Glenfinnan is a village in the Scottish Highlands.
On the A830 road from Fort William to Mallaig. Fort William is 17 miles by road. Mallaig is 25 miles from Glenfinnan.
Glenfinnan is on the West Highland Railway, with daily services operated by ScotRail. Just before reaching Glenfinnan station, north/west-bound trains cross the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct, a hundred-year-old stone arched rail bridge which was brought to fame in the Harry Potter movies (the bridge also features on the Bank of Scotland £10 note). Sit on the left of the train for the best views down the loch and towards the Monument.
A single from Fort William to Glenfinnan is about £6, and a day return is £7. If you have a Highland Railcard (for people who live in the Highlands only, costs £9 per year), it gives you 50% off these fares.
Check Scotrail timetables
In summer, West Coast Railways runs The Jacobite steam train service along this line to Mallaig. This is popular with tourists and day-trippers, especially due to the associations with the Harry Potter franchise. This train usually stops for a few minutes in Glenfinnan, to give you time to look around. Costs £35 for a return from Fort William to Mallaig.
Glenfinnan is on two local bus routes - buses to Mallaig and buses to Acharacle, both from Fort William. The bus company is called Shiel Buses, whose base is in Acharacle. They do other routes to Kilchoan and a local route for the Mallaig area. Buses leave Fort William 3-4 times a day, Monday to Saturday. A single to Glenfinnan is £2.70, a day return £3.50.
Check for timetables.
Glenfinnan is a small village and it is possible to walk everywhere. There is a track that runs from the top of the village to the bottom, named the back track. It has a foot bridge in the middle and is therefore only accessible by foot. There is now a pavement on the main road from the very top of the village at Tor An Eas, to the bottom, at the National Trust for Scotland.
Car Parks: National Trust for Scotland (for a daily fee of £2) at the visitor centre, the car park at the bottom of the glen (turn right instead of left into the village at the cross roads), and both hotels also have their own car parks.
The train station is at the top of the village, with the main bus stop's at the station road entrance (beside the red phone box) or at the cross roads at the bottom of the village. Make sure you hail the buses to stop.
- Loch Shiel. This lake stretches towards the sea for 17 miles from here and only fails to make it by two miles (it stops at Acharacle). There are boat trips on the loch and walks beside it.
- 1 Glenfinnan Viaduct. This railway viaduct is a beauty, curving round the head of a river valley in over 20 arches. There is a viewing platform right above the car park at the visitor centre which can be reached in about 5 minutes walk. A better view offers the longer path from the free car park further up the route where in about 15 to 20 minutes a path leads under the viaduct and then to a path just above and behind the viaduct, giving a nice close up view. Both paths are mapped out on signs in front of the visitor centre as are times of the passing steam trains. In summer during weekdays, this is around 10:45-11:00 and 15:00-15:15.
- 2 Glenfinnan Monument. This marks the spot where 'Bonnie Prince Charlie,' son of the Jacobite pretender to the throne, raised his banner to start the 1745 rebellion. It is right across the road from the visitor centre.
The Glenfinnan Highland Games
During the summer, most small communities in the Highlands open up for their very own Highland Games, which can include anything from dancing competitions, tossing the caber, and local cuisine to races and art tents.
In Glenfinnan, the Games usually happen on the weekend in August closest to the 19th, as it was the day that Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the Standard during the Jacobites Revolution, in 1745. This feat is marked by the monument, which stands by the beach. The monument itself is Glenfinnan's own leaning tower of Pisa, as it has slowly been sinking into the sand for years now. It is not dangerous though, as it is hardly noticeable except to the best eye!
The Games are held on the large field on the left hand side as you enter into the village from the Fort William direction. The games go on from morning until night and in the afternoon there is the famous hill race! After 5PM there is usually better craic in the beer tent than anywhere else and later that evening there is the Games Dance.
Glenfinnan Fun Day
Glenfinnan Fun Day is held in June every year on the lawn of Glenfinnan House Hotel. The day begins with a raft race from the Monument to the old pier at the hotel. The raft race began as an original charity event four years ago and has progressed from there. All entries welcome, life jackets must be worn and parent supervision is necessary. Last years winners were four children on a blow up bouncy castle!
The day progresses on the lawn with the entire village turning up for fresh food (local cuisine such as venison and fresh salmon on an open BBQ), games and slides for the children (and the adults). There is usually a raffle to raise funds for village activities (such as parties for the children at Christmas). There is no entry fee although all villagers are asked to contribute to the salads, drinks and raffle prizes available.
Glenfinnan is in an area of hills, loch and beautiful scenery. Here are a few recommended walks:
- The Village Walk
You can either begin at the top of the village at the station, or start at the bottom and end up there. From the red phone box on the main road: Head towards the top of the village, but take the first right down a bumpy track. This is the "backtrack". Follow the path down and across the foot bridge. When you reach the tarmac road, turn right and follow the road to the pier. At the pier, take the shore path to the left, and you will end up at the Glenfinnan House Hotel. Walk across the front of the lawn, and you will find yourself upon the road again. Straight across the road, there is a footpath leading up to the church. You will have to cross someone's drive to carry on here. At the church there is a fantastic view of the loch. At the church car park, and the main road, you can either take a right down to the bottom of the village and the glen, or take a left to take you back to the top of the village. The main road in the village is single track and has some beautiful little beaches if you just step off the road.
- The Loch Path
At the National Trust for Scotland museum/cafe, there is a path down to the monument. Just off that path to the left, there is a wooden trail around the edge of Loch Shiel which crosses over the old road and over a bridge to the other side of the loch. From here there are view points and a choice to either go left to Callop (where there is another car park and another glen) or to the right and Polloch. Polloch is a long walk, but you can make your way down the track a little bit for lovely views of the island and towards the village.
- The Glen
You can park your car at the bottom of the glen as driving is restricted to residents of the glen only. Walk as far as you like. There are view points further up the glen, plus this is a good way to get a close up of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, used for films such as Charlotte Gray and Harry Potter. The Glen road is tarmac up until the bothy, which is about 4 miles walk. The road follows the river, in which you can swim in summer.
For you brave ones out there, there are a few good places to swim in summer. The loch (the bay just off the single track road as you enter the village at the bottom) is an excellent place to swim. Although slightly shallow and rocky at the beginning, it soon widens out to a completely sandy bottom and plenty of space to swim. People have been known to swim to the island and back! River Finnan, up the glen, is a good place for privacy though. The further you go, the better the pools.
Glenfinnan has no grocery shops (nearest: Corpach, 12 miles in the direction of Fort William), clubs or bank machines, although many places do accept credit cards as payment.
- There is a shop at the National Trust for Scotland, selling souvenirs, books, post cards and other miscellaneous items.
- There is a small shop at the Station Museum on the platform at Glenfinnan Station.
- There is a Candle shop at the top of the village (opposite the Prince's House), selling all kinds from the best midge candles in the area (and very handy they are too!) to gorgeous scented candles, all hand made on the premises.
- Glenfinnan House Hotel. Bar meals and restaurant, open to non-residents. Set menu, specials and extensive wine list available.
- The Prince's House. Bar meals and restaurant, open to non-residents. Set menu plus large board of specials available every day. Chef here is brilliant
- The National Trust for Scotland Cafe. Open 10.00-16.45. Monday to Sunday.. Sandwiches and soup available at lunch time. Tea/Coffee and cake available all day every day.
- The Carriage. Open Monday to Sunday, 10.00-16.30. Sandwiches, soup and home baking available all day every day.
- Both hotels are open to non-residents, and both have a wide selection of alcohol, bar meals and soft drinks.
- Glenfinnan House Hotel has a dart board whereas the Princes House (otherwise known as the Stage House) has a pool table.
- The cafe at the National Trust for Scotland is open every day from April 1 to October 29, 10AM until 4.45PM, although in July & August this changes to earlier/later openings. It offers hot and cold beverages, home baking, plus ice creams, fresh soup and sandwiches daily.
- The Carriage (beside the train station) is open every day this summer, 10AM until 4.30PM. Run by Hetty MacRae, this cafe is completely local and offers home baking and lunches, plus hot and cold beverages all day.
- 1 Glenfinnan House Hotel. This fine hotel has won many awards including the Small Country Hotel of the Year (2009). Built in 1755, this hotel has a lot of history along with ghosts (supposedly) and holds a great number of weddings every year. Low season single £70 - high season suite £240 per room.
- 2 The Prince's House. This hotel is based at the top of Glenfinnan and has also won many awards, not only for quality but for the excellent cuisine also (with an award winning chef). Built in 1658, this hotel was originally a "coaching inn" named, and still given the nickname of The Stage House. Single £75 - four poster room £225.
- 3 The Sleeping Car, Glenfinnan Station. Built in 1958, this sleeping car has many of it's original features. With a total of 10 beds, dining area, lounge with TV and bathroom, this is the perfect budget get away. Bikes are available for hire also. Bed £15 - whole coach £130.
There are many things to visit in the area, what with Fort William (Outdoor Capital of the UK) and Ben Nevis (Highest Mountain in UK) so close. Fort William is 17 miles away and you can get there by bus or rail (see above).
- Glenuig (17 miles, take right exit at Lochailort towards Acharacle).
- Camusdarach (21 miles, take old road after Arisaig)
- Silver Sands (Morar, just off new road)
Places to See and Do
- War Memorial at Spean Bridge (22 miles, towards Inverness)
- Nevis Range, Ski Resort & Mountain Biking World Cup Venue, with gondola's up the mountain (19 miles, towards Inverness)
- Treasures of the Earth (12 miles, Corpach)
- Ben Nevis Distillery (15 miles, Fort William Junction)
Places to go on from here
- Day trips to the Small Isles (Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna) leave from Mallaig daily or Arisaig
- Over to Skye from Mallaig (www.calmac.co.uk)
- Ardnamurchan Point, most westerly point on the British mainland (drive down to Lochailort, turn left, head for Kilchoan and drive until the road runs out!)
- Isle of Mull, go the same way as Ardnamurchan, but head for Lochaline instead!
- Fort William (17 miles)
- Inverness (78 miles)
- Glasgow (124 miles)
- Edinburgh (150 miles)