Are you a Harry Potter fan and a Europe travel aficionado? If so, we have a dream-come-true trip scenario for you. Imagine exploring the United Kingdom with Harry Potter as your focus. From dynamic London to scenic Lochaber, here are five not-to-miss spots on your Ultimate Harry Potter UK Pilgrimage.
King’s Cross Station in London
Once you and your fellow Potterheads find flights to London, you’ll want to kick off your wizarding journey at King’s Cross Station. Since becoming famous (thanks to J.K. Rowling’s books about a young wizard and the film franchise based on it), there’s now a permanent addition right between Platforms 9 and 10 – you guessed it, 9 3/4! And trust us, you probably won’t be the only aspiring wizard there taking a photo of yourself attempting to walk through the wall!
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University of Oxford
Only an hour away by train (with a change at Reading), Oxford University in Oxford is not only one of the most famous institutions of higher learning in the world, it also served as inspiration for many Harry Potter settings (scenes from some of the movies were actually filmed on campus). Take a stroll around the various colleges and see how many features you can all recognize together.
Head to Gloucester Cathedral’s cloisters to check out the corridor that leads to the Fat Lady and Gryffindor’s common room (you’ll also recognize it as the corridor where “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened” was written in blood on the walls). Christ Church College also figures prominently in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the grand stairway was used as the one that led up to Hogwarts, while the Tudor architecture of the dining hall served as the inspiration for Hogwarts’ Great Hall.
Durham Cathedral’s Cloisters in County Durham
In addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durham Cathedral (a 4-hour train ride from Oxford) has also served as the backdrop for Harry and friends’ Hogwarts adventures in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US). Durham Cathedral makes another appearance in the Chamber of Secrets sequel as the spot where Harry, Ron, and Hermione learn how to turn animals into water goblets.
The Elephant House in Edinburgh
Next, it’s time to head north to Scotland. From Durham, take a 2-hour train ride along the United Kingdom’s eastern coast to the beautiful Scottish city of Edinburgh. A 10-minute walk from the Edinburgh Waverley train station is the gourmet tea and coffee shop The Elephant House, which has served as a comfortable writing spot for many contemporary authors, including the inimitable J.K. Rowling. She wrote much of the first few Harry Potter books in the back room looking out on to the city’s famous castle. Stop in, grab some tea and sweets, and see if inspiration hits!
Jacobite Steam Train in Lochaber, Scotland
Once you’re ready to leave Edinburgh, you’ll have one more stop to make on your tour. The Jacobite Steam Train is impressive in its own right, but it’s even more glorious when you find out that it’s the train that Harry, Hermoine, and Ron rode to Hogwarts in the movies! You too can take a ride on this national treasure while sipping tea and enjoying the picturesque 84-mile round trip through the Scottish countryside. To catch the train from its departure point at Fort William is roughly 3 1/2 hours by car (or 4 1/2 hours by train and bus) from Edinburgh. Round trip fares can run from £35 to £121.
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Know of any more hot spots that Harry Potter fans should check out in the UK? Tell us about it in the comments below!