If you have plans to drive the beautiful “Road to the Isles” for a visit to the stunning area of Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig you might want to plan some extra time for a visit to Glenfinnan. The area around this wee village is a treasure trove for visiting tourists.
Glenfinnan Viaduct and West Highland Line
Glenfinnan village is situated on the A836, some 14 miles west of Fort William, and is perhaps best known for the railway viaduct, part of the legendary West Highland Line between Fort William and Mallaig. And the West Highland Line itself is famous for the Jacobite Steam Train which operates the line in the tourist season. The beautiful viaduct is featured in a Harry Potter movie and that’s why the line is also referred to as “Hogwarts Express Line”. If you want to get a full view of the viaduct you need to climb the wee hill just behind the visitor centre of the Glenfinnan Monument, on the north side of the road. If you plan ahead and check the timetables of the Jacobite you might be able to see the steam train crossing the viaduct. The Jacobite schedule for 2013 is as follows: Mon 13 May to Friday 25 Oct.
The Glenfinnan viaduct is just one of the interesting places to visit. North of Loch Shiel, south from the main road, is the Glenfinnan Monument and visitor centre from the National Trust for Scotland who maintains the site to the memory of the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. The monument was erected in 1815 is a tribute to the clansmen who fought and died in the Jacobite cause. The Visitor Centre on the site houses a multilingual exhibition on ‘Glenfinnan and the ’45’. Interesting to know is that hundreds of Jacobite sympathisers still gather at the monument every year on the Saturday closest to the 19 August. The monument and visitor centre are open all year. Adults pay £3.50, concession £2.50.
Glenfinnan Station Museum
The West Highland Line, or Railway to the Isles, is one of the famous railway journeys in the world. The line has a history that dates back to the late 1800s and was of great importance for trade between the mainland of Scotland and the Isles in the west. The Glenfinnan Station Museum provides a journey into the past of rail travel in the West Highlands whilst remaining an operational railway station. It is run by a local charitable Trust, and tells the story of the West Highland Railway, its construction and development from 1889 till today. A former coach has been transferred to dining car for food and (hot) drinks.
St. Mary’s & St. Finnan Catholic Church
This beautiful church can be found a few hundred metres west of the Glenfinnan Monument on the south-side of the road. St. Mary’s church was consecrated in 1873. Designed by E Welby Pugin in the Gothic style, the church enjoys an elevated and commanding position overlooking Loch Shiel with a spectacular view of the loch and surrounding hills. The church is a memorial chapel to the MacDonalds of Glenaladale, the family with whom Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed prior to the raising of the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in August 1745. The church contains memorial stones to the Prince and to members of the MacDonald family. The interior of the church is quite fascinating and the Mary statue on the wee altar in the back of the church is stunningly beautiful and touching at the same time. The church can be visited all year round. Sunday Mass is at 1.00 pm.