breath-taking landscape transforming Scotland into an enchanted and fantastical realm, one that feels like it jumped right out of a fantasy novel. Once you visit these Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland you will know exactly why these were picked as the perfect backdrop for many scenes in the films. Scotland’s glens, fells, and lochs speak for themselves resonating majesty and sheer beauty one that fits perfectly in the world of wizardry.
Let’s begin our journey to the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland. To get there you can either embark on the Hogwarts Express, ride the hippogriff, or if you can bear the whims of the Flying Ford Anglia, take a seat in its cozy interior as it flies you to these locations.
The Ultimate Guide for Touring the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Even though the writer of Harry Potter, J.K Rowling never specifically stated in the books that Hogwarts was in Scotland, however, in interviews, the writer did say that she always thought Hogwarts was part of Scotland. In fact, many claim that when coming up with the wizarding world, Rowling took inspiration from the views of Edinburg Castle. Also, the inspiration behind the wizarding world’s finest shopping street, Diagon Alley lies in the curves and twists of Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row.
The Harry Potter series comprises eight movies, the filming of which took place between September 2000, and December 2010. Most of the scenes in the Harry Potter films were shot at the Warner Brothers Studio in Leavensden, England, some of the scenes, however, were actually filmed in real-life filming locations throughout the United Kingdom. Even though the primary real-life filing locations are in southern England, several notable scenes in the movies were also shot in Scotland.
The scenes that were shot in the enchanting land of Scotland are related to the Hogwarts Express train journeys and the vast spaces around Hogwarts. The major Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland lie around Fort William and Glenfinnan in the Lochaber area of the west Scottish Highlands.
1. The Jacobite Steam Train, Hogwarts Express – Most Nostalgic among the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Among the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland, one that is the most famous of all is the filming location of the Hogwarts Express scenes. Every Harry Potter fan knows that in order to get to Hogwarts, witches, and wizards have to board the Hogwarts Express train. Lucky for the potterheads out there, the Hogwarts Express is a real train, one that you can actually ride. In real life, the Hogwarts Express is called the Jacobite Steam Train which has been in operation since the year 1984. The Jacobite train service was started in order to boost tourism and also to keep the scenic route open between Fort William and Mallaig.
In all eight of the Harry Potter films, the beautiful train, with its steam engine and carriages, played the role of Hogwarts Express. The train as well as parts of its routes were shown in all the movies. The scenes that starred the train included the interior and the exterior of the train as well as the scenery along the route, with the most iconic one of them being of the Jacobite going over the magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct. Keep in mind that not all scenes that feature the Hogwarts Express were shot in Scotland.
Some of them were shot in places like London, where the King Cross train station was cast to portray the London station. While some scenes were filmed in the historic country of Yorkshire. In Yorkshire the Goathland train station was used to portray the Hogsmeade stations.
The locomotive that was used in the movies to pull the Hogwarts Express train was the GWR 4900 Class 5972 Olton Hall, and currently, it’s on display, wowing the Potterheads as they take the Warner Bros, Studio Tour. However, the steam locomotive that is now being used to pull the Jacobite train harbors a striking resemblance to the one used in the films. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the new locomotive tainting your Hogwarts Express experience.
The route that the Jacobite takes is stretched about 42 miles. The scenic route is encompassed in ethereal beauty and consists of scenic, passing lochs, mountains, forests, as well as small villages. During its journey, the Jacobite goes through the villages of Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Arisaig, and Morar before it reaches its final destination in the small port town of Mallaig.
During its venture, the train normally stops for a short break at the Glenfinnan station, allowing passengers to take comfort breaks and to visit the small railway museum. Keep in mind that the Jacobite train is seasonal and runs from April to October, offering two services a day between Fort William and Mallaig.
If you wish to bask in the feels of the wizarding world the first stop that you have to make is Fort William to ride the Jacobite Bite train. The train offers options for open seating in a standard class carriage, and in a first-class carriage, as well as first-class compartments, that you should opt for, if you want to ride in full Harry Potter style. Tickets can be booked online, by phone, or can be purchased at the station. For a more immersive experience make sure to ride in the Harry Potter-style compartments. however, it is best to book the compartments well in advance as they are quite famous and tend to sell out quickly.
2. Glenfinnan Viaduct – The Most Iconic among the 10 best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
One of the scenes in the Harry Potter films that almost every Potterhead finds iconic is the one that involves the Hogwarts Express crossing the rail bridge on its way to Hogwarts. This location appears in at least three of the movies with the most memorable one being Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where Ron and Harry take the flying car and find themselves being chased across the bridge by the Hogwarts Express. It is also the very same bridge where the dementors stop the train in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as they look for Sirius Black.
The real-world filming location for this iconic bridge is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is a fantastic-looking curved bridge, stretching about 1,000 feet long. Its sheer length makes the Glenfinnan Viaduct the longest concrete bridge in Scotland. The bridge was first opened for rail traffic in the year 1901. The bridge is set against the backdrop of a pretty valley and makes for some stunning photography, especially if the Jacobite Steam Train is crossing it.
Glenfinnan can be reached by either bus, car, or train, while to reach the Viaduct viewpoint and get good views of the iconic bridge, you will have to take a short hike. From the starting point of Glenfinnan Viaduct hiking trail, it will take you about 10 to 15 minutes to reach this iconic place, which is one of the best Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland. Even though it is a bit uphill and steep at places, the overall hike is not too difficult and you can easily reach the top. However, be sure to wear appropriate footwear as some sections of the trail are often muddy and boggy.
3. Loch Shiel – The Most Admirable among the 10 best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
An important part of the Hogwarts school campus, both in the books and movies is the Hogwarts Lake, also known as the Black Lake or the Great Lake. The Black Lake was represented by using Loch Shiel, which lies near Fort Williams, close to Glenfinnan Viaduct. In many of the films, you saw this dark lake and its stunning surroundings, as the backdrop of iconic scenes including the ones filmed for the Triwizard Tournament in the Goblet of Fire.
You can catch excellent views of Loch Shiel from the Glenfinnan Monument viewpoint as well as from the Glenfinnan Viaduct hiking trail. To climb the Glenfinnan Monument, you will have to pay a small fee at the visitors’ center. However, once you reach the viewpoint and take in the immense beauty of Loch Shiel you will realize that the views are worth every penny and more.
4. Steall Falls in Glen Navis – The Most Stunning among the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Among the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland, the most stunning one has to be Steall Falls in Glen Navis. The Steall Falls features a 390-foot single drop and is regarded as Scotland’s second-highest waterfall. The waterfall is located at Nevis Gorge, residing within Glen Navis, at a distance of 7 miles from Fort William. Once you visit the place you will find that Steall Falls is surrounded by immense beauty, with the mountain An Gearanach lying behind it, and the highest mountain on the British Isles, the mighty Ben Nevis looming in the distance.
Steall Falls appears in a number of Harry Potter films and has primarily been used as a backdrop for the broomstick flying scenes, including some Quidditch matches. It also appeared in several scenes during the Triwizard Tournament in the fourth part of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the fourth part of the Harry Potter films, the Nevis Gorge and Steall Falls can be seen as the backdrop of the arena in which Harry battles the Hungarian Horntail dragon. Keep in mind that when you visit the place, you will not see the arena, as it isn’t real, but the falls definitely are.
To reach a good viewpoint of the falls, you will have to take a short hike of about 1.2 miles. Even though the hike is short, the trail is steep and rocky in places, and requires small stream crossings. It can also be slippering particularly in winter or after rain, so make sure to bring appropriate hiking gear.
5. Rannoch Moor – The Most Expansive among the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Rannoch Moor is the most expansive among the best Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland and lies near the Glen Coe. Characterized by a wide expanse of highland Wilderness, Rannoch is a boggy moor place that covers an area of 50 square miles and is dotted with lochans i.e., small lakes and peat bog. When visiting Rannoch Moor, get the feel of the area by steering away from the road. Once you do, you will find yourself surrounded by a scenic, wild, and desolate area, that is a challenging place to thrive but still supports a variety of flora and fauna including red deer.
Rannoch Moor is a part of the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland and was featured in part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. It can be seen in the backdrop of the scene in which the Death Eaters board the train in search of Harry. The scene starts with a shot of the Hogwarts Express as it is crossing the moor, blurring Death Eaters in the air, before it closes on a male Death Eater, standing on the train tracks to stop the express.
You can get a view of Rannoch Moor by opting for a train ride along the West Highland Line. The Rannoch Moor is also a popular hiking place, and to get an immersive experience you can take up hiking there. However, make sure to get the local OS map, as it is very easy to get lost there. When visiting the moor, stop by the Kinloch Rannoch which is one of the popular villages there, with many tourists frequenting it on a regular basis.
6. Glen Coe – Best Known among the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
The fantastic Gen Coe valley that lies in the Scottish Highlands near the village of Glencoe is a dramatic volcanic glen that was the site of the terrible massacre that happened in 1692 and is also a National Scenic Area. Glen Coe is the wonderfully photogenic Harry Potter Filming Location in Scotland and is a popular tourist and hiking destination. The area is surrounded by reflecting pools, waterfalls, and steep mountains that accentuate its beauty. Apart from Harry Potter, it has also been featured in films like Skyfall, Braveheart, and Rob Roy.
Glen Coe was used as a filming location for a number of shots in several Harry Potter movies, including the Prisoner of Azkaban as well as the Half-Blood Prince. The most recognizable scenes that feature Glen Coe are in the Prisoner of Azkaban, where Glen Coe served as the location for Hagrid’s Hut. To shoot the scene, a full set was built at Glen Coe, which featured the hut, the surrounding pumpkin patch, the bridge as well and the sundial stone circle.
The scenes with Glen Coe include various shots of Hagrid’s Hut, the scene where Buckbeak is chained up, forest scenes, and of course, every Potterhead’s favorite scene where Hermione confronts and punches Draco in the face.
7. Loch Etive & Glen Etive – Ruggedly Beautiful among the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Loch Etive or Loch Eite in Scottish Gaelic is a sea loch that lies in the Argyll and Bute area of Scotland. The lock is characterized by a narrow, snake-like shape, and stretches over an expanse of 30 miles. Glen Etive on the other hand is a scenic glen that is frequented by outdoor enthusiasts and adventure junkies. Both Glen Etive and Loch Etive were used as filming locations for two Harry Potter films. Loch Etive can be seen the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, in which it portrays the lake where the golden trio ends up being deposited after jumping off the back of a dragon, following their thrilling escape from Gringotts.
The northern section of Loch Etive was featured in the Deathly Hollows Part 1, as the spot where the trio set up their camp. When you visit the area, you can either go for a hike or visit the attractions around Loch Etive like Dunstaffnage Castle and Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace. Both attractions are open to visitors and come under the care of Historic Scotland
8. Black Rock Gorge – Most Scenic among the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Lying outside the town of Evanston in the area of Easter Ross in Scotland is the Black Rock Gorge which is a narrow canyon cut into red sandstone. The Black Rock Gorge is about 1.5 km in length and 36 meters or 120 feet in depth. It is shown in the Harry Potter films during the Triwizard Tournament that takes place in part four of the Harry Potter franchise. The canyon can be seen in the dragon challenge sequence, where Harry is flying on a broomstick, trying to escape the Hungarian Horntail. When Harry Tackles the dragon, he is chased into a spectacular gorge harboring oddly shaped rocks, that gorge in real life is Black Rock Gorge.
You can access the stunning views of the gorge by opting for a 2.5-mile round-trip hike that will take you about 1 and a half hours or so. The hike albeit level and easy, harbors some tough and slippery bits so you need to be careful of them and wear appropriate shoes. The hike is also a scenic one, and apart from seeing the gorge, you will also come across some nice woodlands, a river, a waterpower plant, and a stunning waterfall.
9. Loch Elit – Harbors the Most Wonderful Views among the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Lying in the Scottish Highlands between the villages of Glenfinnan and Lochailort is Loch Elite which is a Freshwater loch that is surrounded by wonderful views and beautiful scenery. Loc Elit appears in several Harry Potter films such as Chamber of Secrets, Goblet of Fire, and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. The most famous filming location here is the tiny island of Eilean na Moine on Loch Elit, which serves as the resting place of Dumbledor. The island can be seen in a scene in The Deathly Hallows Part 1 when Voldemort arrives there to steal the Elder Wand.
Loch Elite also appears in the Prisoner of Azkaban in a scene where Hagrid can be seen standing at the loch after the sentencing of Buckbeak, looking depressed and throwing stones when the golden trio finds him. The loch also appears in external shots of Hogwarts in the films, Goblet of Fire, and Chamber of Secrets.
10. Loch Morar – Most Mythical among the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Loch Morar which is a large freshwater loch is the most mythical among the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland. The loch is located near the east of the coastal village of Mallaig and is the deepest freshwater body of water in the British Isles, with its depth putting to shame even Loch Ness. The beautiful Loch Morar was one of the many lochs that portrayed the Hogwarts Lake and was primarily used for close-up scenes.
Tips for Visiting the 10 Best Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Best way to get to the Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
The ideal way to get to the Harry Potter filming locations is via car as it offers the most flexibility and freedom. Car rentals are available in a number of of locations in Scotland with most of them found in major cities like Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, and Edinburg. However, there are several Harry Potter filming locations that can be reached via public transport or train. While there are some that require hiking and walking. Therefore, make sure to plan ahead to have a smooth trip.
How Many Days to Set Aside for Visiting the Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
If you are concentrated on just visiting the filing sites, you can conclude your trip in just 2 days. However, since Scotland harbours a lot many places that you can visit along with the Harry Potter filming locations, set aside at least 7 days for the trip.
Where to Stay When Exploring the Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
When exploring the Harry Potter Filming Locations, you can base yourself in the Highland town of Fort William as this is the place around which most of the filming locations lie. The town is a pleasant place to stay in, harboring many restaurants, museums, and accommodations. You can stay in or around Fort William in the following accommodations:
Fort William Backpackers – A well-rated hostel, offering dormitory-style rooms, free Wi-Fi, and comfortable common areas.
Fassfern Guesthouse – A cozy B&B that offers comfortable rooms with a full English breakfast, situated just outside the city center, near Loch Linnhe.
Cruachan Hotel – Located next to Loch Linnhe, this 3-star hotel offers a large variety of rooms, with some of them harboring loch and hill views as well as a terraced dining area. The hotel offers breakfast, dinner, late-night snacks and drinks.
Inverlochy Castle – If you are in search of luxury accommodation and don’t mind staying a bit further away from the filming locations, opt for a stay at the Inverlochy Castle. The Inverlochy Castle is a mid-19th-century luxury castle that offers historic, well-decorated rooms, an on-site restaurant, and excellent service.
Tours to Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Given below is a list of touring companies that you can opt for on your visit to Scotland, they are the best ones that operate in the country so be sure to check them out:
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