Hunting for Harry Potter in the UK

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You could call me a *bit* of a Harry Potter fan.

I went to midnight book release parties wearing home-made HP t-shirts in high school. I went to midnight screenings of the movies in college. I went through a post-HP depression upon finishing the 7th and final book in the series. I may own a replica of Dumbledore's wand.

It's true that my love of all things Harry Potter pales in comparison to my Lord of the Rings obsession. But it's definitely strong enough to have made me really, really excited to visit the UK, home of the famous boy wizard himself.

Privet Drive

Whenever I find myself in a new part of the UK, I make it my mission to seek out as many Harry Potter-related sites as possible. Here are some of my favorite ones that I've found.

Harry Potter sites to visit in the UK

ENGLAND

Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross

Platform 9 3/4
No self-respecting Harry Potter fan can visit London without making the requisite pilgrimage to King's Cross station to pose at Platform 9 3/4. The “platform” used to be a little more magical since it would often move around the station (I had to ask where to find it when I first visited, because it wasn't in between platforms 9 and 10 like in the books/movies!), but these days it's a full-blown tourist attraction so you can't miss it.

Platform 9 3/4 is now in a prominent position in King's Cross Station, with ropes to help you form a line, and someone to help you don a house scarf and take your photo as you pretend to magic your way through the platform wall.

Millennium Bridge in London

Millennium Bridge in London

This footbridge over the river Thames in central London starred in the beginning of the “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” film. In the opening sequence of the movie, some of Voldemort's nasty Death Eaters twist and snap the cables on the bridge, causing it to wobble violently and eventually plunge into the river.

Don't worry, though — I didn't spy any Death Eaters around when I was walking across it.

You can also check out this Harry Potter London walking tour to see even more sites.

Oxford (Christchurch College)

Christchurch College, Oxford

If you're interested in some of the places author J.K. Rowling took inspiration from when she was writing the Harry Potter books, you absolutely MUST visit Christchurch College at Oxford. Hogwarts' Great Hall was based on the dining hall of this college.

Walking beside the long tables here, you really do expect to look up and see Dumbledore at the head table. (I also wouldn't be surprised if Hogwarts' talking paintings weren't somewhat inspired by this room, too!)

If Oxford is making it onto your itinerary, check out this Harry Potter walking tour of Oxford.

London studio tour

Dumbledore's office
The set for Dumbledore's Office

Lastly, the ultimate Harry Potter destination in England has to be the “Making of Harry Potter” museum/experience just outside of London. Here, at the former Leavesden Studios, fans have the chance to walk through real HP sets and see authentic props and costumes from the films. Visiting really gives you a feel for the detail that went into making the films, and allows you an unprecedented look behind the scenes.

Book your studio tour here!

(And for my complete review of the experience, click here!)

Want to bundle a Warner Bro. Studios tour with a day trip to Oxford from London? This tour will cover all the Harry Potter goodness!

SCOTLAND

The Elephant House in Edinburgh

Edinburgh

This location is somewhat less well-known than the others listed above, but it was still one I was excited to stumble upon. It's a cafe in Edinburgh, and is supposedly where J.K. Rowling wrote a good portion of the Harry Potter books.

It's always super crowded these days, but it's worth it to wait for a table. The cafe serves good coffee and tea, and also has delicious desserts. Before you leave, be sure to check out all the messages to JK left on the walls in the restroom!

Also consider booking a Harry Potter walking tour in Edinburgh to see other sites that inspired characters and scenes from the books.

Loch Shiel

Loch Shiel, Scotland
Located in the Scottish Highlands, this lake is best known for doubling as the Black Lake near Hogwarts in a few of the Harry Potter films. In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Harry soars over this particular loch on the back of Buckbeak the hippogriff. The lake and surrounding scenery are gorgeous and well worth a visit, even if you aren't an HP fan.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Not far from Loch Shiel lies the Glenfinnan Viaduct (you can see them from one another), an impressive 21-arch railway viaduct that dates back to the late 1800s. The viaduct appeared in three of the Harry Potter films, when the scarlet Hogwarts Express could be seen chugging along it.

There's a short hike you can do opposite Loch Shiel that takes you to an outcropping that offers up great views of both the loch and the viaduct (which is where all my photos were shot from).

Ride the Jacobite (AKA the Hogwarts Express)

On the Jacobite Steam Train in Scotland
Speaking of the famous steam engine, you can actually ride the real train that was featured in the films! It's called the Jacobite Steam Train, and operates between Mallaig and Fort William during the summer months. Not only will the two-hour train ride make you feel like you're on your way to Hogwarts, but it also gives you the chance to see some of the best landscapes in the Scottish Highlands.

RELATED: Riding the Harry Potter Train in Scotland

There are undoubtedly many more Harry Potter-related sites all over the UK considering the books are based here and the movies were filmed here. These were simply my personal highlights.

 

If you're interested in finding even more Harry Potter sites, check out these guides:

Which of these HP sites would YOU most want to visit?

Harry Potter locations in the UK

 

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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35 Comments on “Hunting for Harry Potter in the UK

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  1. What a great post! I would love to see the Oxford Christchurch College someday – it looks gorgeous! So far, I’ve only been to platform 9 3/4 and to Livraria Lello in Porto, which apparently was a major inspiration for J.K. Rowling 🙂

      Oxford in general is well worth a visit – so many gorgeous old buildings!

      And jealous about Livraria Lello! The book nerd in me definitely wants to go there someday!

    that’s a great post! I’ve been planning to re-read all HP books, one after another, as I before I read them once they were published, and such HP marathon would be cool! I just wish I had more time for that (and less books on my bookshelves to read;))
    I’ve only seen 9 3/4 platform and the Elephant House (it was crowded as well when I was in Edinburgh!) but would definitely love to see Scotland’s countryside locations, they look so beautiful!

      I used to re-read all the HP books before a new book or movie came out. It’s been a couple of years, though, so I’m due for another go, too!

      And yes, the Scotland locations are all beautiful!

    I’m a HP geek also! I’d love to visit these locations!

    I’m not a huge HP fan, love the books but didn’t actually read them until they were all out. I’ve done the Jacobite Steam Train, Platform 9 3/4 and visited the Elephant House. I actually didn’t visit any of them for their connection to Harry Potter. I found Platform 9 3/4 while walking the Monopoly Board in London and wondered why everyone was taking photos next to a wall!
    There’s one more you should add to your next trip to England – Alnwick Castle. The castle was used to film some of the Hogwarts scenes: the broomstick flying lesson in the first film and the crashing of the flying car in the second.

      Alnwick Castle is definitely on my list! I’d also really like to ride the Jacobite Steam Train through Scotland at some point. Not only would the HP geek in me rejoice, but it seems like a great way to see some of Scotland’s stunning scenery!

    I am a *bit* of a Harry Potter fan too 🙂 This post brought vivid memories of HP… Such a pleasure to read and look at the pics! Thanks, Amanda! Look forward to seeing more sites from your next visit to the UK.

      Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to visit a couple more when I’m back in Scotland next month!

    I would love to visit the Oxford Library one day!

      The Bodleian Library is absolutely MASSIVE. Seriously, it takes up like 40 buildings or something. I really wanted to go inside the Radcliffe Camera, though (the round library building). Maybe next time…

    I love that you scouted out all of the HP spots! I went on the Gossip Girl in New York this past weekend, and it was actually pretty fun to see where everything was filmed! Great pics. 😉

      It’s always fun to see the “real” places where your favorite movies or TV shows were filmed!

    Wow, I love that dining hall. Also, when will we be getting our owls? I’m pretty sure they are long overdue.

      Oh what I wouldn’t give to get an owl from Hogwarts!!

    I know I’m late in the game, but I just started reading the books on our latest trip to E. Europe. Lol, I breezed through like 4 in a matter of weeks. Haha. Now I’m hooked. Would love to visit Oxford Library.. great post!

    My jealousy over this post is outstanding. I am a huge HP lover and just visiting the HP world at Universal Studios was amazing. I couldn’t even imagine seeing some of the things you did. So very jealous.

      Well I’M just as jealous! I haven’t been to HP world at Universal yet, though I’d love to go!

      You’ll definitely have to get yourself to the UK someday, though!

    This is a great list that I’ve done most of, makes me proud 🙂 Next time you’re in Edinburgh though, don’t forget to check out Greyfriar’s Cemetery/Kirk! If you search long enough, you will see some gravestones that inspired Rowling while she was naming some important characters, such as McGonagall, etc… Plus, it’s creepy as hell and worth a visit on its own!

    And, if you get the chance, definitely go inside Elephant House! The food is great and she apparently sat in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle, which inspired Hogwarts. (The nerd in me was ecstatic when our waiter led us to our table in probably the exact spot she herself sat at.) And, in the girls’ bathroom, there is an HP shrine on the walls. And you can join Dumbledore’s Army…

      On my second trip to Edinburgh around New Year’s, I did both of those thing! Wandered around Greyfriar’s (definitely creepy, yet cool!), and has coffee and a pastry at the Elephant House.

    Seeing these places would be my main reason to go to the UK 🙂

    Great post – combining my two obsessions, Travel and HP 🙂

    You missed out Durham! You should have checked out Durham Cathedral on your way up to Scotland 🙂

    Andy

    […] about a Lord of the Rings tour of New Zealand, after all, and in the past I’ve written about Harry Potter locations in the UK and about how a book (“The Historian“) influenced my decision to visit Eastern Europe […]

    Haha. That’s awesome. Quite a bit of effort you’ve put in there! Loch Shiel looks gorgeous and I would love Christchurch College as my office.

    What a great list! I haven’t been to any of the locationas outside of London, but I’ve been to the Warner Bros Studio tour several times because I live in London as an American expat. Another fun thing to do is visit the studio during Christmas. I wrote about it on my blog ‘Sunny in London’ and also have a YouTube video showing the sites. The Great Hall decorated for Christmas is simply stunning!

      Ohhh going to the studio at Christmas sounds amazing! I’ve only been once, but I know I need to go back since they’ve added extra exhibits since I was there.

    Hi, the most obvious omission is the cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral, where many of the ‘corridor’ scenes were filmed.

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