This post comes to us from Meghan Chayka from the University of Tampa. Meghan is currently studying abroad with API in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Hello again my, fellow travelers!!! While I am still in Scotland, this time my post is coming to you from Glencoe, Scotland (aka. the Harry Potter Bridge!)
What?! The Harry Potter Bridge, did I say that correctly! What on earth is the Harry Potter Bridge, how did I get an acceptance letter to Hogwarts and how does one get to visit this place?! Well since you asked, let me explain…
This past weekend I went on a tour featuring the Harry Potter Bridge & Glencoe, run by an organization recommended by my University abroad, the University of Edinburgh. To give you an idea of what I paid for the tour and what was included; I paid 30 pounds or/aka. 41.76 USD, for an e-ticket, coach bus ride to and from all tour stops (including a pick up and drop off destination point on the Royal Mile), a daily itinerary, guaranteed smiles, adventurous friends and free time for lunch (meal not included) in Fort William village.
Now here comes the best part, explaining to you what I saw on my tour! But before I explain my magical day, I want to take a moment to point out that if you look at the photos attached with this post you can visually see some of the highlights I am about to describe from my highland journey!
Starting at 7:45am, a group of about 40 or so University of Edinburgh students and I met outside on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, for our coach bus to arrive. Now one of the great things about going on a tour excursion is that whether or not you have plans to go with someone, between the number of people in the group and the fact that you will have to sit next to a new face on the bus ride, you are almost guaranteed to make a friend! Personally, I attended this tour with a friend who I met in my API group so we could enjoy the day together, but that’s not to say we didn’t meet lots of other really nice international people!
After we embarked on the bus, leaving the Royal Mile at 8:10am, our Harry Potter enthusiastic tour guide handed out our daily itineraries, gave us a quick history lesson about the first destination we were headed towards and then let us sleep on the bus until we arrived to begin the tour!
Our first stop of the day was to the Village of Luss – Loch Lomond. Its original Gaelic name is ‘Clachan Dubh’ or ‘Dark Village’, and is a freshwater lock that crosses the Highland Boundary Fault. While at our first stop we were permitted to take photos, walk around, use the toilet, visit the café and shops, all during our 25-minute stop, before boarding the coach again and re-embarking, ready for our next stop! Before I talk about the next stop, I just want to take another moment to stress to you all how beautiful and breathtaking this loch was! The sky gleamed an electric blue, mirroring its image straight onto the loch, I truly felt like I had just walked straight into a fairy tale!
Now on to the second stop, a short picturesque 5-minute break, the bus stopped off along the roadside in a town called Glencoe, famously known for its appearances in James Bond – Skyfall, Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban, the historical Massacre of Glencoe and was once featured in the movie Monty Python! Since this famous location in Glencoe really only consists of just the scenery, our bus stopped off along the side of the road for only about 5-10 minutes, giving me just enough time to take in all the scenery, snap a photo and get back on the bus to head to our next destination!
The third stop on our tour was a village called Fort William, where our only purpose for being there was to have lunch, as it was our half-way point to the Harry Potter Bridge. While in the village you could either get lunch at a super small café, McDonald’s, get food to go at a grocery store OR if you did what I did, pack a lunch as suggested by the tour company and so my friend and I ate our packed lunch out on the picnic tables of Fort William. However, after a one-and-a-half-hour break, we were all huddled back onto the bus, headed towards the final destination of our journey!
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you have all been waiting for, the Harry Potter Bridge! Located in Glenfinnan Viaduct, the Harry Potter Bridge stands! Also, famously known for being in the Harry Potter movies was none other than the Fictional Black Lake, aka Loch Sheil, which was located just on the other side of the bridge (see photos attached to post)! Once in Glenfinnan there was tons to do, as we had just about two hours to explore the magical land, I filled every moment of it making memories and taking photographs! Things to do in Glenfinnan include; photographic moments of the Harry Potter Bridge and Loch Sheil (fictional Black Lake), a visit to the Glenfinnan Monument (located near the lake, see photo), the Glenfinnan Railway Station (where fun fact, most of the Harry Potter cast and crew spent sleeping in railway cars while filming in this location), and Glenfinnan Church, making for a satisfy early evening filled with adventure!
I have to say as a Harry Potter, James Bond, Outlander, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and of course hard-core Downton Abbey fan, this tour satisfied my need to visit some of the locations used in the Harry Potter and James Bonds franchises. Even though I mentioned some various tv shows I LOVE that weren’t filmed at any of the locations I just talked about, no need to worry, for if I so choose, there are other Game of Thrones and Outlander combined tours offered on a different day! But sadly, if you want to visit Downton Abbey, you will have to take a train ride to the Highclere Castle in England to relive those high society dreams. But be sure to sign up early for these tours because I know they fill up quickly!
To wrap it all up, after our final stop at Glenfinnan, we all loaded the bus and headed back to Edinburgh, a mere three and a half hours away, arriving at 8:30pm, leaving me just enough time in the evening to head back to my flat and cook some dinner! Side note: dinner is not included in the tour nor do you stop for a dinner break, so if you choose to partake in a tour, make sure you either pack a huge lunch or bring enough snacks to last you throughout the day!
Overall, the tour was worth it, I had so much fun and would highly recommend to anyone who wants to visit Glencoe or the Harry Potter Bridge.
Until next time my fellow travelers, I just love sharing my journey with you!
Meghan P. Chayka