Muggles everywhere love to celebrate Harry Potter’s birthday with the usual fare: chugging Butterbeer, casting mock-spells in last Halloween’s wizards’ robes, or, better yet, playing the VR mobile game Wizards Unite. If you’re the kind of fan who invests in big infrastructural change, however, you can actually do your part to support the real-life Hogwarts Express — by touring Scotland!
The Hogwarts Express appears in the Harry Potter films as a magnificent steam locomotive that winds through gorgeous lakeside scenes, which is not far from the truth. The route you know and love as a train that carries Hogwarts students to an extraordinarily rural wizarding school is actually called the West Highland Railway Line, a Scottish railway option that runs diesel trains between Glasgow and Mallaig several times a day.
The route itself — which comes close to Loch Ness and offers stunning views of Loch Lomond and Loch Linnhe — may seem as serene as its backdrop, but significant declines in ticket sales have led to trips without trolley service, air conditioning, or decoration, according to The Guardian. Little money has been directed toward keeping the wilderness at bay, which means scraggly trees and overgrown shrubbery often obstruct passengers’ views.
Tourism pays most of the 125-year-old route’s bills, according to The Guardian. The West Highland Line may be unmatched in scenic grandeur, but its 143-mile, five-and-a-half-hour-long trip is not always a practical option for native Scots, nor for tourists on a time budget.
The future is foggy for The West Highland Line, which has faced threats of closure on-and-off over the past several decades.
The best way to save The Hogwarts Express? Buy tickets. Ride the West Highland Line. If you like it, recommend it to friends. You can even become a member of The Friends of the West Highland Lines, a community group and media organization that seeks to direct funding toward service improvements and making sure the line stays running.
Because if the West Highland Line disappears, even the Sorcerer’s Stone won’t be able to bring it back.
Click here to get a head start on booking your own journey on The Hogwarts Express.
Featured Image Via The Guardian.