“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good”
Upon a recent visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford, North of London (YES, this exists and if you didn’t know about it now you do and yes your life is complete, you’re welcome!) I became inspired to write this full guide to the UK for Harry Potter fans.
The beloved novelist goddess JK Rowling thought of the idea for Harry whilst on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. Eventually the idea became a booming book series that readers could not put down. I myself was one of them. I still distinctly remember lining up early in the morning, with my nana as a child, waiting for the release of the 5th installment; Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix.
With the success of the books came the movies and there was no stopping the gripping worldwide fandom that is still in effect even years after the final book and movie have come and gone.
Harry and his magical world are based in the UK and so there are many, many important locations that tie into the writing of the books, the inspiration behind it all and of course filming locations for the 8 movies.
This is my ode to Joanne Rowling and the wonderful boy who lived she brought to life along with a whole new world that fans across the globe love with all their heart. I haven’t been to all of these places myself yet but here is my essential guide to Harry Potter for tourists of the U.K.
1. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh is my most favourite city I’ve visited in our 9 months of traveling. This historical city is the inspiration behind the books as JK sat in The Elephant House cafe all day to write instead of paying for her heating bill at home! Coffee was a cheaper option.
In Britain’s most haunted city you can also find the tomb of Thomas Riddell, the obvious inspiration for Lord Voldemort’s true namesake, Tom Marvolo Riddle.
It was here that JK also finished the final book but this time, with her success, she could afford a hotel room! She stayed at the Balmoral Hotel where fans now pay £1,000 a night to stay in the “JK Rowling Suite”. So aptly named after she completed the final book here and wrote on a statue of Hermes “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on the 11th of January 2007”. The room is as it was when Joanne finished the book, except the door has a brass plaque on the front and the door knocker has been changed to a brass owl. So cool.
The Divinity Hall within the Bodelain Library at the University of Oxford was used in the Philosopher’s Stone as the hospital wing where Harry recovers after his first brush with He Who Must Not Be Named and in the Goblet of Fire where Ron gets the honour of learning to dance for the Yule Ball with Professor McGonnagall. To access this section separately from the rest of the library it only costs £2 entry fee.
Also inside the Bodelain Library is the Duke Humfrey’s Library which is the oldest reading room at the University. Here the scenes where Harry first donned his invisibility cloak to enter the restricted section and where Ron, Hermione and Harry searched for information that would help Harry win the Triwizard tournament. To access this section of the old library you must take a guided 30 minute tour. As this is a working library make sure you’re quiet!
New College is the place to go to see the tree that Draco Malfoy sat in as he teased Harry about his bet on how we won’t last 10 seconds in the Triwizard tournament. New College is open from Mon-Sun and charges may apply for entry.
As you go up to the Great Hall note that the stairway was used in the first movie where Professor McGonagall met the first years’ and it is also where Harry is transported back into Tom Riddle’s memories.
Finally The Cloisters in Christ Church College is where Hermione shows Harry his fathers name as seeker for Gryffindoor on the Quidditch trophies. It is also where the trio comes to the conclusion that Snape may be up to something in regards to the Philosopher’s Stone.
Filming for various scenes in Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban took place in picturesque Glencoe. Hagrid’s hut was set up for filming in 2003 right across the road from Clachaig Inn. It is also the place where Hermione gave the “foul, loathsome, evil little cockroach” Malfoy a taste of her fist in his face.
Does Loch Eilt also look familiar?
Various other locations in the west of the Scottish Highlands were used for scenes such as the dragon flight across the water in the final movie and camping locations as Harry, Ron and Hermione hunted horcruxes (autocorrect just corrected horcruxes to hot dudes and I’m dying).
Home to the Glenfinnan Viaduct which is the route that the Hogwarts Express takes to get to Hogsmeade station! In real life it is the route the Jacobite Steam train takes to Mallaig. Used for the filming of the scene in The Chamber of Secrets where Ron and Harry are flying along in the Ford Anglia when the train sneaks up on them. Also for the entire series!
5. London, England
London is jam packed with Harry Potter filming locations!
Kings Cross Station is home to platform 9 and 3/4 and has been used throughout filming of all 8 movies. If you visit the station there is a Harry Potter gift shop and an opportunity to get a professional photo taken with a trolley entering the wall of platform 9 and 3/4! No it’s not here that you can actually access a hidden platform between 9 and 10. Save this for the Harry Potter Studio Tour (more on that later!)
Claremont Square was used as the exterior for Grimmauld Place, the home of Sirius Black and the Black family for generations. It later became the meeting place of the Order of the Phoenix.
Leadenhall Market was used in the first film as the exterior of the Leaky Cauldron and the concealed entrance to Diagonal Alley.
Piccadilly Circus is a spot to visit in itself. It’s usually very busy and full of life at night before and after the West End theatre shows. This is where, in part one of the final movie, Harry, Ron and Hermione apparate to, to escape from the Death Eaters who crash the wedding of Bill and Fleur at The Burrow. As they do, you will recall, they are very nearly hit by a double decker bus.
Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian footbridge that spans the River Thames. You will remember in the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Death Eaters attack the muggles on this bridge as they abduct Ollivander from his famous wand shop in Diagonal Alley.
7. Alnwick, England
8. Chesterfield, England
9. North Yorkshire, England
10. Durham, England
12. Chippenham, England
13. Watford, England
I’ve saved the best for last. The mother of all locations to visit if you are a Harry Potter diehard. The Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour features the ORIGINAL sets, props, costumes, artworks and planning documents of the entire film set. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing this place was.
From the entrance into the tour (which I will not spoil for you, it almost made me cry of happiness) to the final turn into the room where the scaled model of Hogwarts is (I nearly fell over from the sheer amazingness) this is what you want to do if you love Harry.
The tour is self guided and you can buy a digital guide if you wish. There is no time limit, you just have to book an entrance time slot, they do this so the flow of the tour is good leading to a better experience for all.
We easily spent 4 hours here exploring the different sections. There is the Great Hall, various Hogwarts rooms including potions, Dumbledore’s office and the Gryffindoor common room. You will also see The Burrow complete with Molly’s bewitched knitting needles and the dishes washing themselves in the sink!
In the cafe midway through the tour you can enjoy a butterbeer or butterbeer icecream! You can either bring your own food or buy some from the cafe, it’s expensive like any theme park is though.
You can experience what flying on a broomstick would be like as one of the actors from the films in front of a green screen. You can buy your video or a photo of you flying about London and Hogwarts after (also expensive but I did it for the fun of it, which you can do!) or if you like a photo of you and your friends/family in Arthur Weasley’s Ford Anglia!
Takea walk through the actual Hogwarts Express and see the compartments that were used for filming and take a photo of you going through the wall with your trolley onto Platform 9 and 3/4s! Here there is a small gift shop with certain things you can’t buy at the end.
I could honestly write about this place for ages but I don’t want to spoil it all for you. It is so well done and such an experience. I would say the one and only experience every Harry Potter fan needs to come and see at least once in their lives.
Have you been to a Harry Potter experience outside of the UK? Tell me about it! Tell me about your favourite anything to do with Harry Potter! I’m always ready to discuss HP.
I bought Bertie Botts every flavour beans! As Ron said “They mean every flavour!”. My favourite of the ones I’ve tried was definitely Tutti-Frutti. The worst so far was Bogie flavour. I spat it out into the bin! So gross!
Find extensive photos from our experience of the Harry Potter tour over on our Facebook page!
Also during research for this blog I found this amazing website with the locations pinned along with descriptions on what was filmed at the pinned sites:
Enjoy the Potter hunt!