Glenfinnan and the effects of global Harry Potter mania
When you see our video snapshot of a visitor experience to Glenfinnan Viaduct (aka the "Harry Potter Bridge") you will want to help our small community keep everyone safe, including the 350,000 annual world-wide visitors who come see it.
Where and who are we?
120 people live in Glenfinnan, a small village nestled in a Scottish glen surrounded by lush mountain hillsides, ancient and new woodland and the evocative Loch Shiel. We work locally in hospitality, game, music and fish farming as well as travelling further afield to work in schools, public services and private companies. Our children take the bus to the local schools 15 miles away and a few folk are enjoying their well-deserved retirement. We probably reflect the same values as other close knit communities in and outside of the UK by looking out for each other as well as lending a helping hand when needed. We welcome visitors but with numbers rising year on year it has been difficult to cope.
During the last few years, especially 2018 and 2019, we have struggled to get to school and work due to the rise in the number of people coming to catch a glimpse of the Jacobite steam train as it crosses the viaduct. It has been terrifying to watch young families running along the main 60mph A830 road and it has also been unbelievable to witness the disregard of drivers abandoning vehicles in order to get to the viaduct in time to witness this event that happens 3 times a day, every day in the summer.
With wing mirrors being struck by passing traffic; people walking around and between badly parked vehicles; wheelchair/ mobility scooter users having to use the main road carriageway, cars and motorhomes having to be pulled out of ditches; church events disrupted due to no space for wedding guests, mourners or parishioners and the bumps and scrapes as vehicles jostle for space – the community had to react to prevent the likelihood of a serious injury or fatality. The anxiety of local people and those regularly using the A830 is escalating and we need your help to help everybody, the 350,000+ annual visitors included.
Due to lease, funding and asset ownership rules, Glenfinnan community council members started our Glenfinnan Community Facilities charity. A Scottish Incorporated Organisation SC048431 regulated by OSCR the Scottish Charity Regulator. On this project, the trustees are supported by business professionals, a chartered accountant, and a civil engineer as well as a tenacious chairperson!
So what have we done? Why do we need a wee bridge?
Our bridge with its linking paths will be the last piece in our project jigsaw. It will allow people of all ages and abilities to get closer to the viaduct, giving them safe access to a superb view of the crossing steam train as well as the wider countryside.
Working with a local landowner and with support from the Scottish government, LEADER and local council, we have leased land and secured funding to build a car park for 110+ cars and motorhomes. The car park construction is currently out for tender with work expected to be completed by March 2020. We need the foot bridge in place to ensure safe operation of the car park and with your support, this work can be done fit our March 2020 completion date.
As well as successfully demonstrating our need for financial assistance and obtaining support with actual design, engineering input and planning permissions, we also managed to get support to reduce the speed limit on the main A830 road. The 60 mph limit will be reduced to 40 mph allowing a safe junction to be created and the welcome provision of a controlled pedestrian crossing.
How much do we need and what is your donation being used for?
The footbridge and paths form phase 2 of our project, with the car parking area fully funded and ready to go. Our budget is below and we are seeking your help to get started with the purchase and construction of the bridge and path element.
Car Parking phase 1 Funding Secured
- Car park construction £260,000
- Junction (trunk road) construction 95,000
- Transport Scotland design check 4,000
- Parking meters 9,880
- Landscape/signage 2,000
- Project management/contingency 14,700
Total phase 1 £385,580
Funding secured from:
Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund £269,906
Total funding secured £385,580
Footbridge/path phase 2 Partial funding secured
- Footbridge / design costs £ 24,730
- Paths and construction 44,940
- Interpretation signs 1,644
- Project management/contingency 5,405
Total phase 2 £76,719
Funding secured from:
Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund £53,704 Glenfinnan Community Facilities SCIO 5,549
Where is it and what's the plan?
The car park area is to the west of the Glenfinnan Monument National Trust for Scotland visitor centre. The Trust will provide a small bridge or boardwalk between the two parking areas which will allow people to visit without straying onto the main road.
Our path and foot bridge will guide people towards the viaduct and over the River Finnan to join with the existing Viaduct Trail. Glenfinnan Viaduct is the star of the show so we will not be replicating its design! We plan a simple structure, suitable for all to use and one that fits with our rural location.
We will provide interpretation boards to inform visitors of the flora, fauna and history of the environment too.
What else has been done? Is it just cars and motorhomes?
Responding to Glenfinnan Station Museum’s request, the rail industry granted £100,000 towards the upgrade and signposting of the 1.4 km upland footpath between Glenfinnan Station and Glenfinnan Viaduct. Work on the Viaduct Trail was completed in May 2019 and encourages access to Glenfinnan Viaduct by hillside walking rather than the roadside.
Community pressure also enabled a rail timetable review with change expected December 2020.
Working with the West Highland Community Rail Partnership, Glenfinnan Community promotes visiting Glenfinnan by both bus and rail and customised, user-friendly timetable information is made available online and in Fort William Tourist Information Centre.
What’s the future look like? What’s happened to your donation?
People are still running, cameras in hand, ready to capture the glorious train as it puffs over the viaduct but no longer risking accident to themselves or others. Those not so able or fit, can get easy access to a safe and suitable viewing area without being left behind, and people going about their normal day-to-day business, can do just that.
With the car park up and running, it's generating an income to create local employment as well as ensuring the site is maintained. Further down the line, this income will also allow provision of other services which are lacking such as rubbish collection points, electric car charging and the provision of suitable loos. Not very glamorous but all very necessary!
And just think - you helped make it possible!