PUBLIC toilets are desperately needed to deal with an overwhelming number of visitors in Glenfinnan, with the Highland hamlet heading for a record-breaking year in tourism.

The beauty spot in Lochaber is continuing to crack under the pressure of “accidental” fame as a result of the viaduct featuring prominently in the Warner Bros Harry Potter movies alongside the “Hogwarts Express” steam train – run by West Coast Railways – which goes across it.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has reported that visitor numbers are up an astonishing 52% up to the end of July compared to last year, and up 6% on 2019 – the current record year when 500,000 people descended on the village.

Even when The Jacobite train was suspended recently, this apparently had little effect on the overall numbers of people visiting the spot which has become a top 10 place to go in Scotland.

@scotnational The MAJOR problem causing anxiety for residents at this popular tourist attraction #glenfinnan #glenfinnanviaduct #highlands #harrypotter #visitscotland #scotland #fyp ♬ original sound - The National

READ MORE: How a Highland hamlet is cracking under Harry Potter mania

Alongside drivers turning “beautiful verges into mudbaths” and manoeuvring dangerously on the A830, the community is becoming increasingly infuriated by the lack of public toilets which is leading to people going “everywhere and anywhere they can”.

The only toilets available for tourists to use are at the NTS visitor centre that serves the Glenfinnan Monument – a tribute to the fallen Jacobite clansmen – when this is open.

Entwistle said: “It’s a big talking point in the village. There are people going to the toilet everywhere and anywhere they can.

“There are places people [who live in the area] aren’t happy to go now.

“We had a neighbour the other week who was in her kitchen window and she looked out and there was a man parked there who had got out to have a pee.

“She looked at him and banged on the window and he sort of shrugged. I told her she should have phoned the police.

“It is truly horrible. You are trying to arrange your life around when there are more people arriving and there is an effect on your mental wellbeing. You just don’t want to go out and you don’t know what you’ll find.”

The National: The Glenfinnan Viaduct has become a bucket list attraction in Scotland and residents are feeling it

Hege Hernes, of the West Highland Community Rail Partnership, said she is hoping the issue can be urgently addressed at a summit in September which is expected to involve stakeholders such as Highland Council, ScotRail, NTS and Transport Scotland.

The tiny volunteer-led station museum has one toilet for use by visitors only, and upgrades would be required in order to increase capacity.

Hernes is calling on ScotRail – which runs trains on the West Highland Line - to take responsibility for providing more toilets at the station.

She said: “I hope they [stakeholders] will realise they have to provide public toilets in Glenfinnan, it is a matter of public health and safety.

“You can’t have that many people in one place and not provide them, it’s not safe.

“I want the rail industry to accept that with this amount of traffic at the station they need to provide toilets for those passengers.”

ScotRail has said it has no immediate plans to install toilets at the station, given it has no staff to manage the operation of any and insists this responsibility should sit with Highland Council.

Entwistle and Hernes were surprised to find that during a recent suspension of the steam train due to safety issues, overall numbers of visitors did not appear to dip. 

Most tourists go along to Glenfinnan to snap the perfect shot of the train crossing the viaduct but instead many people decided to ride ScotRail across the viaduct during this time, with specific trains becoming particularly crowded.

READ MORE: NC500: Residents complain of 'utterly disgusting' behaviour over summer

Entwistle said: “It was interesting to see what effect that would have. People still came.

“If you’re coming from Australia, you’re still going to come so people think ‘we’ll just go and have a look at the viaduct’ and some people have thought ‘well we’ll go on the normal train’ which is brilliant, but Hege has been counting rakes of people getting on and off.”

Hernes added: “ScotRail has not got enough capacity on those trains that are relevant to tourists.”

Alongside public toilets, Hernes is continuing to push for the Scottish Government’s West Highland Line review to be relaunched, which was severely disrupted by the Covid pandemic, something ScotRail said it would support.

At a previous summit held earlier this year, the fact no one organisation is taking ownership of the global tourist attraction the viaduct has become was raised as a major problem, with MSP Kate Forbes stressing it was “unrealistic” to leave the issue to the community to solve.

Hernes maintains having one over-arching organisation to manage tourism would be preferable.

“It would be wonderful if we had a managed facility that was properly run and staffed,” she said.

A second summit is to be held on September 29, where it is hoped some immediate solutions to the “constant anxiety” residents are living under can be brought to the table.

Entwistle: “My hope for the future is that when people come here they are more respectful and they do understand what they are coming to.

“This is an accidental attraction I suppose. I don’t think people want to behave badly but they are so focused on that event [the steam train] they behave appalling.

"It just feels like mad chaos."

Scott Prentice, ScotRail head of business development, said: “ScotRail would support the reinstatement of West Highland Line Review Group, as a lot has changed in the transport environment since its last meeting.

“We remain committed to supporting tourism and rural economies across the country, including on the West Highland Line. 

“Investment in recent years by ScotRail and Network Rail – in refurbished trains, dedicated cycle carriages, upgraded signalling equipment, and the provision of a footpath and viewing areas for the viaduct – shows our commitment to the route.    

“The introduction of our Highland Explorer carriages on the Mallaig branch has provided both locals and visitors to the area with more seats, more luggage space, and access to an additional toilet on board.”

Highland Council has been approached for comment.