Many of our guests have a trip to Mallaig and back to Fort William on the Jacobite Steam Train as part of their Scottish adventure. The Glenfinnan Viaduct gives the most extraordinary views (both ways – check the crowds taking photographs from the carpark) making this one of the most popular visitor attractions in Scotland. People might be Harry Potter fans, steam train fans, Insta afficionados or just after an iconic experience. However, West Coast Railways, the company that runs the Jacobite Train has been having issues with the safety regulator. There have been numerous extensions to their deadline but the rumours are that it might not run this year. I can’t advise you on whether you should risk it now and book tickets but I’m going to offer you suggestions just in case.
First is to take the regular train from Fort William to Mallaig. It’s the same journey at a fraction of the price. It’s not anywhere near as fancy but if it’s the views you’re after they are the same. Just make sure you sit on the side looking out the window onto the view. Take a fancy picnic and make a day of it. If you’re all Harry Potter fans put your house scarves on, buy some Bertie Bott Every Flavour Beans from Amazon and you’re grand to go. Don’t worry what anyone else thinks -just live your best life.
Drive to Mallaig. The Road to the Isles is gorgeous. If you love history then stop off at Glenfinnan village, where in 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart called for local clansmen to assemble to support his claim to the throne. There is a visitors’ centre, run by the National Trust for Scotland with a great café, shop and information display. You can climb to the top of the monument built to the clansmen who fought and died for the Stuart cause. Whatever your thoughts on this it’s a moving experience. The Dining Car, a converted 1950s railway carriage serves great lunches too.
If you have time then taking a Loch Shiel Cruise is a wonderful way to see more of the area, one of the last true wildernesses in the UK. I’d suggest you book it online first.
When you get to Mallaig there are absolutely banging places to eat. Last time we were there I ordered a prawn sandwich for breakfast (yes I KNOW but it’s blimmin Mallaig people) and they peeled the prawns in front of me. For a sandwich! We recommend The Cabin for extraordinary seafood, the Cornerstone for a most excellent meal (book ahead though) and The Bakehouse for a great lunch and a pizza. But there are loads of other fabulous places.
If you need the Harry Potter vibe and the lack of steam train breaks your heart then be committed. Head to Eilean na Moine in a corner of Loch Eilt, which became Dumbledore’s final resting place in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There’s a lot of digital magic going on, so it won’t look quite like the film, but it’s the place. It’s midgetastic in the summer so take your Smidge.
So you might book the train and hope for the best, or not book it in case you lose your money. But at least this gives you a Plan B, an excellent Plan B if I say so myself.