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In celebration of UNESCO’s World Book Day, whereby children dress up as their beloved literary characters, where better to explore than the wizarding world of Harry Potter, a firm favourite of children for over two decades.
Published in the June of 1997, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone took the literary scene by storm, capturing the hearts and minds of adults and children alike. The six subsequent books and later film franchise contributed even further to our love of ‘the boy who lived’ and the world in which he inhabited. The final book was published in 2007 and the final film released in 2011, but nearly a decade later, the enduring appeal of Rowling’s wizarding universe is still evident, possibly helped along by the recent spin-off film franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
See our 17 UK Harry Potter filming locations and literary connections below…
1. Ottery St. Mary, Devon
2. Lacock Abbey, Chippenham
3. Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester
4. Bodleian Library, Oxford
5. Lavenham, Suffolk
6. Hardwick Hall, Chesterfield
7. Malham Cove, Skipton
8. Goathland Station, Whitby
9. Durham Cathedral, durham
10. Alnwick Castle, Alnwick
11. Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh
12. The Elephant House, Edinburgh
13. Clachaig Gully, Glencoe
14. The Jacobite, Fort William
15. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Glenfinnan
16. Eilean na Moine, Loch Eilt
17. Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor
This charming East Devonshire town is just a short drive from the city of Exeter, where Rowling attended University during the 1980’s. Due to it’s location and the similarity in names, Ottery St Mary is thought to have been the inspiration behind Ottery St Catchpole, a village that is home to a number of wizarding families, namely the Weasleys, the Fawcetts,
the Lovegoods and the Diggorys. As Hermione recites from A History of Magic:
“The villages of Tinworth in Cornwall, Upper Flagley in Yorkshire and Ottery St Catchpole on the South Coast of England were notable homes to knots of wizarding families…” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows p.259)
This Thirteenth-Century Augustinian Abbey-turned-home is a popular location for filmmakers and is recognisable as the setting for many period dramas, from The Other Boleyn Girl to BBC’s Wolf Hall. It has appeared in a number of interior shots of Hogwarts within the earlier Harry Potter films, including the scenes with the Mirror of Erised, as well as Professors Snape and Quirrel’s classrooms. Lacock Abbey’s cloisters also feature in some scenes as Hogwarts’ corridors.
Built well over 900 years ago, the magnificent Cathedral is an interesting place to explore for the average muggle. However, for fans of the Harry Potter films it holds a lot more value as Gloucester Cathedral was used as a location for a number of key Hogwarts interior scenes. Remember the troll from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? He stormed along the North Cloisters as Harry and Ron hid in the Lavatorium. What about the scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when the three friends stumble upon the fateful words; “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened” written in blood on one of the corridor walls? This occurred on the Cathedral’s East wall at the end of the North Walk.
The world-famous library has played host to several television and film productions from X-Men: First Class to ITV’s Endeavour. Within the Harry Potter films, the Duke of Humphrey’s Library and the Divinity School were both used for shots within Hogwarts. The former featured as the school’s library, and can be recognised from the scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in which Harry sneaks into the Restricted Section. The Divinity School was used as the setting for the Hospital Wing, in which Harry wakes up after his dramatic confrontation with Lord Voldemort/Professor Quirrel.
(You are able to tour many parts of Oxford University, but it is worth booking ahead. You can find more information and tour schedules here.)
This picturesque medieval village has long been known for its quaint fifteenth century church and traditional timbered cottages, however in recent years it has grown in popularity due to featuring as Godric’s Hollow in the film production of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. The beautiful De Vere House on Water Street was used in a number of shots, with it’s doorway subsequently becoming the second most photographed in Britain. Other parts of the historical village were also filmed, with their appearance edited through CGI. Like Ottery St Catchpole, Godric’s Hollow is a popular wizarding settlement with many prominent wizarding families, such as the Dumbeldores, the Bagshotts and the Potters having resided there. Again, as Hermione recites from A History of Magic:
“Most celebrated of these half-magical dwelling places is, perhaps, Godric’s Hollow, the West Country village where the great wizard Godric Gryffindor was born, and where Bowman Wright, wizarding smith, forged the first Golden Snitch…” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows p.259)
The hall was built in the 1590’s by Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury, a powerful and formidable woman more commonly known as Bess of Hardwick. Hardwick Hall was an architectural marvel in its era due to the high amount of glass windows – glass being a luxury at the time. It was the high ratio of window to masonry that inspired the filmmakers to use the hall as the basis for Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2, due to the mysterious and threatening quality they have when the property is dark. In the final exterior shots, pitched roofs and spires are added to make the Manor seem even more menacing.
Reaching roughly 260ft high, the limestone cliff face of Malham Cove is an impressive site to behold. The rock formation is curved into a dramatic amphitheatre, and offers visitors fantastic views from its summit – a site covered in another curious form of rock formation called Limestone Pavements. The Limestone Pavements of Malham Cove should be recognisable to fans of the Harry Potter films. The fractured surface is the backdrop for one memorable scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1, in which Harry and Hermione, while setting up camp upon the fractured plateau, notice the symbol of the Deathly Hallows in Hermione’s copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
Goathland Railway Station serves the village of Goathland in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, with heritage steam and diesel engines running to the seaside resort of Whitby. Goathland Station may be recognisable to older generations due to featuring in the ITV television series Heartbeat, however, in more recent years it has become synonymous with Hogsmeade Station, the railway station serving Hogwarts and the village of Hogsmeade. The station is shown in the scenes of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in which the students disembark the Hogwarts Express, as well as Harry and Hagrid’s heart-warming goodbyes at the end.
Built in 1093, Durham Cathedral is a spectacular example of Romanesque architecture situated within Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cathedral was used for interior and exterior scenes of Hogwarts within the first and second films. The cloisters featuring within Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as well as the snow-covered quadrangle, as Harry releases his owl Hedwig into the outdoors, and in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in which Harry, Ron and Hermione are being taught by Professor McGonagall how to transfigure animals into water goblets.
The seat of the Percy family for 700 years, Alnwick Castle is a Norman fortress and stately home located in the Northumberland town of Alnwick. The magnificent structure has been used in a number of period dramas, including ITV’s Downton Abbey and BBC’s The Hollow Crown, as well as the first two Harry Potter films. The Outer Bailey will be recognisable from the memorable scene in which Madam Hooch teaches the students to fly broomsticks and where Harry later learns the rules of Quidditch from Oliver Wood in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The Castle now offers visitors the chance to take part in Broomstick lessons at this same spot.
Described as one of the most haunted graveyards in the world, Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard lays in the historic centre of the city, overlooking the ‘new’ town. Home to at least one resident poltergeist and connected to an equally haunted Covenanter’s Prison, it is not surprising that a gravestone in this incredibly eerie location may have been the inspiration behind the name of ‘You-Know-Who’. Many fans make the pilgrimage to the grave of Thomas Ridell as well as that of William McGonagall, a Nineteenth-Century poet and actor who is thought to be the inspiration behind the name of Professor McGonagall.
Just a short broomstick ride from Greyfriars Kirkyard is The Elephant House, a red-fronted tea and coffee shop that claims to be ‘the birthplace of Harry Potter’. While Rowling actually outlined the seven book series and began Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone while teaching English as a foreign language in Porto, Portugal, she did write a number of chapters of the books in The Elephant House’s cosy backroom, at a table overlooking the impressive Edinburgh Castle.
Glencoe is one of the most picturesque valleys in the Scottish Highlands, with dramatic mountains, ancient forests and majestic lochs; it is no wonder that it is a popular backdrop for filmmakers. Visitors will recognise the impressive landscape from James Bond’s Skyfall, as well as a number of the outdoor shots within some of the later Harry Potter films. The covered bridge was set on the hillside and used for a number of shots including the Pensieve scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, and the scenes outside Hagrid’s hut in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban were set part way down Clachaig Gully, overlooking Signal Rock Forest and the beautiful Torren Lochan.
Have you ever wanted to ride the Hogwarts Express? Well you can get as close as possible to the real thing by taking a trip on The Jacobite, a steam train operating along part of the West Highland Railway Line that featured as the illustrious Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films. Board the train at Fort William and take in the impressive views all the way to Mallaig, and while you might not here any calls of “Anything from the trolley?” you can instead treat yourself to an indulgent high tea or glass of champagne.
Built in 1901, the iconic structure was the first and longest mass concrete viaduct to have been built in England or Scotland. It has long been a popular photo-stop for visitors to the area thanks to the beautiful surrounds and the nearby Loch Shiel (another minor location in the Harry Potter franchise). Fans of the films will recognise Glenfinnan Aqueduct from both Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, more specifically from a certain scene including two young wizards, a flying blue Ford Anglia and a fast-moving steam train.
The island of Eilean na Moine sits just off the shore of the evocative Loch Eilt in the Scottish Highlands. Visible from the West Highland Railway line, the loch is a short drive from the village of Glenfinnan. Loch Eilt was used for a number of shots of the grounds of Hogwarts – more specifically The Black Lake – throughout the earlier films, as well as Eilean na Moine featuring in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 as the location of Albus Dumbledore’s grave.
Our Harry Potter-themed tour concludes at the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most fantastic natural masterpieces on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. The rugged cliffs are located in County Clare and stretch along the coast for 8 miles, attracting visitors throughout the year. The cliffs are featured within Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, as Harry and Dumbledore apparate to a rocky cliff-backed outcrop in the sea before entering the cave hiding one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.
Images courtesy of: Derek Harper, Greenshed, Diliff, Nigel Swales, Rob, AdamKR, Dave Haygarth, Glen Bowman, Carcharoth (Commons), Richard Croft, Taylorjus, Kyle Taylor, Nigel Corby, Christoph Strässler, Ieva Haa, John Allan, cosmo_71.
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