Our last night in Scotland was spent in the Glen Coe region of Scotland, a beautiful varied landscape comprised of the UKs tallest mountain Ben Nevis, high mountain passes with moors on top and more lochs than you know what to do with. Our drive away from Skye gave us the opportunity to stop at the Glenfinnan Viaduct to watch the Jacobite steam train go by. It’s more popularly known now as the Harry Potter train as the viaduct was used in the films when Harry is aboard the Hogwarts Express which takes all the witches and wizards to school each year (as if I have to explain that! …right?).
During the summer months – which May absolutely qualifies – the train runs twice per day giving you four time frames to catch it at the crossing. Except, we found out, for Saturdays. For some reason the popular tourist train only runs once per day on Saturday. Luckily – SO luckily – we found that out with enough time to spare and were able to hike out onto a field past the formal viewing platform and have the experience all to ourselves…well, and one other couple who were very cutely decked out in their Hogwarts sweatshirts. I was only moderately jealous that I’d forgotten my Gryffindor scarf.
It didn’t take long for us to be introduced to Scotlands most beloved creature. The midge. The midge is a tiny little biting gnat, in my opinion very similar to the sandfly of New Zealand in it’s rather remarkable ability to annoy the shit out of you in no time flat. Midgies were everywhere that day. Sure, Scotland has a lot of boggy areas and, sure, it rains 85% of the time with near constant humidity. But I was still astounded by the sheer numbers of these awful insects.
And the biting! Just when I thought they were only gnats and their biggest fault was flying inappropriately close to your eyes they out and bite me! Everywhere! I had long sleeves and pants on luckily and, even though there was no real rain, I threw my hood on for good measure. Not that it helped.
Zeke was amused for a while enjoying chasing the bugs away and frantically flapping his hands in front of his face. The amusement quickly turned into “I want to go back to the car” as the bites became more apparent. You know it’s bad when a toddler who’s been subjected to more car time in the past six days than he has in a few months asks to get back into his car seat.
The train appears around the bend, it’s steam being the first sign that it was almost arrived. I couldn’t help myself and jump up and down shrieking “it’s the Hogwarts Express!!!”. Our viewing partners didn’t seem to mind and we were all grinning like fools, allowing the midgies a chance to get stuck in our teeth, as we watched the pretty train make its way across the viaduct. I am feeling elated as the woman who was standing near us bursts into tears. What else can a fellow Harry Potter fan do but give this stranger a big hug? So I did. It was great.
The whole experience was over in a few minutes time but what an amazing testament to the force of nature Harry Potter became! The fact that the vast majority of the books were written in Scotland was just icing on the cake. This is one fan travel experience I approve of whole heartedly.