IT might be a little behind schedule due to lockdown restrictions but the next train leaving the platform at Fort William tomorrow will be the one recognised by die-hard Harry Potter fans.

Taking in the views on what is described as one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world, the Jacobite, which doubled as the Hogwart’s Express in the Harry Potter series of films, will take to the West Highland line heading for Mallaig.

However, under new guidelines on social distancing just a third of the usual 700 passengers will be able to enjoy the route. It is among a number of tourist attractions preparing to open for business tomorrow as part of the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

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On Sunday two steam trains billowed clouds of smoke as they ran over Shap, in Cumbria to Scotland ready for the delayed launch of the summer’s first Jacobite train.

Leading the way was Number 62005, Peppercorn KI Class engine called “Lord of the Isles” after the Middle Ages ruler of Scotland’s West Coast, which was built in Glasgow 71 years ago.

Before being withdrawn from service by British Rail in 1967, it was a familiar sight in the area hauling passenger and freight trains on the West Highland line.

Coupled up behind it is 83-year-old Black Five locomotive Number 45407 “Lancashire Fusilier”, which is scheduled to pull the first Jacobite train from Fort William to Mallaig on tomorrow morning.

The 84 mile round trip travels past some of Scotland’s most beautiful and treasured sights from the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis to the most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig.

It passes close by deep freshwater Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, before finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis.

Ian Susans, who has been involved in planning the return of The Jacobite run, said: "We think have done everything we can to welcome people back safely. There is a mixture of excitement and apprehension.

"Our season should have begun in April, but with a slight delay we are delighted to be back on track. There is a mixture of regulars and newcomers among our first passengers and of course the journey continue to appeal to younger travellers with the Harry Potter connection.

"The combination of the vintage carriage and the most stunning scenery makes it very special. It's not a train which pulls into a station and you are off in two minutes. Time is taken and it adds to the whole atmosphere of the journey. We have lost a few months of the season and we will look at how we could possibly extend it."

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Among the changes due to lockdown restrictions, the usual buffet car has been replaced by a trolley refreshment service and passengers will have to wear masks while on board. Stops at Glenfinnan and Arisaig have also been cancelled.

Operators West Coast Railways, who are based at Carnforth in Lancashire, have spent weeks planning the safe return of the route as guidelines and restrictions changed.

A spokesman added: "The safety of passengers, train crew and local people remains paramount.

“And that applies not only on the train but also at Fort William and Mallaig stations where people will get on and off the Jacobite.

“That is why we have been working with Transport Scotland’s Rail Directorate to introduce a raft of safety measures. We are confident we will minimise any risk without impinging on people’s enjoyment of what is regarded as one of the most spectacular railway journeys in the world.

“For instance we will not be opening the buffet car, thus preventing the need for passengers to move around the train. Instead we are replacing it with a buffet trolley.

“We are also cancelling the normal 20-minute stop the train makes at Glenfinnan station, with both the platform cafe and museum staying closed.

“Passengers will, of course, all have to wear masks and anybody refusing will not be allowed to travel."

Under our new rules only members of the same family or social pod will be allowed to sit together and screens will be erected between rows of seats. Extra signs and stewards are planned at both Fort William and Mallaig stations to direct passengers and ensure queuing is both safe and manageable.

Tomorrow is a long-awaited day in the calendar with tourism sectors desperate to welcome people back.

Historic Environment Scotland Scotland are opening up more than 200 sites where physical distancing can be readily maintained and where we can provide free and safe access.

This will include the opening up of free access to the grounds of Doune Castle, Caerlaverock Castle and Dundonald Castle. These properties, which would normally be staffed, have external green spaces which can be opened in line with continuing restrictions to offer health and wellbeing benefits to the local community.

HES said 26 ticketed sites across Scotland will then reopen on a rolling basis with Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle reopening open on Saturday August 1.

From August through to mid September they plan to re-open a further 23 key sites across Scotland on a rolling programme including Glasgow Cathedral, Fort George, St Andrews Castle and Cathedral and Skara Brae. The phased approach has taken into consideration the regional picture to ensure that, as much as possible, our reopening plans appropriately consider the circumstances in the local area.

Alex Paterson, chief executive of HES, said: "At the forefront of our planning is the safety of our staff and visitors, whilst being able to reopen for the tourist season by gradually enabling safe access to our properties and facilities in line with Scottish Government guidance.

“We’ve been working exceptionally hard to ensure our properties will be accessible and ready to welcome visitors however, it’s important that we implement our resumption plans at the right time given the different requirements for each site.

“This also includes looking at the varying local and regional requirements throughout the country and we have considered this when setting out our phased approach to welcoming visitors back and supporting Scotland’s tourism and economic recovery.”