Road Trip Wednesday – Day Four: Fort William & the Scottish Highlands
Though we were battle-worn from the day and night before, we somehow found it in us to get in good spirits for the drive to Fort William. Once we arrived, our mood drastically improved, especially once we spotted the train!
After far too few hours of rest (can’t call it sleep, because I’m not sure that actually happened!) in a crammed car, we sleepily made our way a little further north to Fort William (pic 1). We had tickets for the 10:30 journey on The Jacobite, a train identical to Olton Hall, the train used for the Hogwarts Express. After a little nourishment and a lot of caffeine, we made our way onto the already crowded platform. Walking towards the front of the train, you wouldn’t think twice that this was indeed the Hogwarts Express (pics 2-3). Short of the crest, the train is identical. It isn’t until you get to the front and look at the registration number that you realize it isn’t the magical train itself. Regardless – it felt like we had just crossed the magical barrier and were on our way ‘home’.
The interior of the train was uncanny. As we walked up and down the corridors, looking out open windows out at the gorgeous Scottish scenery – it was almost too much, a little overwhelming. We all used this opportunity to have some alone time, and split up amongst the train to enjoy the journey. Speaking of, our journey that day was a four hour round trip journey from Fort William to the port of Mallaig (pic 5).
The first and only stop we had along our route was at a little station (of which I have forgotten the name – something very Scottish I am sure!) where there is a little Harry Potter gift shop…and brooms laying everywhere. We took a shot at getting some ‘Pottering’ in, but as you can see by the photo, didn’t do very well! (pic 6)
Back on the train a bit later, we started to prepare for our first trip over the Glenfinnan Viaduct – the absolutely stunning arch bridge seen in many of the Harry Potter films (pic 7). The first time we went over, we weren’t quite prepared and didn’t have the best window spot, but we still managed to be swept away by it’s awesomeness. Yes, awesomeness. The rest of our journey was, for the most part, uneventful – until we passed over a little loch and I noticed an island that looked oddly familiar. I knew immediately that it was the location of Dumbledore’s tomb – and I ran excitedly back to find Caleb & Alex to tell them of my discovery. After a little Google-ing, I confirmed that it was Loch Eilt, and was indeed the final resting place of Dumbledore’s white marble tomb. We had missed it on our way out, but I vowed to get a picture of it on our return journey.
Once the train reached the port of Mallaig, we had a little bit of fun (pic 8) before leaving the train in search of some sustenance. Mallaig felt like a town out of a horror film, it was very creepy and slightly odd. And smelled badly of fish. We did have a nice lunch and walk through the town, but we only had a few hours, so before long we found ourselves back on the Jacobite and steaming back to Fort William.
As I staked out my spot near a window, not willing to let myself miss anything this time, I was continually hit in the face by the steam of the engine – and boy does it STINK. It does look cool as it billows into the windows, consuming the hallways much like the cold of a Dementor. Felt like that too, to be honest. (pic 9) Next up was another pass by Loch Eilt, and this time I was ready! I snapped around 45 photographs as we steamed by the island, but picture 10 below is my favorite. Our last major sight was going back over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and Caleb managed to get the money shot, which is picture 11 below. I wish we could’ve stopped on the Viaduct. It was absolutely beautiful.
Once back in Fort William, we had nothing to do but make our way out of the Scottish Highlands and down to Edinburgh. The drive out is absolutely beautiful, and despite the time of day, still incredibly foggy (pic 12-14). It’s funny, but I felt oddly at home in the Scottish Highlands – and I am definitely not Scottish. I equate to my inner Ravenclaw, who is said to be from glen – and there are certainly a LOT of glens in Scotland.
We arrived in Edinburgh on schedule – for a change! – and explored the city very little before getting to bed early. We had plans to do a lot the next morning, were incredibly tired, yet couldn’t contain our excitement. The next morning we were going to the birthplace of Harry Potter, The Elephant House.