Glenfinnan is a village in the Western Highlands of Scotland, between Fort William and Mallaig. Standing at the head of Loch Shiel, it's famous as the place where "Bonnie Prince Charlie" launched his 1745 Jacobite rebellion. The railway to Mallaig here sweeps over the valley on the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct, used as a location in several films and TV series. The viaduct also features on the Bank of Scotland (2007 & 2017 series) £10 note. In 2011 the village population was 139.

Get in Edit

By train Edit

Glenfinnan is on the West Highland Line, with ScotRail trains from Glasgow Queen Street via Arrochar & Tarbet (for Loch Lomond), Crianlarich (where a portion detaches for Oban) and Fort William; they continue to Arisaig and Mallaig (for ferries to Skye). There are six M-Sa and three on Sunday.

The Jacobite steam train runs April-Oct between Fort William and Mallaig. It's a six-hour excursion (depart 10:15, return by 16:00) which stops for 10 min at Glenfinnan for photos. Mid-May to mid-Sept there's also an afternoon train (14:30 - 19:00). These trains connect with the Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston, which terminates at Fort William.

1 Glenfinnan Station is off the main road at the western edge of the village: it's been prettified into a museum, see below. A sleeping car has been converted into a bunkhouse, and a dining car offers light refreshments. There are no ticket kiosks or machines, buy on board if your journey starts here. There is level access to Platform 1, and a level-crossing to Platform 2 (for Fort William).

A walking trail leads from the station to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, half a mile east. You only get a brief view of the viaduct from the train (although it's going slowly at this point), but sit on the left of the westbound train for the best views of the viaduct, the Glenfinnan Monument and down the loch.

By road Edit

Glenfinnan stands on the "Road to the Isles" A830. Fort William (junction with A82) is 17 miles east, Mallaig is 25 miles west.

By bus Edit

Shiel Buses 500 / 502 / 505 / 534 run from Fort William three times M-F and once on Saturday, taking 30 min, and continuing to Lochailort, Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig. The bus stop in Glenfinnan is by the turnoff for the station.

Get around Edit

Glenfinnan is a small village and it is possible to walk everywhere. There is a track that runs from the top of the village to the bottom, named the back track. It has a foot bridge in the middle and is therefore only accessible by foot. There is now a pavement on the main road from the very top of the village at Tor An Eas, to the bottom, at the National Trust for Scotland.

Car parks: National Trust for Scotland (for a daily fee of £3) at the visitor centre the car park at the bottom of the glen (turn right instead of left into the village at the crossroads), and both hotels also have their own car parks. On busy days, there is a shortage of car parking in the village.

The train station is at the top of the village, with the main bus stop's at the station road entrance (beside the red phone box) or at the crossroads at the bottom of the village. Make sure you hail the buses to stop.

See Edit

"The Jacobite" crossing the viaduct
  • Station Museum is open Apr-Oct M-Sa 09:00-17:00, Su 10:00-17:00. Adult £1, child free, donation for parking.
  • 1 Glenfinnan Viaduct. Magnificent 21-arched concrete railway viaduct, opened 1901, curling round the valley at the head of the loch. There is a viewing platform above the car park at the visitor centre which can be reached by a 550-yard walk. For a better view use the free car park further up the route, then a 20- to 30-min walk takes you under then behind the viaduct, giving a nice close-up. Both paths are mapped out on signs in front of the visitor centre as are times of the passing steam trains. Films that have used this location include Ring of Bright Water, Charlotte Gray, Monarch of the Glen, Stone of Destiny and (endlessly) the Harry Potter series. But they don't include Stand by Me so please do not walk onto the viaduct! It's an active railway line, you're trespassing and you might get squished. There's a legend that a horse and cart tumbled into one of the pylons during construction and became entombed. Investigations failed to detect it, but in 2001 it was found in Loch nam Uamh viaduct 15 miles west near Arisaig.    
  • St Mary & St Finnan Church is RC. It's Gothic, built by Pugin 1870-72. In 2023 it's closed for restoration.
  • 2 Glenfinnan Monument  : In 1745 "'Bonnie Prince Charlie" crossed from France to reclaim the throne for his father "James the Eighth", who'd failed himself in 1715. Charles landed in Eriskay in the Western Isles then came to the mainland, almost empty-handed as his supply ship was blasted by the Royal Navy. He'd been admonished to bring a force of at least 6000 or not come, but he won over the local clans with "now or never" rhetoric until some 1000 men were assembled. On 19 Aug he launched his uprising here by raising his "royal" banner - that of the Catholic Stuart dynasty, deposed by the Protestant Hanoverians. His force grew, marched on and occupied Edinburgh unopposed. He routed a counter-attack at Prestonpans, then set off into England again unopposed and with hopes high. Everything was going so well, how could they fail? But some 15 miles west towards Arisaig is "The Prince's Cairn", where in Sept 1746 Charles fled into exile with his cause lost forever, his supporters slain in battle or put to death, and the Highlands suffering harsh military reprisals.
  • Loch Shiel is a 17-mile-long fjord - a valley carved out by glaciers that used to be an inlet of the sea, but dammed by glacial rubble to become a fresh-water lake. There are boat trips on the loch and walks on the forestry trails beside it - look for otters and eagles. The wooded islets contain remnants of Scotland's primeval forest. None of the surrounding hills count as "Munroes" but several are "Corbetts".

Do Edit

Glenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Shiel
  • Walks include
    • The Village: from the red phone box on the main road, start towards the top of the village, but take the first right down a bumpy track. This is the "backtrack". Follow the path down and across the foot bridge. When you reach the tarmac road, turn right and follow the road to the pier. At the pier, take the shore path to the left, and you will end up at the Glenfinnan House Hotel. Walk across the front of the lawn, and you will find yourself upon the road again. Straight across the road, there is a footpath leading up to the church. You will have to cross someone's drive to carry on here. At the church there is a fantastic view of the loch. At the church car park, and the main road, you can either take a right down to the bottom of the village and the glen, or take a left to take you back to the top of the village. The main road in the village is single track and has some beautiful little beaches if you just step off the road.
    • The Loch: from the Monument take the path left around the loch to come onto its east shore. An old bridge takes you over the River Callop where there's a choice of routes. You could go east, inland, on the trail besides that river up towards Callop village and glen. Or stay on the lochside heading south, using the Forestry dirt road that goes all the way to Polloch. Further trails ascend above Polloch towards Strontian on Loch Sunart: this would be a serious expedition with an overnight bivvy.
    • The Glen: park at the foot of the glen. There's a tarmac road up the glen but only the residents up there may drive it. The road leads under the viaduct, and parallels the river up as far as the bothy, 4 miles, before giving out into hill trails. Various swimming spots and views along the way.
  • Swim: Loch Shiel at the foot of the village is rocky and shallow to begin with, then widens with a sandy bottom. Strong swimmers can get to the island and back. Obvious but please remember: it's fresh water so you don't float as well as in the sea. And it's not as warm as it looks, especially in early summer when the water temperature takes a month or two to follow the air temperature, so it's still March in there. The River Finnan, up the glen, is quieter and has pools to splosh in.
  • Golf: the nearest course is Traigh GC in Arisaig.
  • Glenfinnan Highland Gathering is held on the August weekend closest to the 19th, the anniversary of raising the Jacobite standard, with the next on Sa 19 Aug 2023. Games involve athletics, wrestling, piping and dancing, caber-tossing, and much swirling of kilts. The event is held on Jacobite Monument Field, prominent on the left as you enter the village coming from Fort William. The event is 11:30-17:00, with a hill race in the afternoon, and in the evening the Games Dance.

Buy Edit

Station Museum

Glenfinnan has no big shops. Stock up on essentials in Fort William, for instance at Aldi or Farmfoods on the main road north side of town. The museum has a small gift shop.

Eat Edit

  • Glenfinnan House Hotel and The Prince's House (see below) have good restaurants open to non-residents.
  • Viaduct View Cafe. Daily 10:00-16:00. This is part of the NTS visitor centre and has light bites at lunchtime.
  • The Dining Car. M-Sa 08:30-17:00. This is part of the Station Museum, with sandwiches, soup and home baking.

Drink Edit

Both hotel bars are open to non-residents, with a wide selection of alcohol, bar meals and soft drinks.

Sleep Edit

The Prince sailed on to Scotland but his supply ship was blasted
  • 1 Glenfinnan House Hotel, Glenfinnan PH37 4LT. Elegant hotel on the shores of the loch, built in 1755. The scenery and ambience mean it's often booked up for weddings in summer. However it remains closed.
  • 2 The Prince's House (The Stage House), Main road, Glenfinnan PH37 4LT, +44 1397 722246. Nine-room hotel built in 1658 as a coaching inn, great reviews for comfort and dining. B&B double £185.
  • The Sleeping Car, Glenfinnan Station. Built in 1958, this sleeping car has many of its original features. It was used as the area engineer's lodging from 1978 to 1989, but takes up a 1930s tradition of "camping coaches" parked in sidings around the network to encourage budget travel. It now has 10 beds in four compartments, dining area, lounge with TV and bathroom. Bikes are available for hire. Twin compartment £50.

Connect Edit

As of July 2023, Glenfinnan has 4G from all UK carriers, but the signal is patchy along A830 from Fort William, and it dies out west towards Arisaig. 5G has not reached this area.

Go next Edit

  • Fort William 17 miles east is the nearest town of any size. It's at the foot of Ben Nevis, for climbing, skiing and mountain biking.
  • Good beaches in the vicinity are Glenuig (17 miles, go west to Lochailort then left towards Acharacle), Camusdarach (21 miles, take straggly old road after Arisaig) and Silver Sands (Morar, approaching Mallaig).
  • Skye is reached by ferry from Mallaig to Armadale, otherwise take the toll-free bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh.
  • The Small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna have year-round ferries from Mallaig, and summer boat-trips from Arisaig.
  • Ardnamurchan, the most westerly part of the mainland of Great Britain, is in many ways more remote than the islands. Drive west to Lochailort, follow the road south along the coast to Kilchoan and continue west until the road runs out.

This city travel guide to Glenfinnan is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.