The Coronavirus this year did what Harry Potter’s sworn enemy Lord Voldemort couldn’t – and temporarily derailed the real-life Hogwarts Express.
The pandemic meant the launch of the spectacular steam-hauled Jacobite train between Fort William and Mallaig in the Scottish Highlands had to be delayed this summer.
But stringent safety measures meant that it was able to start running again immediately the Edinburgh government lifted travel restrictions.
And such was the demand that the season had to be extended into the middle of November instead of ending in October.
The 84-mile round trip over the awe-inspiring 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct is regularly voted one of world’s greatest railway journeys.
It boasts a list of superlatives from the moment it pulls out of Fort William station in the shadow of Ben Nevis, which at 1,345metres (4,413ft) Britain’s highest mountain.
First the train steams past Neptune’s Staircase, a dramatic series of eight locks that lifts the Caledonian Canal 19m (62ft) in just a quarter of a mile and is Scotland’s longest staircase lock flight.
Then comes Loch Morar, the country’s deepest freshwater loch, the River Morar, Britain’s shortest river, and Loch Nevis, the deepest seawater loch in Europe.
En-route there are stops at Glenfinnan, where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745, and Arisaig, Britain’s most westerly railway station where they hold a traditional Highland Games every summer.
There is also a little café and a fascinating museum on the station at Glenfinnan. They stayed closed last summer because of Covid, but hopefully things will be back to normal next year.
The train’s destination is the fishing village of Mallaig, where passengers can tuck into some delicious fish and chips or enjoy a beer in one of the excellent pubs before the return journey.
The Jacobite is run by Northern Belle’s sister company, West Coast Railways and will begin running again in the spring. So if you are planning a holiday in Scotland next year, check it out.
For further details and bookings, phone 0333 996 6720 or see www.westcoastrailways.co.uk.
Story by Travelling Journalist, Mal Tattersall.