We set off on the world-famous Jacobite steam train on a lovely Saturday morning in August 2018. Striding with eager anticipation into Fort William station, there were dozens of passengers assembling for photos and selfies with the vintage locomotive. There are 2 return trips daily throughout the summer. We chose the morning journey so travelled up the night before on an equally scenic trip from Glasgow via Loch Lomond and Ben Nevis.
The train departed just after 10am and every seat was occupied. We knew this may be the case as most weekends through the summer are fully booked. Some passengers took the option of breakfast on the train, but we chose to bring our own snacks, which many others also decided. Soon after leaving the station some of the most scenic countryside awaits. The outward journey trundles along at a leisurely pace. The half way point is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous in recent years by the Harry Potter films. Approaching the viaduct you notice around 100 viewers waiting for the perfect photo opportunity of the train emitting its steam while on the viaduct. We were lucky to reach out the window to catch a snap of the train curving around the track.
At Glenfinnan station you can get off and stretch your legs for 10 minutes. There’s a small museum, tea/coffee shop and a popular toilet!
Resuming the journey passes the wonderful villages of Morar and Arisaig. When the sun is shining, these beaches could be mistaken for somewhere in the Caribbean. You really can’t take your eyes away from the coastline. Conversation on the train at times was sparse but only because we were all taking in the views going slowly past us.
The end of the journey is the village of Mallaig where we explored briefly and had a nice lunch. A clever local entrepreneur opened a Harry Potter store which seemed to be doing good business. Maybe someone else will create the famous ‘Leaky Cauldron’ in Mallaig?
The return journey is a chance to view the opposite side of the train. Similar to the morning, there are afternoon tea offers which some enjoyed. There’s a drinks snack/drinks trolley and small shop on the train also.
The train isn’t cheap, but a great experience. The Scotrail train travels the same journey and if the Jacobite is fully booked on the day you need to travel, then this is certainly a worthy alternative.
On returning to Fort William, we explored the town for an hour before getting dinner. We chose to get the train back to Glasgow that evening, but wouldn’t recommend this strategy. In total we spent 9 hours on a train that day. Next time we’d maybe stop in Oban or Crianlarich on the way home for a night.
The Jacobite route is rightly described as one of the world’s most scenic train journeys and a simple box to be ticked on anyone’s bucket list.