Glenfinnan village on the Road to the Isles – having travelled along the shores of the seawater Loch Eil, you will approach Glenfinnan, gateway to the treasures to be found in surely the most majestic and scenic areas in the West Highlands.
Glenfinnan is a very special place,famous for the Jacobite rising in 1745 and the Glenfinnan viaduct built in 1901 by Sir Robert McAlpine – its stunning scenery is showcased in the Harry Potter films. The Jacobite steam train passes through from April – October on its journey from Fort William to Mallaig.
Glenfinnan sits at the head of mysterious and beautiful Loch Shiel and is at the crossroads of four steep sided Glens. It was here that Prince Charles Edward Stuart or ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ as he came to be known, called for the local clansmen to assemble in August 1745 and raised the standard proclaiming the throne of Great Britain to rightfully belong to his family, the Stuarts.
The army of Jacobite Highlanders marched southwards towards London, gathering forces as they went, their mission being to defeat the Crown forces and reclaim the throne. They reached as far as Derby before retreating northwards. The whole episode culminated in the Battle of Culloden (near Inverness), where the Princes’ army was soundly defeated by the Crown forces.
The National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre in Glenfinnan has a shop, cafe and an audio visual display on the 1745 Jacobite uprising. You can climb to the top of the monument built in tribute to the Clansmen who fought and died for the Prince’s cause.
From the viewpoint behind the visitor centre you can see the famous MacAlpine Railway Viaduct. This 21-arch structure was first in the world to be completed in mass shuttered concrete and has appeared in several films. It has become well known worldwide through its appearances in various Harry Potter films, most especially in ‘The Chamber of Secrets’.
The West Highland Railway from Fort William to Mallaig was completed in 1901 and is celebrated in the beautifully upgraded and newly refurbished Glenfinnan Station Museum.
Sitting next to the Station are two 1950s railway carriages, one converted for bunkhouse accommodation and one into a Dining Car serving quality homemade lunches and snacks.
A must do while in this area is to go on a Loch Shiel Eagle – Watch Cruise. Loch Shiel is one of Scotland’s largest inland freshwater lochs and is regarded as one of the few remaining areas of true wilderness. Follow the route taken by Bonnie Prince Charlie while learning about the history and geology and sharing the local skipper’s experience in spotting golden eagles, red deer and a variety of rare wildlife.
Glenfinnan is an ideal base for anyone interested in outdoor activities and is blessed with some of the finest walks in the country, from easy low level to the more strenuous and invigorating Munros (over 3000 feet). There are tracks suitable for mountain bikes and Loch Shiel is very popular with canoeists and sea kayakers.
The Glenfinnan Gathering also known as the Glenfinnan Highland Games are usually held on the third Saturday in August.