Magical Road Trip: Harry Potter Scotland Guide
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you make a purchase from one of the links below (at no extra cost to you). More information can be found here.
As the home for Hogwarts in the books and movies, Scotland delivers an extraordinary experience for Harry Potter fans looking to relive the magic of the series. Many areas within the dramatic and mystical landscape of the highlands served as Harry Potter filming locations, including the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct that the Hogwarts Express travels over, the beautiful Hogwarts Black Lake, the location for Hagrid’s Hut, and other stunning highland scenery used for the grounds of Hogwarts.
Whether you’re looking to ride the Hogwarts Express, dip your toes into the Black Lake or imagine yourself taking a break from studying potions to walk around the Hogwarts grounds, this Harry Potter Scotland guide provides everything you need to have a once in a lifetime magical experience.
This post covers all of the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland, providing information on the location, the films in which they appeared and a map of where to find the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland. It also breaks these Harry Potter places into a four-day road trip itinerary that covers not just the filming locations, but also includes a day in Edinburgh to cover the Potter Trail and tips for making the most of your Harry Potter Scotland tour.
Harry Potter Scotland Table of Contents
- Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
- Rannoch Moor – Hogwarts Train Route
- Loch Etive and Glen Etive – Hogwarts Scenery
- Glencoe – Hagrid’s Hut and Hogwarts Scenery
- Steall Falls and Glen Nevis – Quidditch Pitch and Triwizard Tournament
- Loch Shiel – Hogwarts Lake
- Glenfinnan Viaduct – Hogwarts Train Route
- Jacobite Steam Train – Hogwarts Train Route
- Loch Eilt – Dumbledore’s Grave
- Loch Arkaig – Hogwarts Scenery
- Loch Morar – Hogwarts Scenery
- Black Rock Gorge – Triwizard Tournament
- Map of Harry Potter Scotland Locations
- Harry Potter Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
- Additional Tips for Harry Potter Scotland Road Trip
- Other Harry Potter Filming Locations in the UK
Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
The following list covers each of the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland. They are listed in a similar (though not exact) order to the Harry Potter Scotland road trip itinerary found later in this post so that it’s easier to read along with each filming location’s Harry Potter connection as you move through the itinerary.
Rannoch Moor – Hogwarts Train Route
All aboard at Rannoch Moor. That is, if you’re a Death Eater. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Voldemort’s followers stop the train in the middle of Rannoch Moor to search the Hogwarts Express for Harry Potter. A defiant Neville stands up and says “Hey losers, he isn’t here” with the hauntingly desolate moor scenery surrounding the train windows.
This Harry Potter filming location in Scotland stretches for miles of wide open expanse just east of Glencoe. Filled with peat bogs and small bodies of water, this mostly barren landscape has a haunting beauty when compared to the lush green mountains that surround it.
In addition to its feature in the seventh movie of the Harry Potter series, Rannoch Moor also gets screen time in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As the train chugs along to Hogwarts, it cuts through the peaty bogs of Rannoch Moor on its way from Platform 9 ¾ to Hogwarts. You can catch a glimpse of this just before Harry moves through the train in his attempt to spy on Malfoy in the Slytherin train car.
Loch Etive and Glen Etive – Hogwarts Scenery
Following the single track road along the River Etive to Loch Etive and Glen Etive offers not only stunning scenery, but also a treat to visit some of the background scenery used in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
In the sixth movie, a film helicopter shot scenes of the Glen Etive and Loch Etive to digitally superimpose the grounds of Hogwarts. In movie seven, Harry, Hermione and Ron also set up camp here while they wait for Ron’s arm to heal during their search for horcruxes.
Glencoe – Hagrid’s Hut and Hogwarts Scenery
For the filming of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, filmmakers moved Hagrid’s Hut from outside one of the studios near Black Park, England and into the Scottish Highlands. Near Clachaig Inn, set designers built Hagrid’s Hut amid the trees and rolling hills in the Glencoe area of the Scottish Highlands.
A construction project that took almost five months to complete, Hagrid’s Hut in Glencoe was built just ahead of small little loch known as Torren Lochan. In the films you can see this little body of water sitting to the right of the gamekeeper’s house. For Prisoner of Azkaban, set designers also created the giant pumpkin patch and scarecrow that you see Buckbeak laying among just before his “execution.”
Hagrid’s Hut is not the only Harry Potter filming location, though, in the Glencoe area. Just up the hill from Hagrid’s Hut, filmmakers also assembled the wooden Hogwarts bridge, a chapel-like entrance to Hogwarts from the wooden bridge, and fiberglass standing stones for the third movie. It’s among these standing stones that one of the most bad-ass scenes of the Harry Potter movies happened. Here, Hermione punches Malfoy in the face after he comes along to see Buckbeak’s “execution.”
Additionally, along the banks of Torren Lachan a seriously injured Sirius Black nearly receive the Dementor’s Kiss. Harry and Sirius’ souls are spared, though, when a mysterious figure appears on the other side of the lachan (tiny lake) and scatters the dementors away with a powerful Patronus charm.
Unfortunately, filmmakers removed Hagrid’s Hut and other Hogwarts grounds sets once filming for these scenes wrapped. For the later films, filmmakers did not rebuild the same sets up in Glencoe, but you will see the same scenery digitally added to sets that were used on-site at the Warner Brothers Studio just outside London. You can, however, walk along the wooden “Bridge to Nowhere”at the Harry Potter Studio tour in London.
Steall Falls and Glen Nevis – Quidditch Pitch and Triwizard Tournament
Britain’s second highest waterfall of Steall Falls and the surrounding area of Britain’s Glen Nevis have appeared multiple times through the Harry Potter movies. Their most common appearances are associated with the famous wizard sport of Quidditch.
In the first two movies, the quidditch pitch sits on the flat grassy expanse of Glen Nevis. Harry and the other Hogwarts players zoom around the beautiful scenery battling it out for the win. In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the quidditch pitch has moved to the base of Steall Falls.
Steall Falls can also be seen in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This filming location in Scotland appears when Harry encounters the dragon in the very first task of the Triwizard Tournament. After the dragon breaks free from its chain, she and Harry take to the sky in a life or death chase. Just as they emerge from the arena, the cascading waters of Steall Falls flow in the background.
Loch Shiel – Hogwarts Lake
Cue the heartwarming music that closes out many of the Harry Potter films as you imagine the beloved Hogwarts Castle sitting in the distance on the right hand bank of the beautiful Loch Shiel.
Located just across from Glenfinnan Viaduct, the Harry Potter filming location of Loch Shiel was used to digitally create the Black Lake that surrounds Hogwarts Castle in the movies. Usually, filmmakers digitally imposed the school on the right hand side of this breathtaking loch. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the loch also provided the backdrop for the scenes from the second Triwizard Tournament task. In the movie, three giant bleachers stretch up over the loch as the champions dive into the cold depths of the water to search for what they will most.
You can also catch glimpses of Loch Shiel in the background whenever the Hogwarts Express goes over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Glenfinnan Viaduct – Hogwarts Train Route
Possibly the most famous of the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland, the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct stands tall in the bonny hills of the highlands. In many of the films, the Hogwarts Express crosses over the Glenfinnan Viaduct on its way to the famous wizarding school.
One of the most notable scenes that feature Glenfinnan Viaduct occurs in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Unable to get through Platform 9 ¾ to catch the Hogwarts Express, Harry and Ron decide to take Mr. Weasley’s bewitched flying car to get them to Hogwarts. In search of the train, they land on the tracks of the Glenfinnan Viaduct as the train zooms behind them and they fly up, down, and around the viaduct in a panic.
In the warmer months of the year, a steam train just like the Hogwarts Express crosses over Glenfinnan Viaduct anywhere from four to six times a day. More on that now…
Jacobite Steam Train – Hogwarts Train Route
All aboard for real this time. The Jacobite Steam Train provided the exterior shots of the Hogwarts Express during the filming of the Harry Potter movies. Painted black and red, this steam train travels from Fort William, over Glenfinnan Viaduct, and through the West Highlands to the small seaside town of Mallaig. Helicopters were used to get shots of the train moving along this route throughout the films.
Additionally, the filmmakers used the train itself as a filming device. Actors shot the scenes inside the Hogwarts Express from within the Harry Potter studios outside London, however filmmakers needed to be able to digitally add the beautiful Scottish scenery into the windows for the final result. To do this, they rigged one of the train cars with a camera to capture the beautiful route that the train takes.
Because of this filming technique, you can see many of the scenery from the movies by hitching a ride on this train. On its daily trek to the seaside town of Mallaig, the train provides the opportunity to see Glenfinnan Viaduct, Loch Shiel, Loch Eilt, and Loch Morar.
For everything you need to know about riding the Jacobite Steam Train (well, really, the Hogwarts Express), check out my guide here.
Loch Eilt – Dumbledore’s Grave
The final resting place of one of Hogwarts’ most beloved headmasters sits on an island in the middle of Loch Eilt. That’s right, the filming location for Albus Dumbledore’s grave can be found in the Western Highlands. Towards the western end of the loch stands an island known as Eilean na Moine. You’ll recognize it from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Voldemort breaks up the grave to steal the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s corpse.
While this island houses one of the greatest wizards who ever lived, the majority of Loch Eilt around it did not make it on screen. Filmmakers actually took Eilean na Moine and digitally imposed it onto Loch Arkaig, our next Harry Potter filming location in Scotland.
Loch Arkaig – Hogwarts Scenery
As mentioned above, Loch Arkaig provided the dramatic background for the island that holds Dumbledore’s Grave in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
The unspoiled beauty of Loch Arkaig also got a bit of screen time in Half Blood Prince. Many shots of the Black Lake actually came from Loch Arkaig, particularly the mesmerizing sunset at the end of the movie when Harry, Ron and Hermione discuss their plans at the top of the Astronomy Tower.
Loch Arkaig sits about 10 miles north of Fort William after following mostly single track road through the highland countryside.
Loch Morar – Hogwarts Scenery
Loch Morar marks the last of the Harry Potter lochs used as filming locations in Scotland. Home to a magical water beast, the deepest loch in Britain also sees some screen time as scenery stock footage in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
However, unless you’re also interested in trying to catch a glimpse of Morag the Monster, I wouldn’t recommend driving all the way out to loch for its Harry Potter connection. You can view the edges of Loch Morar from aboard the Jacobite Steam Train.
Black Rock Gorge – Triwizard Tournament
Just 16 miles north of Inverness, you’ll come to the final Harry Potter filming location in Scotland. During the first task of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry zooms through here as he tries to flee the flames of the dragon.
Map of Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Harry Potter Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
The best way to explore the Harry Potter sites in Scotland and take in the gorgeous scenery of the Highlands is by taking your own Harry Potter Road Trip. This four-day itinerary covers Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland, as well as some other wizarding world gems thrown in there. It allows enough time to really savor each of the sites and accounts for driving time between the different locations.
Since this itinerary seeks to maximize time to cover as many of the Harry Potter locations in Scotland as possible, it does leave out one of the filming locations. Black Rock Gorge appeared briefly in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and its location north of Inverness makes it a less convenient place to visit in relation to the other Harry Potter places on this list. Since it did not play a major role in the film, I felt comfortable cutting it out of this Harry Potter road trip itinerary.
If you would like to include it, account for one more day in your road trip itinerary and make your way up to its location near Evanton, a town north of Inverness.
Day 1 – Edinburgh
With its connections to Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling, Edinburgh marks the perfect kick off for a Harry Potter filming location tour of Scotland. While there are no actual Harry Potter filming locations in Edinburgh, there’s plenty of places to visit in Edinburgh where Wizarding World fans can get their geek on.
Pop into the Elephant House Cafe to see where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the books. Wander through Greyfriars Kirkyard to find the name inspiration for Lord Voldemort, Professor McGonagall and other Harry Potter characters. Explore George Heriot’s School, Edinburgh Castle and Victoria Street, all locations that inspired elements of places from the Harry Potter series.
Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh can easily be visited in half a day. For more in-depth information on these magical spots, check out this guide to Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh.
Day 2 – Drive to Glencoe
Start your journey into the Scottish Highlands early in the morning. There’s a bit of road between you and the Harry Potter filming locations that await you in the mystical area known as Glencoe. From Edinburgh, you’ll drive about 2.5 hours past William Wallace’s home of Stirling and into the rolling hills of the highlands before you come to the first Harry Potter location at Rannoch Moor.
Time between Edinburgh and Rannoch Moor: 2 hours 25 minutes
If you’re using good ol’ Google Maps, you’ll want to navigate to Rannoch Moor Viewpoint from Edinburgh. Otherwise, you’ll follow the A84 north out of Edinburgh, past Stirling and into the Highlands. The road will turn into the A85 and then A82, which will be your guide throughout most of this Harry Potter road trip.
Shortly after passing through the small village known as the Bridge of Orchy, you’ll come to the wide expanse of Rannoch Moor that is featured in the Harry Potter films. Like most areas along your drive in the highlands, there’s small pull-offs on the side of the road where you can stop and take in the mostly deserted expanse of land.
Glen Etive and Loch Etive
Time between Rannoch Moor and Glen Etive: 40 minutes
Continue driving straight along A82 from Rannoch Moor until you come to your first left-hand turn. You’ll follow this small winding road for about 30 minutes until you come to beginning of Loch Etive where you can take in the majesty of both loch and glen.
Time between Glen Etive and Glencoe: 50 minutes
Once you’ve finished taking in the gorgeous scenery along the River and Glen Etive, turn around and continue back along the single track until you’re once again on A82. Turn left and drive for another 15 minutes. The turn-off to Clachaig Inn will appear on your right and a number of signs will point you in that direction.
To get to the Harry Potter filming location used for Hagrid’s Hut in Glencoe, continue a few minutes past the end until right before Torren Lochan appears on your left. Hagrid’s Hut sat upon the ground to your right overlooking the loch. Just up the hill filmmakers also constructed the bridge to nowhere, entrance to Hogwarts, and the standing stones from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Once you’ve finished exploring these Harry Potter filming locations in Glencoe, you can either choose to stay the night at one of many inns located in the area or continue on for about an 35 minutes until you come to Fort William and stay the night there.
Day 3 – Fort William Harry Potter Sites
Whether you’re waking up in Glencoe or Fort William, Day 3 of your Harry Potter Scotland Tour will first take you up Britain’s tallest mountain to visit Hogwarts’ Quidditch Pitch. After spending the morning hiking, you’ll travel to Glenfinnan Visitor Center to visit the Black Lake and the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. Finally, you’ll drive around the breathtaking Loch Arkaig, which provided scenery shots of the Hogwarts lake.
Time between Glencoe and Steall Falls: 50 minutes + 30 minutes hiking
Time between Fort William and Steall Falls: 20 minutes + 30 minutes hiking
Make your way to Fort William, if you’re not already there. From the town, you’re going to follow the Glen Nevis road up the mountain until you come to the Upper Glen Nevis Car Park. This drive takes about 20 minutes from the center of Fort William
Once parked, follow the trail for about 30 minutes. It does get a bit muddy and rocky here so be sure to wear sturdy shoes that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty. The hike takes you through woods, over a rocky and somewhat rough terrain that marks the gorge portion of the walk. Once you make it through this section, you’ll be rewarded with the sprawling grassy meadow surrounded by lush scenery that marks the Harry Potter filming location for the quidditch pitch in the first two movies.
From this point, you can see Steall Falls in the distance. The River Nevis divides the meadow from getting closer to the falls, but if you’re feeling brave, you can cross a wire bridge over the river to get the base of the waterfall. To return to the car park, you’ll need to take the same route back.
All in all, I would recommend giving yourself two to three hours to cover the hike to and from Steall Falls. This gives you more than enough time to safely manage the hike, cross the river and fully take in the beautiful scenery that brings thousands of visitors to Glen Nevis each year.
Time between Steall Falls and Loch Shiel: 40 minutes
Once you’ve made it back from Glen Nevis and the Steall Falls, you’ll hit the road again to more of the Hogwarts grounds. This time you’ll be driving to Loch Shiel where Hogwarts herself was digitally imposed onto the right hand bank of the loch.
To get to Loch Shiel, you’ll drive back down Glen Nevis road, back onto A82 and into the town of Fort William. Stay on A82 until you come to A830 via roundabout. Then you’ll follow this road until the Glenfinnan Visitor Center appears on your right. The loch will be immediately to your left, but you’ll have to pay for parking at the Glenfinnan Visitor Center.
The walk to the bank of Loch Shiel takes about five minutes from the car park. The monument that stands on the banks of the loch marks the spot where Bonny Prince Charlie landed to meet Clan MacDonald in what started the infamous and doomed Jacobite Uprising of 1745.
Time between Loch Shiel and Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint: 15 minutes walking
Since you’re already parked at the Glenfinnan Visitor Center, it’s time to head off on another hike. Turn into that parking lot and follow the trail to the Glenfinnan Viewpoint. This viewpoint places you in the field that stretches in front of the Viaduct.
If you time it correctly, you should be coming up to the top of the trail around 2:45pm, just in time to watch the Jacobite Steam Train makes it way over the viaduct as the afternoon service departs for Mallaig. If you hang around a little longer until around 3:30pm you’ll also be able to see the morning service makes it way back to Fort William over the Viaduct. (Note: the afternoon service runs only from mid-May to mid-September).
Another Glenfinnan Viaduct viewing point exists nearby, but the hike takes a little longer than the viewing point from the open field. Walk up to the Glenfinnan Train Station where the entrance to the Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail will be clearly labeled. Follow this trail until you come to the clearing. This particular viewpoint puts you up on the left hand hill next to the viaduct and has some pretty amazing views. This hike should take you about 40 minutes from Loch Shiel.
If you prefer to do the latter trail, you’ll probably want to aim for the return of the morning service train around 3:30pm. This will give you plenty of time to explore Steall Falls and Loch Shiel, as well as tackling the hike up to the viewpoint.
Time between Glenfinnan Viaduct and Loch Arkaig: 1 hour 10 minutes
With the trains come and gone, it’s now time to head off to your next Harry Potter Filming Location. Jump back in your car and head towards Loch Arkaig. To get here from Glenfinnan Visitor Center, you’ll turn left back onto A830 for about 13 miles before turning left onto Banavie/B8004.
This mostly single track lane will carry you another six miles until you need to keep left onto B8005. Follow this road until you come to Loch Arkaig where gorgeous shots of Hogwarts Lake were shot for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Once you’re done wandering around Loch Arkaig, return to Fort William to spend the night.
Day 4 – Hogwarts Express
After the past few days of driving and hiking, it’s time to sit back and relax aboard the Hogwarts (I mean, Jacobite) Express for your final day on this Harry Potter tour of Scotland. Head to the Fort William Travel Center with your ticket in hand and prepare to knock this amazing experience off your Harry Potter bucket list.
Jacobite Steam Train
Time on Jacobite Steam Train: 6 hours
Be sure to arrive to the Fort William Travel Center at least half an hour before the train departs. Depending on the time of year, the Jacobite Steam Train departs twice a day with a service leaving in the morning and one leaving in the afternoon. The train will take you over and past these Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland:
- Glenfinnan Viaduct
- Loch Shiel
- Loch Eilt + Eileen na Moine
- Loch Morar
More information on planning for the Jacobite Steam Train, the train experience, and what to do in Mallaig can be found in this in-depth guide to the Jacobite Steam Train.
Harry Potter Scotland Road Trip Map
Additional Tips for Harry Potter Scotland Road Trip
When to Visit Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland
Since the Jacobite only runs from late April to late October, you’ll want to plan your Harry Potter Scotland tour within those months. To avoid large crowds, you’ll want to aim for the shoulder months (April, May, September, October). I would highly recommend the month of May as daylight stretches to 10pm so you have more hours in the day to take in everything.
The trade off for coming during shoulder months is that you may experience colder temperatures than if you came in June, July or August. Summer months typically bring larger crowds since schools in the UK and US are out. August in particular marks a really crowded time for Scotland due to the Festival Fringe that takes place annually in Edinburgh so prices and people both increase during this month each year.
Where to Stay for a Harry Potter Scotland Tour
Following this itinerary, there’s two options for where to stay for your Harry Potter Scotland tour.
- Option 1: Stay the first night in Edinburgh. Then spend the remaining nights in Fort William.
- Option 2: Stay the first night in Edinburgh, the second night in Glencoe to savor more of the scenery, and then spend the remaining nights in Fort William.
Shorter Road Trip – Two-Day Harry Potter Road Trip Alternative
If you’re shorter on time, the trip can be condensed into two days, though you will miss seeing some of the Harry Potter filming locations. Simply eliminate day 1 and day 3 from the trip itinerary. This means Day 1 will be driving through the Highlands to see Rannoch Moor, Glen Etive and Glencoe. From Glencoe, you’ll want to stay the night in Fort William so that you can catch the morning service of the Jacobite on day 2.
Alternatives to Driving
If you do not want to or are not able to drive, don’t worry, there’s still ways for you to see these Harry Potter Filming Locations in Scotland.
You can take the Caledonian Sleeper Train from Glasgow to Fort William. This cuts through Rannoch Moor before arriving in Fort William. From Fort William you can board the Jacobite steam train to see Loch Shiel, Glenfinnan Viaduct, Loch Eilt, and Loch Morar. If you want to visit the Harry Potter filming locations in Glencoe and Glen Nevis, you can usually find tour companies that provide options to see both of these locations.
Alternatively, there are a number of tour companies that provide Harry Potter tours of the Scottish Highlands that depart from Edinburgh. These tours typically run for a few days and will likely include entry onto the Jacobite Steam Train.
Visit More Harry Potter UK Filming Locations
- Hogwarts, Village of Budleigh Babberton and the Potter’s Cottage in Lacock
- Visit the halls of Hogwarts at Durham Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral, or Oxford University
- Walk the grounds of Hogwarts at Alnwick Castle
- Explore the inspiration for Malfoy Manor at Hardwick Hall
- Pay tribute to Dobby at Shell Cottage filming location in Freshwater West
- Take a Deathly Hallows Walk at Malham Cove