Safety fears grow as Harry Potter fans flock to Glenfinnan

A train crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct as seen in the Harry Potter films. Photograph: NTS
A train crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct as seen in the Harry Potter films. Photograph: NTS
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IT IS one of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes, famed for its 200-year-old monument erected in honour of the Jacobite Risings and its starring role in the Harry Potter blockbusters.

But now Glenfinnan, the spectacular beauty spot in the West Highlands, is at the centre of mounting safety fears over its popularity.

The National Trust for Scotland says it is deeply concerned about the prospect of a serious accident due to the number of vehicles heading to Glenfinnan. Picture: NTS

The National Trust for Scotland says it is deeply concerned about the prospect of a serious accident due to the number of vehicles heading to Glenfinnan. Picture: NTS

The National Trust for Scotland, which is responsible for the historic site where Bonnie Prince Charlie famously raised his standard in 1745, says it is “deeply concerned” about the prospect of a serious accident due to the number of vehicles heading there. The charity has warned that visitors to the site are being put at risk by “hair-raising” parking and the speed of the vehicles heading through the area on the A830 road between Fort William and Mallaig.

The NTS car park at Glenfinnan is said to be regularly overrun as up to 2,000 visitors a day flock to the site. Desperate visitors in cars, campervans and caravans are said to be parking up on verges, blocking side roads and even parking on top of police cones. A campervan driver is said to have “staved in” three car doors as it tried to get past them. Growing numbers of Harry Potter and Outlander fans, a surge in visitors heading to the Isle of Skye and a weak pound has been blamed for record numbers of visitors trying to park in the area.

Clea Warner, the trust’s general manager for north-west Scotland, said: “I’m deeply concerned there may be a serious accident. People being people, tend to park their vehicles just about anywhere they think is convenient. The Trust owns a limited amount of land and our car park is relatively small. The police have tried to help by putting down traffic cones but staff at the property have actually seen people park on top of them.

“We’re investing in Glenfinnan and reviewing what we can do to reconfigure our car park area. The neighbouring landowner has also been experiencing problems and we’re working closely to see what is possible. However, our options are limited. We don’t oversee the road network and don’t own the verges. We’ve flagged our concerns to Transport Scotland about reducing the speed limit near the visitor centre and viaduct to 40mph but we were told this wasn’t possible. Transport Scotland and the local authority must now take action. We don’t want to discourage the visitors who are helping to sustain local businesses, and want to visit one of Scotland’s most iconic views, but everyone concerned has a responsibility to ensure that measures are taken to improve the infrastructure that supports tourism.”

I’m deeply concerned there’ll be a serious accident

Michael McDonnell, director of road safety at Transport Scotland, said: “We often take for granted the ability to travel safely and visit a variety of scenic locations, but it must be done with due care and respect, not only for other road users, but for the beautiful scenery which attracts many visitors. With the right to use the road network comes an even greater responsibility to protect other road users and the environment.”

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “While we’ve taken over responsibility for decriminalised parking enforcement across the whole of the Highlands, Police Scotland are still responsible for enforcement of reportable offences such as dangerous parking or obstruction. As the A830 is a trunk road, matters relating to speed limits and requests for a pedestrian crossing would entirely be a matter for Transport Scotland.”

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We’re aware of concerns in the Glenfinnan area and are in regular contact with the local community council about the issue. It is important that all road users show due care and consideration for other road users and do not allow their vehicle to obstruct the road.

“The public is urged to report incidents of obstruction so officers can take the necessary action.”