Expecto Patronum… It’s been over 20 years since the release of the boy who lived and 12 years since he who must not be named was vanquished. Here at In 4 the Long Haul, House Hufflepuff is alive and well and her reluctant Ravenclaw significant other have visited numerous places around the world that inspired the great J K Rowling to pen her famous books, that went on to become global blockbuster films. So my keyboard might not exactly be a quill and I get the overground and not my nimbus to work (how I wish I worked at the Ministry of Magic) but this mere muggle hopefully has a few spells up her cape to inspire all HP fans everywhere. Going to these places (below) takes dedication (not to mention galleons) but if you do get to go, you will not be disappointed. Failing that, Watford’s Warner Bros’ studio tour or Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter are just as fantastical.
- On a delayed Manchester to King’s Cross train, Rowling came up with the idea of the boy who lived under the stairs. Take a trip to King’s Cross station, London, to visit the famous trolley on Platform 9 3/4. Here you can get your photo taken. No ticket is needed but there is often a queue. The shop, Platform 9 3/4, offers a professional photography service that operates Monday – Saturday 8am – 10pm and Sunday 9am – 9pm. The wall and Platform 9 3/4 sign without the trolley is also available from 6am – 8am and 10pm – 12pm for you to take your own photos.
- Hogwarts train!!! If you travel from Glasgow around 2 hours by car, you will arrive at Fort William. Board the train at the station to go to Glenfinnan, to see the viaduct that the Hogwarts Express uses to get to Hogwarts. To see the viaduct, get off at Glenfinnan and walk to the visitor centre, which is about a 10-minute walk down the hill. Be aware that the car park here gets super busy. To see the Jacobite train crossing the viaduct, it is best to visit the timetable (here) to catch a glimpse. Alternatively, you can board the Jacobite Steam Train that travels from Fort William to Mallaig along the West Highland Line. Be sure to book in advance, as it’s a popular experience. It opens in April for the season.
- Next up in Scotland is Glencoe, where in Torren Lochan in Clachaig Gully, the Prisoner of Azkaban crew built Hagrid’s hut. Although the hut was taken down, you can see deer roaming. No pumpkins though.
- While at Glenfinnan, visit Loch Shiel, Lochaber, which was used as a stand-in for the Great Lake in the Harry Potter films.
- Leadenhall Market, London, was used as Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in the muggle world is an optician in Bull’s Head Passage in Leadenhall Market.
- However, it is thought to be Gandy Street, Exeter that inspired the author’s vision of Diagon Alley. This picturesque little alley is in the centre of town and has some lovely bars and shops. No Flourish & Blotts sadly.
- Edinburgh, Scotland, plays a major factor in the HP world. Rowling started to pen the troubles of Harry Potter in this city, which boasts winding alleys and cobbled streets. She wrote the early chapters in various cafés around the city’s Old Town and frequented The Balmoral Hotel.
- Apparating to Wales, Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire is where the Deathly Hallows shell house was built. Though the pain of where Dobbie died is still raw, the wind-swept beach is beautiful to have a little picnic on.
- J K Rowling lived in Porto, Portugal for a few years and was inspired by the city in many ways. Livraria LelloBookshop was the inspiration behind Flourish and Blotts. Due to its connection with HP, the queue is commonly out the door, so buy tickets here (€5 + service charge). Go directly to the bookshop door and wait for your turn to enter. Simply present the voucher printed on digital (smartphone or tablet).
- The author also frequented the Majestic Café, where legend states she finished her first book at one of the tables.
- The house capes for Hogwarts were inspired by students at the University of Porto, who wear black uniforms and capes.
- Journey to the Fonte dos Leões and you will encounter a lion with wings. Could this have possibly been the inspiration for Gryffindor? Only the Rowling knows.
- Rowling may have named Slytherin house’s founder after António de Oliveira Salazar, who was Portugal’s prime minister from 1932 to 1968.
- Venture to Trinity College, Dublin to see what is thought to be the inspiration behind Hogwarts’ library. The Long Room is filled with 200,000 of the library’s oldest books and is one of the most impressive libraries in the world.
Checking out C & J