We are finally back from our whirlwind adventure through the UK and Paris. Of course being in the UK meant doing everything we possibly could that was related to Harry Potter. I did the research online before we set off, but not all of it was very clear. My goal is to give you a guide to get you to as many locations as possible. Please note that some of these areas have changed since filming so it may not be identical to the movies but you will be taken to some of the most breath taking places along the way.
I will admit that the first few days of our travels were not as... well... efficient as I had hoped. I will explain as I go, but if you are to follow in our exact footsteps, I may recommend doing things a bit differently.
Our first day, we flew into Glasgow. The original plan was to travel to Fort William first, but since the Jacobite train did not run that weekend, we headed over to Edinburgh. Like I said, it would have been easier to fly into Edinburgh, but I did not find out about the train schedule until I went to purchase the tickets after getting our plane tickets.
There are quite a few things to see in Edinburgh that have to do with Harry Potter but for now I will keep it to where we went specifically.
The first place is the Elephant House Cafe (21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN, UK). Here the famous author, JK Rowling, wrote The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban. In this cozy cafe you can get a bite to eat, sip some tea, and enjoy the view of Edinburgh's Castle. We did happen to arrive here during the lunch rush, so it was a bit of a wait to be seated. But once inside, it was worth the wait. We were seated at a desk style table next to the window looking out at the castle. Within the drawers of the desk were hundreds, no thousands of letters from Harry Potter fans who have traveled from all over the world. Of course, we added our letter to the collection. Who knows if Rowling visits this cafe but perhaps she will read our note and smile. Also, make sure to go into the bathrooms, it is unlike any bathroom I've ever seen.
The cafe overlooks a graveyard which is our next stop. Now, I want to be very clear on this point. While yes it is something cool to see, a graveyard is a place of respect. Go and pay your respects, make a donation to the Kirk, and don't cause a disturbance.
The Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (1 Greyfriars, Edinburgh EH1 2QQ, UK) is a stunning graveyard nestled between the busy streets and businesses of Edinburgh. It is clear to see, as you walkthrough the headstones, how Rowling got her inspiration for the graveyard scene in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. Among the graves is that belonging to Thomas Riddell and family. The google maps coordinates are 55.9469607,-3.1937224 As you enter the graveyard from Candlemaker Row, you will face the Kirk. Walk along the path on the right side of the Kirk. You will pass through a gateway into another section of graves. Take an immediate right and walk along the wall. Thomas Riddell's grave is about 3/4 of the way down the path.
There are a few other quick spots that you can walk through that have a familiar feel to the Wizarding World. As you walk along Lauriston Pl. take a look at George Heriot’s School. It could have been some inspiration for the architecture of Hogwarts. Also it has four houses: Lauriston, Castle, Greyfriars, and Raeburn. It was closed when we were there but you can still get a feel of magic as you peek through the gates. The next spot is a street called Victoria near the Edinburgh Castle. With the close houses and businesses on a busy street, it's easy to feel as if you have entered into Diagon Alley.
Our last quick stop, or really actually a drive by, was the Balmoral Hotel. It is here where Rowling finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Once she finished, it was said that she cracked open a champagne bottle and wrote on a marble bust in the room, ‘JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.’ If you want, you can even stay in that exact room, which has been kept precisely as it was, but with a price to match its popularity.
As for parking in Edinburgh, we found a car park down the hill from the Edinburgh Castle that worked well for us. The address is Castle Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2EW, UK and the cost ranges from £5.00 (1 hour) to £28.00 (24 hours) depending on how long you stay. While this car park does accept credit card, it is a MUST to have coins on you for other parking areas, especially in the highlands, which is where we are headed next.
Fort William is a gorgeous town sitting on a loch that leads to the ocean. It is here that the Jacobite train, also known as the Hogwarts Express, embarks. Our train tickets weren't until the following day, but of course we needed to go to the Glenfinnan Viaduct to get a picture of the famous scene where Ron and Harry drive the flying Ford Anglia to catch up to the train. Joe and I tend to do things the hard way, so even after researching, we still ended up going to the viaduct in a much more "creative" way. I will tell you how we did it and then at the end tell you the proper way to do it. We woke up very early thinking that we needed to be there by 9 am. I had found a little parking lot near Glenfinnan Monument which was a £2 to park (Coins only, No "New" £1 Coins accepted). To find the viaduct, all I had to go off was Google Maps, so off we went through the fields and even crossing over a small stream. If you have ever been to Scotland you know that it is very wet, like everything is wet. So by the time we made it to our location we were quite damp. But that didn't stop our excitement. We got situated at a nice spot near the viaduct way too early. In the end, I was glad we arrived super early to get our spot. As we waited for the train more and more people began to show up. Through chatting with some of the local hikers, we learned that the train doesn't pass over the viaduct until about 10:45 am. So we needed to wait another 2 hours in the mist rain while getting eaten by bugs for the train. Once I heard the steam whistle blow all of it came together perfectly; no seriously, the rain stopped, the bugs dispersed and we got the shot. Afterwards we followed the crowd down a lovely paved path that lead to another smaller parking lot near where our car was. Now, after knowing this, I will tell you to take the paved path, it's much easier then removing your socks and shoes to cross a stream with your expensive camera gear. As for parking, I'm still glad we paid the few pounds to park in this parking lot: Glenginnan Monument parking PH37 4LT. The other parking lot, which is gravel, is much smaller and a nightmare to get out of with the crowds. From the monument car park walk along A830 headed west maybe 100 feet to find the small gravel lot. Go in to the lot and you will see a nice safe and easy path that will take you straight to the viaduct. There are so many places along the hills around the viaduct to get a good shot. You can continue on the path which will take you under the viaduct and through a sheep gate to take you up a hill to get another perspective. When we go back to Scotland I plan to get another photo of the train from further up. The loch across from the monument parking lot was used in Prisoner of Azkiban when Buckbeak flies over and touches the water. It was also used at the end Half Blood Prince when Harry, Ron, and Hermione are looking out from the Astronomy tower.
Since we had the rest of the day to play, we headed to our next stop Glencoe Valley to find Hagrid's hut! It's about an hour south of Fort William. We found it was easiest to park at Clachaig Inn (Glencoe, Ballachulish PH49 4HX, UK). Although parking is free, we still went in and supported the Inn by buying a hot drink to warm up before setting out onto the mountain side. Once again, Joe and I took the hard way and trudged halfway up the mountain along the short stone wall and cut over to our left. In hindsight, we realized that once again, a lovely little paved path goes along the base of the mountain right to were we needed to be. If you go out from the Inn and take a left, walk along the path a few hundred feet and look up you will see the little level spot where Hagrid's hut once sat. I will say this one was a bit more difficult to find since 1. the set isn't there and 2. its been many years since the set was there so the topography and treeline is a bit different. Google Maps does have Hagrid's hut marked on the map here: Ballachulish PH49 4HX, UK. Although we may have taken the hardest way to find the set location, we saw some beautiful sights, including a waterfall on the neighboring mountain.
Our last stop for that day was Steall Falls, where Harry fights his dragon in Goblet of Fire. Two very important things about this stop, 1. the road up to the parking lot is as wide as the smallest car with tiny passing sections along the way and 2. this is a dangerous hike, very wet, very steep, very rocky. Now that I have warned you, this hike is probably one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever been on. You will park at: Ben Nevis Parking Belford Rd, Fort William PH33 6SY, UK. From the car park there is a hiking trail that will take you up to the falls. It was about a half hour to forty-five minutes hike. When you reach the falls there is a stream which you need to cross if you want to get closer. There are three ways of crossing the stream, 1. try to find a narrow part and jump 2. take your shoes and socks off and cross or 3. take the Glen Nevis rope bridge. On our way back to the path I decided to take the rope bridge which is actually more of a large wire tight rope. It was a bit scary as it was wet and very cold but I can say that I did it! Joe opted for crossing the stream with his shoes on (and camera gear safely out of the water).
The next day was fully dedicated to the Jacobite Steam Train. If you want the full Harry Potter experience, you need to book in advance, like very far in advance. Some quick points before booking, the train may not run on certain weekends and it only runs from April to October (although they do have some specific dates that run in December, make sure to check the website for all information. http://www.westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/jacobite-steam-train-details.cfm)
When selecting your tickets on the website, you want to be sure that you have chosen the option for "First Class Compartment Carriage Harry Potter Style." This is the only carriage that runs that was used in the film. Although the carriage has different seats and a table, it's still very much like the scenes in the films. After selecting your tickets, you will be sent a paypal invoice to your email, make sure to print this and take it with you! This is your ticket and you need to have it to board. Unfortunately it does not look like the Hogwarts Express ticket. On the day you arrive for your train ride you will go to: Fort William Train Station Fort William PH33 6EN. There are a few different ways to park, but luckily we found a spot along the side of the train station. Don't park in spots marked with yellow lines, these are for staff only. If you do not get a free parking space, you may have to pay a few pounds. Once inside the station, there was a big line of people waiting for the train. (Side note: there is a bathroom and full shower area in the station but it costs 20 pence.) When the doors open to the platform it can be a bit hectic. If you find someone in a yellow reflector jacket and show them your tickets, he or she will take you to carriage D; this is the only Harry Potter carriage. Once inside the correct carriage, the seats are numbered and have a letter, either a B or an F.
Example: Joe and I had seats 4B and 5B this means we were sitting next to each other on the same side of the table. A couple we met had 4F and 5F so they sat across from us.
It's important to look on the back on the seats for the correct number which may be hidden underneath the first class head cushion. Once on the train, sit back and relax because it's a two hour journey to the coastal town of Mailag. The train leaves the station at roughly 10:00 AM and is about a 45 minute journey to reach the Glenfinnan Viaduct. There is a very small window that slides open in the compartments of carriage D. If you want a better view or more room to hang your camera out, you can go out into the hallway and open a larger window in the carriage door. Since travel through the train and between carriages is freely permitted, these areas will get crowded. (Side note: This is a steam train. They are burning coal. You will get coal and smoke in your face and eyes and hair and nose and ears if you stick your head out the window. Smoke and coal will come in through open windows especially when you pass through tunnels. Also the tunnels are narrow and can take your head off so be careful!) On the train they have a menu from which you can select drinks and small edibles. They have two Harry Potter themed drinks which have to be ordered in the dining car. They accept cash only. The non-alcoholic drink is called Butter-brew Hot Chocolate. It's hot chocolate with a splash of butterscotch flavoring, whipped cream, and sprinkled with butterscotch pop rocks. This sold out very quickly. The second is an alcoholic beverage for the older wizards called The Deathly Hallows cocktail. Joe had this and I can't remember exactly what was in it but the main part was wine. They also have little Harry Potter souvenir trinkets for sale in one of the Carriages.
On your way back be sure to look out at Loch Elit. It was on the larger island where Dumbledore's grave scene was filmed in Deathly Hallows Part 1. The GPS coordinates are 56.8802180,-5.6120915
This finishes the Scotland portion of our journey, onto England!
The adorable little town of Alnwick (pronounced "ah-nick") is home to the Alnwick Castle (Alnwick NE66 1NQ, UK). The castle grounds were used for Harry's first broom lesson in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Although the castle opens at 10 am, most of the things to see or do inside the castle don't open until 11 am. They have a cute class you can take that will teach you how to fly on a broom stick. Although we didn't do this, it was fun to watch the kids in their robes run around on broomsticks. The castle itself is still owned and used as a residence by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland so it is only open to the public in the summer. Our airbnb was close enough to the castle that we could walk but there is a car park on the other side of Alnwick Castle Gardens, Alnwick Castle, Alnwick NE66 1NQ, UK. It is £3.00 to park for the day.
Before we headed to Durham, we noticed a small local museum called Bailiffgate near the castle (14 Bailiffgate, Alnwick NE66 1LX, UK). Now I can't say it will always be there, but there was a special exhibit on the work of Jim Kay. He is currently in the process of illustrating all of the Harry Potter books. The exhibit showed some sketches, final pieces, and how he was influenced to create the magical world. It was only a few pounds and over all worth it, not only to see Jim Kay's work but also to learn a bit of history of Alnwick.
We were fortunate to be warned by our airbnb host not drive in Durham. So we parked at Durham City Park and Ride which is right off of the A1(M). It is £2.00 per person to ride roundtrip. All the details can be found here: http://www.durham.gov.uk/parkandride It is a short 10-15 minute ride to the first stop where you will want to exit to get to the Cathedral: The College, Durham DH1 3EH, UK. Although you can get into the cathedral for free, it is really worth paying to go to the open treasure exhibit. The Cloister in the cathedral was used throughout the films as hallways between classrooms and the courtyard was also used for many other scenes. Although it was closed to the public, the Chapter House was used for McGonagell's classroom. If you go on the open treasure exhibit, towards the end, in the creature section, there is a beautiful ink well that was used in the scene from Philosopher's Stone when Harry and Ron are late to McGonagell's class. In that scene Professor McGonagell jumps over the ink well as she transfigures from a cat to a human.
From there we had two options: to go to Malham Cove (Malham, Skipton BD23 4DJ, UK), used in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 or Goathland Station (Cow Wath Bank, Goathland, Whitby YO22 5NF, UK) used as Hogsmeade Station in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Since we were short on time, we decided to go to the train station. We will have to go to Malham Cove next go around. We arrived at the train station as the last train for the day was arriving. We were able to go onto the platform and take photos for our journey just before the train officer closed up the station for the evening. Goathland is a very small town and I would've liked to spend a bit more time there to visit a cafe. I'm sure Joe would've like to stay and pet a sheep.
The next spot may not be exactly Harry Potter related but if you love owls as much as I do, its worth the visit. The Owl Experience (Breaston Ln, Risley DE72 3TT, UK) hosts several experiences you can choose from. We did the encounter with owls which allowed us to have hands on time with owls, this included feeding and flying them. We got to spend time with a total of 5 owls and each was different from the next. This owl experience is great fun for all ages and I highly recommend it! http://www.owlexperience.co.uk/
Because we were short on time, we had to skip over Hardwick Hall (Doe Lea, Chesterfield S44 5QJ, UK) also known as Malfoy Manner. It will be added to the list for our next adventure.
Next stop was Christ's Church Cathedral in Oxford (St Aldate's, Oxford OX1 1DP, UK). I have three words for Oxford "people and bikes" "Joe has two more "silent busses". I wish we would have used the park and ride feature as we did in Durham, but you live and learn. We had to park about half a mile from Christ's Church and run to make it before the last tour closed. In Christ's church there is the great hall. While this wasn't used for the actual filming, the set designers did use it as inspiration for Hogwarts Great Dining Hall. However, the staircase leading up to the great hall in Christ's Church was used in Chamber of Secrets when Harry goes into Riddle's diary. The conversation between Riddle and Dumbledore takes place on that staircase. Buying tickets ahead of time is rather difficult as they only put the calendar out every few weeks. It was £7.00 per person to get it and sometimes there are special events held in the great hall that are open to the public. The website will give all information about upcoming events. http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/visitors-conferences Also note that the hall is still a functional dining hall at Oxford University so it will be full of students at mealtimes.
The next spot is a private residence so take care to not cause a disturbance and not linger very long. We simple did a quick drive by just to see the house that was used for 4 Privet Drive. (12 Picket Post Close, Bracknell, UK)
Our last portion of the Harry Potter journey takes place in London. There are several film locations here and thankfully they are not difficult to travel to.
Goodwin's Court is a tiny little alleyway nestled in London. It's easy to see how set designers got inspiration here when creating Knockturn Alley. The GPS coordinates for the entrance are 51.5109790,-0.1258965. The nearest tube station is Leicester Square Station. The coordinates will take you to a street called Bedfordbury. Across from Shoemaster, there is a small doorway with no door. It is black and has the numbers 23 and 24 printed over it. You can also enter the alley through St. Martin's Lane. The entrance is between Koshari Street Food and Fernando's. There is a small sign above the doorway that says 55-56 St. Martin's Lane. There also should be a Goodwin's Court sign inside of the doorway.
There are also many smaller streets that could have been used as inspiration for Diagon Alley namely Charing Cross Road, Cecil Court, but of course the main one is LeadenHall Market.
LeadenHall Market is a gem hidden within the business district of London (Gracechurch St, London EC3V 1LT, UK). The nearest tube station is Monument Train Station. There are several ways to get into the market. If you get a chance grab a bit to eat while you're here; there are plenty of places to choose from. Within LeadenHall Market there is Captial Aesthetics (The Glass House, 4 Bull's Head Passage, London EC3V 1LU, UK) which was used as the first entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in Philosopher's Stone. Even though it is now painted bright blue, the architecture of the shop remains the same. There is another shop that was used for the Leaky Cauldron, (7 Stoney Street Borough Street Market) But due to road closures, we were unable to make it there.
If you have made it this far, you are clearly a Harry Potter fan. Now any fan would know the name of MinaLima, the artists that created the designs, logos, books, and many other props for all of the films, including the new Fantastic Beasts films. (7 Goodge St, Bloomsbury, London W1T 4SF, UK) The base of the shop is a storefront where you can buy prints of their work but upstairs, you can take a free guided tour through the 3 levels of the house that showcase their work used throughout the films. Sometimes the artists are at the store but given that they are currently busy with Fantastic Beasts, it is unlikely that they would be there. Be sure to follow them on Instagram to get any updates as well as follow their works: minalimadesign. If you'd like, you can purchase a print from the store and they can ship it world wide. There are two sorts of prints, standard and premium. There are 1000 copies of the standard print and only 250 copies of premium. Premium prints are signed by the artists and often feature hand laid gold foiling. I picked up the newest print, a map of Diagon Alley and had it shipped home. The nearest tube station is Leicester Square Station.
Near MinaLima is the Palace Theatre (Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London W1D 5AY, UK). Here is where the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently performing. Although we didn't have tickets, it was still exciting to see the front of the theatre with the sign out front.
Although not a large film location, Westminster tube station (Bridge St, Westminster, London SW1A 2JR, UK) is where Mr. Weasley escorts Harry to his hearing in Order of the Phoenix. We did not have as much trouble working the ticketing station as Mr. Weasley did.
Another small film location was that of Grimmauld Place. (12 Claremont Square, Clerkenwell, London N1 9LY, UK) The nearest tube station is Angel Station. Again since this is a private residence try not to linger too long.
The last two film locations are perhaps the most well known. First is the London Zoo or more specifically the Reptile house within the London Zoo (London NW1 4RY, UK). Our airbnb was close enough to the zoo for us to walk, but the closest train station is Camden Town Station. The zoo itself is actually quite nice and we thoroughly enjoyed it even though we didn't get to spend a lot of time there. As you walk into the reptile house, the cage in which Harry "accidentally" encases his cousin Dudley in Philosopher's Stone is clearly marked, it even has its own sign dedicated to the film.
The second and most famous, in my opinion, is Kings Cross Station. The well known platform 9 3/4 has since been moved to a less in the way part of the station. There is usually a wait but it goes by quickly. You can have your photos taken by the professional photographer and then purchase within the gift shop or you can have friend or family member take your photo for free. Since we were alone, we decided to buy our photos. It was £15.00 for two photographs.
Last but not least, if you are a fan of Harry Potter and are in London, you simply MUST go to the Warner Brother's studio tour. (Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden WD25 7LR, UK) I highly recommend getting your tickets online before arriving. Since we no longer had our car, we took the train. We departed from Kings Cross and took the above ground train to Watford Junction. There are two types of trains that run to Watford Junction. One takes about an hour, stopping at every station, and is cheaper, while the other gets you there in about 15 minutes, skipping smaller stations, but is much more expensive. Once you exit the Watford Junction train station there is a bus shuttle that runs to the studio. It's £2.50 per person but this will also include your trip back to Watford Junction once you finish your tour. The bus stop at the train station is on your left as you exit the station. There are several bus stops but ours was at number 4. The studio bus shuttle has a very large Harry Potter decal on it so it's easy to spot. The bus ride is about another 10 minutes. Once you get to the studio you can by pass the ticket line and go straight into security, that is if you bought you prepaid for your tickets. From here I won't give any more information because the studio tour is simply a magical experience that I don't want to spoil. I will say take your time, stop and read everything, ask questions, and take as many pictures as you want (except for the first 2 rooms as they don't allow photography until you reach the Great Dining Hall) There are several special exhibits that are limited by time so make sure to check the website to see what will be happening while you are there. https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/ It took us about 5 hours total and it was worth every single second.
One special thing that I think is worth mentioning: there are stamps within different portions of the studio. They are not ink stamps but rather like paper presses. I had brought along my copy of Philosopher's Stone so I 'stamped' the pages in my book that corresponded with the particular stamps. This adds a special touch of magic to your books that you can take home with you.
I hope you all have enjoyed reading of our adventures and perhaps inspired you to take a journey of your own through the wizarding world of Harry Potter. There are several more film locations that we had to miss or skip because of time so be prepared for a part 2 sometime in the future! -Amanda and Joe