Glenfinnan Viaduct, Inverness-shire, Scottish Highlands. This was designed for the West Highland Railways's extension to Mallaig by the partnership of Simpson & Wilson, and constructed of unreinforced concrete by Robert McAlpine & Sons, in 1897-1901. An attractively curving 21-arch structure, it rises to 30 metres from the floor of the valley, each arch spanning 15 metres. At 380 metres, it is the longest concrete viaduct in Scotland. It was among the very first to be built of concrete, and is Grade A listed. According to the listing text: "Thicker pylons flank centre portion of continuous semi-circular arch rings." It carries the West Highland Extension Railway, which opened from Fort William to Mallaig in 1901, and runs through the Civil Parish of Arisaig And Moidart. [Click on this and the following images for larger pictures.]

Left: The Jacobite Steam Train travelling further along the viaduct. Right: View as the train approaches Loch Shiel, giving a distant glimpse of the Glenfinnan Monument at the loch's head (it can be seen in the centre here).

The viaduct gives a good view of Loch Shiel, passing by James Gillespie Graham's 60'-tall monument at the Loch's head. With its statue of a kilted highlander at the top, this monument (shown more closely on the right) commemorates the day on 19 August 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie unfurled his standard in this area and in the presence of his followers, signalling the start of the Jacobite rebellion. It also memorialises the deaths of all those who died while fighting for the Jacobite cause. The column was erected in 1815, though the statue, which was sculpted by John Greenshields (1979-1835), was not added until 1835 (see Rodger 42).

Much more recently, the viaduct, like the heritage Jacobite steam train that crosses it, has become more famous because it features in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels.

First three photographs, commentary and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or to the Victorian Web in a print document. Photograph of the monument © Mike Searle, originally posted on the Geograph website, and generously licensed for reuse on the Creative Commons Licence.

Related Material


"Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct." British Listed Buildings. Web. 14 October 2017.

"Glenfinnan Viaduct." Grace's Guide. Web. 14 October 2017.

Rodger, Johnny. The Hero Building: An Architecture of Scottish National Identity. London: Routledge, 2015.

Created 14 October 2017