Geeking Out in Glenfinnan 

I had yet another Harry Potter-filled day… unexpectedly. 

Everyone says I’m weird (that’s why I’m in entertainment on a cruise ship) – but after spending 7 hours taking pictures of a Harry Potter-related bridge, I can see why I earned this title. 

I initially planned to go to Glenfinnan after training to Mallaig (pronounced MAH-lig), but my train conveniently stopped in Glenfinnan so I hopped off at 9am just to take a few photos. 

I don’t just take a “few,” though. Don’t judge me- my count is 6,000 after only 23 days of travel. 

I didn’t really WANT to stay here for 7 hours, though – the trains just happened to run every four hours. And once again, if I had researched and planned better, I would have used my time more wisely – I found the Glenfinnan Viaduct trail RIGHT when I was supposed to make the 20-min trek back to the train station. Since it’s me, of course I chose to miss that train in favour of staying three more hours to take tons more photos and get different angles of the bridge. Yes, definitely weird. But I do love bridges, trains, and Harry Potter, so….

The Jacobite steam train (aka the Hogwarts Express) only runs April-September (and certain periods in December), so I was out of luck. Instead, I rode the ScotRail train along the same route, and since I skipped my afternoon train, I got to watch from the trail above and take photos. It wasn’t the same, but it gives me an excuse to go back in the spring/summer. Obviously. 

Plenty of reason to visit again in a better season…

When I caught the first glimpse of the bridge, I got so excited. I never think that I’m going to be blown away by landmarks, but I always am. The train slows down to about 5 mph (no joke) when crossing, probably to allow for photographic opportunities and to take in all its scenic beauty. I don’t think it slows down at night, though – when I was on the train back to Fort William in the pitch dark, the train kept its fast pace. I was kinda bummed that it’s not lit at night or anything – when you ride trains at night, it’s almost impossible to see anything out the window other than pure blackness. 

Glenfinnan Viaduct was built in 1897 and is in the West Highlands of Scotland, overlooking the stunning Loch Schiel and Glenfinnan Monument. It’s the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland and is constructed completely out of mass concrete, with no metal reinforcements. 

If it wasn’t featured in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” I probably wouldn’t have even cared, let alone spent 7 hrs. in the area. But of course, since I travelled all this way, why not take hundreds of photos? God, I sound so Asian. 

I’m pretty sure I take the prize for taking the most amount of pictures of one particular thing… 

I was super lucky to be the only one there when I climbed the viewpoint (stunning views of both the viaduct and the monument). I got tons of (bad) selfies and used my tripod for the first time ever, even though half of those photos turned out embarrassingly bad. I mean, I tried… it’s so difficult being a loner sometimes. Ha!

Glenfinnan Monument is situated across from the viaduct in the most beautiful location as humanely possible. It’s surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of Loch Schiel, huge mountains, and trees that seem to never end. It reminded me a lot of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand. I was mesmerised, yet again, by the beauty – and it made me think of Burto, our South Island tour guide who kept saying, “I could live here,” about every place in NZ we stopped at. The same could be said about every single place I’ve seen thus far in the UK (except Hull and Fort William- don’t go out of your way to see either of those places). 

I spent a couple hours on the trail next to the monument which wrapped around the backside of the lake, giving a small aerial view of the viaduct. The views were breathtaking – I’ve never felt so small, since the mountains seemed to reach the sky, towering over me, with fog shrouding the tops (similar to everything I saw yesterday in Glencoe). 

Because I had so many hours to kill, I think I walked just about every trail on every hill to get a different view of the Glenfinnan Viaduct. It was still so surreal to see it in person – the films can’t do it justice. When I figured out that there was a trail that went all the way up to the bridge, as well as a better viewpoint, I basically ran the trails back and forth because I was that excited. In times like these, I know I’m best travelling on my own – no one would ever have the patience to wait for me and all my dumb photoshoots. 

On another note, I just love how easy it is to hop on and off public transportation here. It’s crazy that you can literally just walk 10 min. from the station and be at this famous bridge – whereas in LA, you’d be lucky if you found a parking spot in just 10 min. Some of my friends don’t even have their drivers licence – it’s probably because half of them luckily live right near a bus stop or train station. And when they talked about living right near pubs, restaurants, etc. – that’s all foreign to me, since the nearest bar is at least 30 min. (without traffic) from my house, DRIVING. There’s no such thing as being able to walk everywhere in California, unless you live in some really great hub of all sorts. That makes me so sad. 

A lovely gentleman from the train station also helped guide me to the bus that went to Mallaig – everyone is so ridiculously friendly here. The views from the coach were just as stunning, if not more, than those from the train – especially since we had to pass the coastline at sunset to get to Mallaig. 

Mallaig is a small port town – the Jacobite train usually runs from Fort William to Mallaig, so I wanted to check it out. I only had an hour in Mallaig because of my Harry Potter stuff – I wish I had split my day evenly as intended. As per usual, my favourite places end up being the ones I don’t get much time in. 

At first glance, Mallaig made my heart yearn for Wellington again. The tiny harbour, beautiful homes along the coast, and sharp turns bordered by jagged rock cliffs reminded me of my daily walks along Evans Bay Parade. It’s peculiar how a new place can bring up so many wonderful memories just because it bears an uncanny resemblance. Ahhhh, I think the biggest chunk of my heart was left in Wellington for sure. 

I’ll end with this guy – he was the first thing I saw this morning when I was in front of a church, and I figured he was just a huge stuffed figurine. 

… until I saw breath coming out of his nostrils. My heart almost stopped, since he was staring right at me and only about 20m from me. He simply walked away after about 2 seconds of staring, but I was fascinated. 

Portree tomorrow – and here’s to hoping that I can somehow make it to the Isle of Skye despite my lack of planning a thing. xx

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