A film set or two

Loch Ossian on a good day
(photo Colin Baird)

A film set or two

Twice in a month I find myself stumbling into the set of a major feature film.

Film One

The first was in Toronto. It was our last day in Canada and having eaten mounds of wholesome Canadian food for two weeks the seams of my jeans were beginning to fray. We bought fresh peaches and bananas in St Lawrence Market and relaxed on a nearby park bench to slurp our fruit and watch Toronto at play. The park was busy. Young lads slept on blankets next to some electrical equipment, there was a table strewn with the wreckage of a picnic lunch. Two well made up ladies lounged in director’s chairs. Nothing too unusual. Our bench faced the street, the one of the occupants of a parked black sedan jumped out and made way for two dark haired men wearing black overcoat – an odd choice of garb considering it was 27C. A couple of police officers stood in the road to hold traffic, people with headsets buzzed around us. They began to build a metal frame at our feet on which they erected an expensive looking movie camera. I asked one of the techies should we move, no it was OK – we were not in their ‘wedge’, we moved anyway, to the next bench. From there we watched a company of about thirty bodies labour for over an hour to rehearse and execute what looked like twenty seconds of dialogue taking place in the black sedan. The film, we were told, was a feature called Target.

Better than a flask of tea

Film Two

This film set was less unusual considering where I was. On Saturday morning I met twenty odd hearty mountaineers from The Ochil Mountaineering Club for the auspicious occasion of Mhari’s Munro Compleation. It is traditional among hill walkers to invite a large party of friends and family to join you complete a round of all 284 Munros (mountains in Scotland over three thousand feet high). Mhari had chosen Ben na Lap as the finale to her round.

The happy rabble invaded the West Highland Line train at Crianlarich and travelled through mist and rain to alight at the remotest station in Britain, Corrour. This is the station that made a cameo appearance in the film Trainspotting. The station is situated about half a mile from Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, on the west bank of Loch Ossian. The loch is ringed by ribs of high mountains, including our hit for the day. At the eastern end of the loch, past the impressive lodge built for the Tetra Pak heiress Ms Rausling, is the gateway to another stunning range of mountains. This place is my favourite place in the whole wide world. There are no public roads. The only access to this unique setting is by railway, foot or land rover track.

Our party was cheery despite the rain, but I felt vexed for the number of folks who were new to the area and could not experience the full wonder that lay behind the murk. We were accompanied throughout the day by the sound of a helicopter.

The summit was bagged in record slow time which is also traditional for this hill because our train back was not until evening. Champagne corks popped into the mist, paper cups fizzed with bubbly and whisky, and hasty sandwiches were scoffed before the damp and cold drove us back downhill. Fine views and the mystery of the helicopter were revealed below the clag. Puffing down the track was the steam train we had spotted earlier at Rannoch Station, The Hogwarts Express.

The word at the station was that the train was being filmed for the next Harry Potter film and the passengers for the four or five trips this train made up and down the line were the children from Lochaber’s schools. We received a fine wave from them as they made their final chug past on the way back to Fort William

This remote station is lucky to have a tea room to soothe the weary traveller during his wait for the homebound train, unfortunately the lady who runs this establishment does not appear to enjoy the custom. When I entered the cosy wee tearoom intent on buying a beer, this scary lady looked at me as if I were a bailiff come to clear the land. Her gruff manner increased with each subsequent arrival and I took pleasure informing the crabbit hostess that more custom was on the way.

It is a pity the welcome is not friendly; the tearoom must have few visitors for trains are few and hill walkers must be the primary trade. With almost an hour to kill before the train I took my drink outside and ate the food left in my rucksack.

Hogwarts Express and Holly (the dog)


  1. Back when we lived in Halifax, movies disturbed traffic all the time. My husband woke up at 2:30 one morning to find the cemetery next door completely lit and full of people wearing headsets. Another time Tom Selleck spent an entire afternoon sprinting down our block to get just the right shot. Kind of takes the magic out of films.But my cynical demeanor may have slipped had I spotted the Hogwarts Express! Do you suppose you were near Hogwarts, then? Apparently it’s somewhere north of Edinburgh and possibly closer to Aberdeen. The films aren’t nearly as exciting as the books, in my opinion, but the set design has always been fabulous.


  2. Hi I dont know where Hogwarts school is but the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, which has appeared in many of the films is on this West Highland Line just north of Fort Willaim. The train journey is famed as being one of the most scenic in the world. Moira


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