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Plans lodged for car park to keep Harry Potter fans safe in Highland village

Fiona Gibson has campaigned as part of the community council, which is currently in abeyance, for a reduced speed limit
Fiona Gibson has campaigned as part of the community council, which is currently in abeyance, for a reduced speed limit

Traffic-besieged residents of a tiny Highland village have lodged plans for what they believe is a potentially life-saving car park for their visitors.

Glenfinnan residents want to create a safer environment for the 2,000 Harry Potter-mad visitors a day who flock to their village to glimpse the iconic steam train and viaduct, stars of two Potter movies.

Their plans include hardstanding for around 100 vehicles plus 10 campervans, and a footpath complete with bridge over the River Finnan, leading towards the viaduct.

The land will be leased from Glenfinnan estate, and the project led by community group Glenfinnan Community Facilities (GCF).

The parking will be chargeable, and GCF would be responsible for the site’s maintenance.

Villagers calculate that around 1,000 people and their vehicles descend on Glenfinnan twice a day during the summer.

The A830 Fort William to Mallaig ‘road to the isles’ which runs through the village with a 60mph speed limit has no official parking for Harry Potter fans.

Combined with visitors to the nearby National Trust for Scotland (NTS) Glenfinnan Monument to the Jacobite fallen clansmen, more than 400,000 people from all over the world flock to the area year round.

The visitors quickly pack out the NTS 55-space car park serving the monument, and end up parking along the main road.

PODCAST: The tiny Highland village that is being overwhelmed by Harry Potter fans on a daily basis

Pedestrians wander about the area, including all over the road, taking photographs and looking for ways of getting closer to the viaduct to see the train puffing over it.

As visitor numbers escalated over the past three years, Glenfinnan Community Council has led various campaigns to improve the safety of the area.

On their behalf, Highland Council last month submitted an application to Scottish Government’s £6m Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund for £450,000 for the work.

Community councillor Fiona Gibson said residents were virtually prisoners in their own homes at peak times, and lived in constant fear that a tragic accident might occur in the village.

She said: “We welcome all visitors but we want them to be safe.

“We know there will be lots of competition for the money, but we think we have a very good case.”

NTS’s north-west manager Clea Warner said: “There’s clearly a need for improved parking in the area given its popularity with visitors.

“The Trust will also be improving parking facilities over the winter too and we’ll continue working with the local community to ensure that visitors to Glenfinnan get the best possible experience.”

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