JK Rowling sat at a table in an Edinburgh café, imagining and writing up stories of the boy wizard, Harry Potter. Although many of the settings in the movies and books are English, there are some gorgeous Harry Potter locales to visit on your trip to Scotland.
Harry Potter Location: Hogwarts Express
The Jacobite Steam Train
The Jacobite Steam Train, as seen in Harry Potter movies, is the Hogwarts Express. It is a steam-powered locomotive that makes the 84-mile round trip from Fort William to Mallaig and back. Along the way, the train passes the highest point in Britain (Ben Nevis), the deepest freshwater loch (Loch Morar), the shortest river (River Morar) and the deepest seawater loch (Loch Nevis). It is described as one of the greatest railway journeys in the world.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct provided shots of the bridge of the Hogwarts Express steaming toward school. The Viaduct is located at the top of Loch Shiel in the West Highlands of Scotland. There are 21 semicircular spans, which give the Viaduct its classic profile. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry looks out the train window and sees a cabin sitting in the middle of nowhere. That cabin is the guest house at Corrour, the highest point on the West Highland Train Line.
Train between Corrour and Rannoch
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry looks out the window of the Hogwarts Express and sees a lonely cabin sitting by itself in the middle of nowhere. That cabin is the guest house at Corrour and it is the highest point on the West Highland Train Line. It is approximately one mile away from the Corrour station headed in the direction of Rannoch. There are no public roads anywhere near the hut; the only access is by train or by foot.
The Death Eaters boarded the Hogwarts Express at the Great Moor of Rannoch. The moor is about 50 square miles west of Loch Rannoch. It is a jumble of blanket bog, lochans, rivers, and rocky outcrops. Supporting a bounty of flora and fauna, the moor has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation.
Harry Potter Location: Hogwarts Lake
Loch Morar is used for the close-up shots of Hogwarts Lake as well as a number of background pictures. Located in Lochaber, it is the fifth largest lake in Scotland, covering 10 square miles. It is also the deepest freshwater lake in the British Isles, with a maximum depth of 1,017 feet. Like Loch Ness, Loch Morar has its own lake monster, Morag.
Loch Shiel, near Glenfinnan, was also used for Hogwarts Lake. Buckbeak flew over this lake and Harry and Hermione looked across it from the astronomy tower in Half-Blood Prince. The loch is deep, nearly 400 feet, and enclosed by mountains on the northeast side. There are several islands on the loch, the largest of which has a ruined chapel.
Harry Potter Location: Triwizards’ Tournament
Steall Falls is the place Harry battled the Hungarian Horntail during the Triwizards’ Tournament. It is at the base of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain. You approach the falls through Nevis Gorge, a place of stunning beauty. Steall is the second largest waterfall in Scotland, with a sheer drop of 400 feet. The Gaelic name, An Steall Bàn, means “the white spout.”
Black Rock Gorge
Harry hides in Black Rock Gorge when he first fights the Hungarian Horntail. This gorge is one mile long, and 120 feet deep. Located a few miles from Evanton, local legend has it that a noblewoman, the Lady of Balconie, was lured to this gorge by the devil. Stand at the top, and you can still hear her cries…
Harry Potter Location: Dumbledore’s Grave
Loch Eilt was used for several exterior shots, including the Hogwarts’ grounds. Eilean na Moine Island, in the loch, was used as Dumbledore’s grave. Loch Eilt is a freshwater loch in Lochaber in the West Highlands. Loch Arkaig is where we see the flight of the dragon. This atmospheric loch is located west of the Great Glen in the Highlands.
The exterior shots of the dragon flight from the last film were shot here. Dumbledore’s grave, which is actually an island in Loch Eilt, was digitally added to Loch Arkaig. Oddly enough, the film did not use either of the two islands in Loch Arkaig for Dumbledore’s grave, even though Island Columbkill, or Eilean Loch Airceig, has a ruined chapel that is a former burial ground on it. Loch Arkaig is located west of the Great Glen in the Highlands.
Glen Coe, one of the most famous glens in Scotland, is where Hagrid’s Hut was filmed, inside the Clachaig Gully. The small village of Glenfinnian was also used for exterior shots. Glen Coe is a valley of volcanic origins in the Scottish Highlands. Its name comes from the River Coe, which runs through it. The glen is part of the designated National Scenic Area of Ben Nevis and Glen Coe.
The northern part of Loch Etive was the setting for Ron and Hermione’s camping trip in the Deathly Hallows. Loch Etive is thought to mean “little ugly one,” a Scottish Gaelic name from the witch associated with the loch. Located in Argylle and Bute, the loch is nearly 32 miles long, but barely 1.5 miles wide. The depth varies, but the deepest part is 500 feet.
You can also visit the Elephant House Café in Edinburgh, where Rowling began writing the Harry Potter series. Ian Rankin (Inspector Rebus series) and Alexander McCall Smith (Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series) also spent hours in that café. Head to the third floor and you’ll see the nook overlooking Greyfriars Cemetery. Head to the cemetery itself, and you’ll see headstones that inspired many characters’ names, including McGonagall and Thomas Riddell.
Scotland’s moody lochs, ancient city of Edinburgh, Highlands, and villages freed JK Rowling’s imagination. Have a story inside you? Scotland might be your ideal destination!
Are you or one of the people you’re traveling with a Harry Potter fan? Ask your Destination Expert to make film and story locales part of your Scotland trip!