June 2017 marks 20 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published, so now is the best time to explore the wizarding world out there with a Potter pilgrimage around the globe.
Plan your gap year around Harry Potter locations, with our help, and you can cite yourself as the number one HP fan ever with endless pics from the very spots where the movies were filmed. Much of Harry Potter was set in the UK, giving you the perfect chance to warm up on the weekends before taking a bigger trip.
Then, with a flick of the wrist and the magic click of a mouse, you could be whizzing your way around France, Poland and the USA in search of HP Potter and pals. Here’s how. (Warning, spoilers ahead!)
Harry Potter in the UK
Start your trip in the birthplace of Harry Potter and home of the wizard of words herself, J. K. Rowling. In the historical city of Edinburgh stop by The Elephant Café and, while they may not serve butterbeer, you can sit in the exact spot where J. K. Rowling wrote her first few novels. With a view of Edinburgh Castle, you can see where her inspiration came from and why the cobbled city is still her home.
From here, leave the confounding streets of the capital and head to Hagrid’s home, Glencoe. The village has beautiful mountains, lakes and crags and also housed the half-giant’s hut and pumpkin patch during filming.
You might as well exclaim ‘alohomora’ as you unlock the beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Loch Shiel is the lake you see Buckbeak beside and Loch Morar was often used in the movies as the lake in the grounds of Hogwarts.
Another one for your‘magical places to visit and where to find them’ list, visit Lochaber to see the Victorian viaduct the Hogwarts Express travels over in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. You can also find the final resting place of the greatest wizard who ever lived – Eilean na Moine was the small island used to place Dumbledore’s tomb.
Finish your tour of this enchanting country by travelling to Dundee and doing your best to discover the phantom village of Brigadoon. It was the birthplace of Mad-eye Moody, but legend says the village only appears once every hundred years.
Once you’ve exhausted your Marauder’s map in the north, travel to England where, like a basilisk in the pipes, more filming locations lie in wait.
Alnwick Castle is almost 1000 years old, so it’s not surprising it made it into the movies. You’ll recognise the grounds as the place Harry first rode a broom, which you can re-enact in the broomstick training sessions held here.
Once you’ve learnt how to navigate the bludgers, fly over to Durham Castle, which houses Professor McGonagall’s classroom and the ornate archways you see in Hogwarts.
A little further south in Yorkshire you have Goathland train station, aka Hogsmeade Station as seen in the first movie. Malham Cove in the Dales isn’t far away either and, if you can sidestep the invisibility spells, you may find Harry and Hermione hiding out during their quest for horcurxes as seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
If you’re as big a bookworm as Hermione you’ll love Oxford University’s Library, aka the one used in Hogwarts.
London itself is a hub of magical mystery made all the more enchanting by its Harry Potter associations. Try to catch the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross’ platform 9 ¾ – yes it actually exists – see the inspiration for Diagon Alley at Cecil Court and do your best to find 12 Grimauld Place at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
If your muggle ways don’t grant you access, you can always visit the Palace Theatre and see the magic of performance in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Be warned though, tickets are almost as difficult to get as escaping Azkaban.
Once you’ve worn yourself out with other filming locations like Great Scotland Yard, aka the Ministry of Magic, Leadenhall Market’s Leaky Cauldron filming location and Australia House’s Gringotts setting, visit Watford and the Warner Bros Studio.
Inside, for a small amount of galleons and sickles (or £35) you can delve inside this Pandora’s box of Harry Potter costumes, sets and interactive activities. Try duelling with a wand class, battle with your balance on a broomstick and see the art of illumination at Hogwarts.
Wales has some beautiful beaches and if you visit Freshwater West you may find an emotional visitor paying respects to dearly beloved Dobby, who died here in the penultimate movie. He died just outside Bill and Fleur’s Shell Cottage and although this is no longer there, the walk along the bay to look for it is definitely a pretty one.
Harry Potter in Europe and Beyond
You could visit Ireland merely to hunt for mischievous leprechauns, but the pretty landscapes have also been in the movies. The dramatic cliffs of Moher in County Clare feature in Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince as Harry and Dumbledore hunt for horcruxes.
If being a muggle just won’t do and you’re ‘sirius’ about becoming a wizard (lol), make the journey to Czocha Castle. It may not be Hogwarts, but it is a school of magic hosting a four-day immersion into an alternate reality. Find out which house you’d belong to, duel with like-minded wizard wannabes and stay overnight in the castle’s creepy dorms.
Continuing your Euro trip, portkey to the Pyrenees, where Beauxbuxtons Academy is said to be located. I’m afraid there are no more location details than just that, but I’m sure you could ask around within the 270 miles the Pyrenees covers and find out more. Or not.
Norway and Sweden
Durmstrang, another Triwizard tournament school, is also hidden away but believed to be in either Sweden or Norway. Trying to seek out the Scandinavian School of Dark Magic is the perfect opportunity to explore both countries.
At this point it’s time to get the floo powder out and fly over to the US, where Universal Studios have created their own wizarding wonderland. Pottermore nuts can wander the streets of Hogsmeade, ride the Hogwarts Express and stock up on house hoodies at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida.
From here, make like Hagrid and scoot over to LA. The City of Angels may already be home to some bizarre creatures, but also houses ghosts, goblins and hippogriffs inside the country’s second Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
If you’ve still not got your fill of half-blood princes and fiery goblets, then the Warner Bros Studio tour in Hollywood also has a Harry Potter exhibition showing off the work that went on behind the scenes of the series.
So, what are you waiting for? In the words of the late, great Albus Dumbledore, ‘Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure’.