Last Updated on 13th April 2021 by Sophie Nadeau
From a rugged castle in Northumberland to the historic city of Exeter to the graveyards of Scotland’s Capital, Edinburgh, there’s no shortage of wizarding locations and inspiration throughout England and Scotland. Here’s an ultimate bucket list and your complete Harry Potter UK travel guide for muggles!
Sometimes I wish that I could just apparate myself around the world. You know? It would be so convenient, save so much time and a lot of money in the form of air travel! Unfortunately, I was born a muggle and am still waiting for that acceptance letter to arrive! 11 years and counting to be precise. If you’re in the same boat as me (i.e. not in the boat taking you to the First Year’s feast), then Alohomora away because today I’m unlocking some of the best travel destinations for Harry Potter lovers around the UK!
Do you want to taste some tea in the coffee shop where JK Rowling wrote the first few chapters of Harry Potter? Have you ever wanted to wander the streets which inspired streets in the series? Or do you fancy splurging and spending a night staying in the very suite where the wizarding series was completed?
Well, you can do all this and more in Edinburgh. Wizarding highlights of this UNESCO designated literary city include a venture into the writer’s museum as well as a wander through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (an ancient cemetery where Rowling most certainly found plenty of inspiration for the names in the magical series).
Read more: Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh
Oxford, AKA the City of Dreaming Spires, is home to one of the most historic universities in the world, as well as plenty of stunning architecture and several of the oldest museums in Europe. If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, then you may well recognise a fair few of the locations around the city as being the backdrop of many of the films.
Some of the very best Harry Potter inspired locations in Oxford include Christ Church College (the Dining Hall there even inspired the Hogwarts Great Hall) and the Divinity School of the Bodleian Library. And, if you’ve not yet read the books, then you simply need to head to Blackwell’s Bookshop where you’ll find the largest single room selling books in the world!
Read more: Harry Potter filming locations in Oxford
It’s little-known that JK Rowling attended Exeter University where she studied Classics and French. During her time studying, she spent a year abroad in the French Capital of Paris. (If you’re interested, then here’s a complete guide to finding Harry Potter inspiration in Paris)
During her time at Exeter, it’s almost certain that JK Rowling was inspired by the historic Devonian capital. So much so that many of the names and places probably inspired locations in the series. For example, the tiny shopping street of Gandy Street may well have inspired Diagon Alley. Today, No. 15 Gandy Street is even home to a magically themed bar by the name of ‘Cauldron Inn’.
Elsewhere in the city, the Vaults may well have led to the creation of Gringotts Wizarding Bank, while the beautiful door of 10 Cathedral Close is likely the source of the intricate and detailed carvings on the door of the Room of Requirement. If you’re hungry while seeking our Harry Potter destinations, then head to the Firehouse, a pub which may well have inspired the Leakey Cauldron in the series!
Read more: Harry Potter inspired destinations in Exeter
For plenty of Harry Potter filming locations, as well as a glimpse into the magical wizarding world in the form of the studios and even a few shops, you must visit the UK capital of London. From London, it’s easy to take day trips to Oxford (an hour away via train), as well as to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour (less than an hour via train).
Some of the best wizarding things to do in London include a visit to Leadenhall Market (the Leakey Cauldron in the films) and Millennium Bridge (Brockdale Bridge in the films). If you choose just one destination in this Harry Potter UK travel guide to visit, then I recommend a trip to London.
East Devon, England
Many of the names mentioned in the Harry Potter series actually find their roots in East Devon, a beautiful area of England which is easily accessible from Exeter. For example, it’s thought that the quaint Devonian town of Ottery St Mary inspired the hometown of the Weasley family, Ottery St Catchpole in the books.
The market town of Chudleigh may well have inspired the Quidditch Team of the Chudley Cannons, while the seaside resort destination of Budleigh Salterton may well have been the inspiration for the name ‘Budleigh Babberton’ (former hometown of Horace Slughorn).
Lacock & Lacock Abbey, South West England
Located in the beautiful county of Wiltshire and not far from the city of Bath, the village of Lacock is a perfectly preserved medieval settlement characterised by its timber-framed cottages and stone structures. But what makes Lacock perhaps so special and unique (not to mention its position in the fringes of the Cotswolds) is the lack of TV masts and satellite dishes dotted across the village.
Largely owned and operated by the National Trust, today the picturesque English Lacock has become a go-to for many a film crew, including Downton Abbey and Wolf Hall. Of course, Lacock and its nearby Abbey have also been used to film many scenes of Harry Potter, including the village where Slughorn hides away in the 6th books and some of the Hogwarts classrooms of the first and second novels.
Read more: Harry Potter filming locations in Lacock
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England
If you enjoy your filming locations served with a side of history, then a visit to the historic Alnwick Castle may well be in order. Located in Northumberland, an English region well-known for its piece of Hadrian’s Wall, as well as the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets were both filmed at the 11th-century Castle.
Of all the Harry Potter UK destinations, Alnwick Castle is certainly one for the culture lovers! Even if you’re short on time during your Scotland trip, you should know that it’s perfectly possible to visit the Scottish Borders and Harry Potter filming location as a day trip from Edinburgh. Book your Alnwick Castle & Scottish Borders Full-Day Tour from Edinburgh here.
Hop on the Jacobite Steam Train
Of all the magical Harry Potter experiences to have in the UK, one of the best is that of getting on the Jacobite Steam Train in Scotland, which is the train that’s used as the ‘Hogwarts Express’ in the films. The most iconic photo you can take of this train is on the Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct ij Scotland.
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