It was the book series that turned a generation onto reading. By the time the first film came out I was the the same age as the three young wizards. I should have grew up with them… but at that time, I had no interest.
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, when the films were done and dusted that I actually sat down to watch the saga from Privet Drive to the Kings Cross Station.
When I moved to London it seemed to be the only thing anyone talked about. And so, I got swept up in it all. Perhaps over a decade late. As my best friend put it… what is the opposite of a hipster?
Whether I was consciously aware of the connection to the books or films, it seemed my adventures around England and Scotland seemed to coincide with the chosen one. So for all you fans, here is a list of must see’s:
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Welcome to the magical land of Zone 9!
The Warner Brothers studio is just outside of London’s city limits in the sleepy town of Watford. You can get here by taking the Metropolitan line to Watford, or by a overground from Clapham Junction or Shepards Bush.
Stepping of the platform you can choose to walk the distance, or take a city bus (sorry no Knight Buses for the stranded witch or wizard). Since it is out of London, oysters are not accepted… so have your spare change ready.
It is important to note, book your tickets online. A single ticket will set you back roughly 30 pounds… but if you think you can sneak your name into the Goblet of Door Entry you might be set back 50 pounds or denied entry. To make the most of your time at the studio I suggest going early. And prepare to queue.
I will try and do my best to preserve the magic and save you from any spoilers.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a complete tour of sets, costumes, props, practical effects, art and production of the film series. You’ll find yourself walking through The Great Hall, The Hogwarts Express, and Diagon Alley to name a few. Get up close to Buckbeak and Dobey. Try some butter beer and pick up yourself a wand.
Once you’ve received your acceptance letter make sure to catch the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station. Not to be mistake with the underground station, Kings Cross services London to communities just north of the city and beyond to Scotland.
Location scout wise, platform 9 and 3/4 was actually filmed between platform 3 and 4. The platform became to crowded when fans mixed with regular commuter muggles and the cart was moved off the platform. It now sits at a more convenient location outside of the barriers at the end of the great hall. Now witches and wizards can get that perfect photo of disappearing into the brick wall.
There are two ways one can go about it. One you can avoid the queue by arriving before the sun rises, or late at night. If you are keen on getting that official shot with your house scarf, the lines can vary in size from a lone pixie to a herd of centaurs. Allocate for one hour.
The easiest way to get your wizarding fix is by taking the Harry Potter Walking tour. Locations include:
– Australia House (Gringotts Bank)
– Millennium Bridge (Death Eater Muggle Attack)
– Claremont Square (Grimmauld Place)
– Leadenhall Market (Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley)
– Scotland Yard (Ministry of Magic)
Taking the tram to Princess Street from the Airport is a magical experience in it’s self. As you are transported around a winding corner the castle comes into view. Siting atop an ancient volcano you can’t help but imagine being a first year looking upon Hogwarts for the first time.
While the film’s location scout may have missed this fantastic city, Edinburgh was once home to J.K. Rowling, and endless inspiration to the book series.
Squibs can visit both Nicolson’s Café and Elephant House where Rowling spent countless hours penning the wizard trio’s first adventures. While they might not serve butter beer, they did offer Rowling heat through the Scottish cold when she was unable to afford to heat her home at 19 Hazelbank Terrace.
All within a stones throw of Elephant House lies direct inspiration for the books. Winding just below the café is Victoria Street. While walking between antique stores, books, and practical joke shops Diagon Alley sprang to life. While you may not be able to purchase your wand or make a withdrawl from Gringott’s… it is well worth imagining such.
Across from Elephant House in Greyfriar’s Graveyard rests the grave of two wealthy aristocrats both named Thomas Riddell. This became the inspiration for the ending of Rowling’s fourth book in the series and Harry’s arch nemesis, Tom Riddle. Beyond the Grave the pillars of George Heriot School can be seen towering over. The house system at Heriot’s respectively became Griffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin.
The final location is that of Potterrow at the University of Edinburgh. It’s inspiration was pseudonymous for hero of the story.
Once the series kicked off, Rowling retreated from the city to Perthshire just outside of Edinburgh and purchased Killiechassie House, Aberfeldy, on the River Tay.
Outside of the Capitals:
England and Scotland
Regrettably there are dozens of locations through England and Scotland that I was unable to transport myself to. If you happen to have any floo powder, I suggest taking a trip to any of these locations:
Journey to the Glenfinnan Viaduct aboard your flying car and view the Jacobite Steam Train as it rolls through the valley on it’s way to Hogwarts Castle. Arrive at Goathland Station (Hogsmeade Station) and take a boat with the first years across Virgina Water (Hogwarts Lake).
Durham Cathedral, Alnwick Castle, New College Oxford, Gloucester Cathedral, and Lacock Abby all serve as both interior and exterior locations that make up the Castle itself.
Glen Coe is home to Hagrid’s Hut while Hardwick Hall sets the scene for Malfoy Mansion. Malham Cove and Loch Etive set the scene for the trio’s camping trip in aims to avoid Voldermort’s wrath. Loch Eilit is the location of Dumbledore’s Grave, and Iverlocy Castle hosts Azkaban Prision. Both Ashridge Wood and Seven Sisters County Park hosted the Quidditch World Cup.