Our Scottish Adventure Part 4 | Harry Potter & the Highland Games

After leaving the Isle of Skye, we headed back to the Highlands. Our first stop was a night in Glencoe before a ride on the Hogwarts Express (aka The Jacobite Steam Train). Sadly, it did not bring us to Hogwarts and while Mallaig is a perfectly lovely working fishing village in Scotland, it’s doesn’t have quite the same magic.

The Jacobite Steam Train

The train ride is a roundtrip adventure that leaves from Fort Williams. We had tickets for the morning trip, so unfortunately didn’t have much time to explore Glencoe. After a quick breakfast, we headed to the train station which was intown.

As we settled into our seats, we started chatting with our seatmates who were from “the borders” which is the southern part of Scotland that borders northern England. Their daughter had gifted them a trip on the train. Many of our fellow passengers were from Scotland.

As the countryside past by our window, we waited in anticipation of seeing the GlenfinnanViaduct. It’s an iconic view familiar to Harry Potter movie fans. While you can only get a small glimpse of the viaduct from the train, it was enough to bring a smile to my face. I was stunned by the number of people waiting by the viaduct so they could take a pictures as the train went over the bridge. There were so many people!

While we didn’t reserve a first class cabin for the trip, we did take a sneak peak during one of our stops. Sadly, we did not see Harry, Ron & Hermione enjoying their chocolate frogs. I had come prepared though and brought my own package of Bernie Botts Every Flavour Beans to celebrate the trip which I washed down with a butterbeer.

The Jacobite Steam Train stopped for a few hours in Mallaig where we enjoyed some Cullen Skink for lunch before heading back on our return trip. There wasn’t a lot to do in the town but it was nice to get out and stretch our legs. It was a full day as the train didn’t arrive back to Fort Williams around 4:00 pm.


Once we arrived back at the station, it was onto Pitlochry for one night. We had been told by our seatmates that it was tourist town with lots of trinket shops. I guess soap stores and woolen tartan shops are considered trinket shops in Scotland. Clearly they have never been to Old Orchard Beach, Maine in the summer and don’t actually understand the definition of a tourist town.

We had a great time during our one night in Pitlochry and enjoyed a wonderful meal and live music at the Hotel McKay.

Pitlochry is also where they make Heather Gems, a jewelry handcrafted from the stems of heather which is an indigenous low-growing shrub in Scotland These stems are gathered, dyed, and then compressed into gemstones. I picked up a snowman ornament to remember our trip. I’ve been collecting ornaments on my travels since I was a teenager and have many wonderful keepsakes.

Braemar Gathering | Highland Games

The next morning, we were up and on our way to the Braemar Gathering which is the oldest Highland Games in Scotland. Since 1848, The Gathering has been attended regularly by the reigning Monarch and members of the Royal Family. Sadly, Queen Elizabeth was not able to attend as she was in poor health at the time. Prince Charles attended in her place and they dedicated a new archway to the games in her name to commemorate her Platinum Jubilee.

We had been trying to get to Scotland and the Highland Games for three years but were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. I still have tickets for the 2020 games that were not held. They reissued me tickets for 2021 and when those games were cancelled they didn’t even bother to reissue new tickets for 2022. They just said to bring the same tickets. So, we did!

What I loved most about the event was the energy. There were pockets of different activities all happening on the field at the same time. It was hard to even know where to look. It was a wonderful day of controlled chaos.

The heavies are one of the big draws at the Highland Games. They do a series of events that test strength and power all while wearing kilts. The caber toss is a traditional Scottish heavies event that people often associate with the Highland Games. A caber is a large tapered pole that the competitors toss so that it flips end over end although we did not see anyone complete the toss successfully during our visit. However, there was plenty of wobbly running while holding the pole.

There were also many fantastic pipe bands from all over the country with members of all ages. As you approached the entrance to the games, there was a small grassy area where they took turns performing. After the arrival of the royal family, there was a parade around the field where all the pipe bands came together.

While we were there, Prince Charles accepted a framed gift of the sheet music for a new song the pipe band wrote in honor of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

After leaving the games, we drove back to Edinburgh and returned the rental car. As they checked the car over for damage, the clerk asked, “Did you go to the Isle of Skye?” When we said yes, he said we were lucky. He usually seems dings after tourists come back having visited the island. Fortunately for us, there were no dings.

We took the tram back to our hotel for the night to relax, do some laundry and repack for the next leg of our journey and the destination my husband was most excited about visiting in Scotland.

Next Up: A visit to Islay to taste some of their world renowned peaty, smoky whisky.

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