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Full steam ahead: Improvements at Glenfinnan will ease parking pressure as ‘Harry Potter train’ gets back on track

Trains crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct are subject to delays.
Trains crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct are subject to delays.

Improvements at a Highland beauty spot which has become a mecca for Harry Potter fans will help ease parking chaos when visitors return next week.

The Jacobite steam train – or Hogwarts Express as it is known in the films – resumes its regular journeys between Fort William and Mallaig on Monday.

In recent months, half a million pounds of investment has been ploughed into improvements at Glenfinnan.

It comes amid growing pressure caused by people travelling from miles around to see the striking viaduct which features in the Harry Potter films.

The 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct overlooks Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument.

While bringing a welcome tourism boom, the viewpoint has grown overrun with visitors and people walking on the trunk road.

Now 100 extra spaces have been created in the car park to help welcome the more than 2,000 visitors a day that the National Trust for Scotland says flock there.

Many organisations were involved in the planning and funding stages – including Highland Council, Glenfinnan Community Facilities, VisitScotland and the Highland Leader programme.

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A £384,832 redevelopment of the car park is now complete, with a new junction onto the A830, marked bays and signage in place. Parking meters have also been installed.

A new footbridge is also in place and a path from the structure to the viaduct trail is currently under construction.

Ingrid Henderson, chairwoman of Glenfinnan Community Facilities, said: “We are just delighted that we have managed to find a positive solution to something that was problematic.

“We totally understand that visitors want to come here, so it is so nice to find a solution that the community has come up with and the community will benefit from.”

All income from the car park will be spent on projects in the village.

The new car park at Glenfinnan while it was under construction.

As well as the extra room for cars, 10 minibus and camper spaces have been created, plus six disabled bays.

The car park was funded with £269,382 from the Rural Tourism and Infrastructure Fund and £115,450 from Highland Leader.

The footbridge project cost £82,080 –  £57,456 of which was provided by Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund and £24,624 from Glenfinnan Community Facilities.

The Jacobite steam train which crosses the stunning bridge has been voted one of the world’s greatest train journeys.

Its first scheduled run this summer is on Monday, when the Scottish Government lifts restrictions on travel following the coronavirus lockdown.

There will be two journeys on the 84-mile round trip every day until October.

A spokesman for the train said: “Special precautions with social distancing mean that to keep passengers and staff safe we have had to reduce the capacity of our trains.

“But we are desperate to get back on track again. And a trip on the Jacobite is just the ticket.”

Among other anti-Covid precautions, traditional paper tickets will be replaced with e-tickets and special signs will be erected at stations to show passengers where to stand.

All passengers must wear face masks except when eating or drinking, and instead of an onboard buffet car there will be a trolley service through the train.

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