When films do well, the places the scenes are shot at also gain a new set of followers comprising mainly fans.
Such is the case with Harry Potter movie locations that serve as pilgrimage sites for fans of the remarkable Warner Bros. film franchise. Moreover, with the Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts, celebrating 20 years of the release of the first film — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — the excitement among Potterheads is palpable.
Harry Potter movies were shot in the UK, and therefore, some of the best architectural masterpieces in England and Scotland were chosen as filming locations.
While the medieval designs of the colleges and cathedrals perfectly served as parts of the school of wizardry in the films, modern marvels, such as the Millennium Bridge, also made an appearance. Small train stations, such as the one at Goathland, as well as the major ones, like King’s Cross, played important roles in the franchise.
These places have become major attractions for Potterheads — the fans of the Harry Potter series are popularly known.
About Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts
Based on the book series of the same name by acclaimed British author J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter film franchise comprises eight movies released from 2001 to 2011.
The main characters — Harry Potter, Ronald “Ron” Weasley and Hermione Granger — were immortalised by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, respectively.
The films also left behind fond memories of a fantastical world of magic and unforgettable characters essayed by some of the world’s best actors and actresses. These include Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, the late Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon, Tom Felton, Maggie Smith, the late Helen McCrory and Robbie Coltrane.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts will feature interviews and conversations of the many cast members as they reunite for the special, which will premiere on HBO Max on 1 January 2022.
Until then, a round-up of some famous Harry Potter filming locations is the best way to reminisce about the movies.
King’s Cross Station
London’s King’s Cross Station is perhaps the most important of Harry Potter locations, as it plays a more personal role in the life of the boy wizard and his friends. After all, it was from Platform 9¾ that Harry, Ron and Hermione embarked on the incredible life-changing journey in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001).
Years later, it was at Platform 9¾, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), that the trio dropped off their children for the next generation to board the magical Hogwarts Express.
To reach the station, students have to pass through a wall between platforms 9 and 10. However, it is best to not try this in the real world, but Potterheads will find a wall marked Platform 9¾ of the station concourse.
Embedded in the wall is a luggage trolley with which fans can pose for photos to give their friends on Instagram the impression that they are heading off to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from Platform 9¾.
A Harry Potter shop at the station contains several unique souvenirs, such as Horcruxes, robes, and time tuners, to complete the wizarding experience.
The 19th-century station had fallen into disuse for decades since the end of World War II. At the turn of the 21st century, city planners came together to give the historic place a facelift. The most striking feature of the refurbished station is the Western Concourse, where a 20-metre-high and 52-metre-wide roof-like structure resembling a shell stands. The minimalist architectural masterpiece is made of steel, aluminium and glass.
One look at the station, and it is easy to guess why this place was a location for the Harry Potter franchise. Built in the 1860s, Goathland train station is part of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and looks right out of a fairytale (or Rowling’s universe).
Its 19th-century architecture has changed very little over the years. The stones of the building, thus, carry the distinctive Victorian-era appearance. Steam engines pull the carriages on this route, which makes the journey an indescribably delightful experience, with the train passing through the verdant countryside.
Nearby is the picturesque Goathland village, especially known for the Wartime Weekend in October. The event is observed by locals who recreate a World War II setting by dressing up as soldiers, nurses, railwaymen and the like who helped in the war effort.
So how is Goathland Station important to Potterheads? This was depicted as Hogsmeade Station in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
One of the oldest architectural marvels that served as Harry Potter filming locations, the history of Gloucester Cathedral goes back to the seventh century. The cathedral appeared as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Several parts of the cathedral, including its cloisters, which are covered walkways, were featured in the films — notably the first, second and sixth of the franchise.
The West Slype door at the end of the West Walk was the Gryffindor Door in Harry Potter movies. Another scene shows the Lavatorium where Harry and Ron Weasley hide from the terrifying troll.
It was here that Harry overheard Professor Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy talk about the Unbreakable Vow in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009). A wall by the Dark Entry bore the ominous warning that the Chamber of Secrets had been opened in Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets (2002).
Filmmakers had to make some temporary changes to the cathedral’s appearance to give it the look of a magical school instead of a modern-day church. These included covering modern electrical systems such as switchboards and the stained glass figures on the windows. Approximately 100 tombstones on the cloister floors were also covered.
The cathedral has a Gothic architectural design, with fan-vaulted ceilings over long corridors, making for an awe-inspiring sight. Its stained glass windows bear evidence that golf was played as a medieval sport. Among the famous names buried here is King Edward II.
The 12th-century Romanesque-style Durham Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like the cloisters of the Gloucester Cathedral, the one at Durham, too, was a setting for the young magicians’ training at Hogwarts.
The scene where Harry, Ron and Hermione walk The Chapter House and learn how to turn animals into water goblets at Professor McGonagall’s classroom was filmed here. But the Chapter House is off-limits to visitors because it is used by the staff for important services.
Scenes from Harry Potter filmed at the Cloister Garth, which is a green lawn in the middle of the cloister, include Harry releasing his owl Hedwig in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Ron vomiting slugs in the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
The cathedral is one of the oldest surviving buildings with a large-scale stone vaulted ceiling. Its historic significance is seen in its Norman architecture that is intact, even though it has been in continuous use for over 900 years. Next to the cathedral is the Durham Castle, which was built during the reign of William the Conqueror in 1072.
Alnwick Castle was one of the most important Harry Potter filming spots. Located in Northumberland, its parts were presented as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Potterheads would immediately recognise the Outer Bailey of the castle, as it was used as a backdrop for the scene where Harry and his friends learn how to fly broomsticks with Madam Hooch (Zoe Wanamaker). This is also where our much-loved boy wizard learned the rules of the Quidditch world cup wizarding tournament.
Another iconic place of the castle is the Lion Arch. It stood as the gate of the school that led towards the Forbidden Forest and Hagrid’s hut.
Many other parts of the castle, such as the Inner Bailey and the courtyards, served as filming locations for scenes depicting the school, including the one where Ron crashes his father’s flying car.
The Norman period castle is the second-largest inhabited castle in the UK and has been in the possession of the Percy family of the Dukedom of Northumberland since 1309.
Christ Church College
For fans who remember the grand Hogwarts Hall from Harry Potter films, the Tudor Great Dining Hall of the Christ Church College of the University of Oxford is a must-visit site. The makers of the film recreated it in the studios.
The 16th-century staircase here was where Professor McGonagall greets Harry, Ron, Hermione and the others. The scene from the first film where Hermione shows Harry the Quidditch trophy won by his father was filmed in the hallways of Christ Church.
One of the world’s most prestigious colleges, Christ Church, is known for its several architecturally remarkable buildings, many of which are Grade I listed. These include the Christ Church Cathedral and Tom Quad — the largest college quadrangle in Oxford. Its bell tower was constructed in 1682 by alumnus Sir Christopher Wren.
There is also the Georgian-era Christ Church library building which faces Peckwater Quadrangle. The building which stands today was completed in 1772 and attracted aristocratic students to Christ Church.
Besides the Harry Potter films, the village of Lacock in Wiltshire has served as the setting of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), a film that is part of the prequel to the original 10 films. Having been used as filming location for Potter movies multiple times, the village has come to be known as Harry Potter village.
The Lacock Abbey was also depicted as a part of the Hogwarts school. The abbey is a country house once owned by photographic negative inventor William Henry Fox Talbot. The abbey’s Warming Room served as Professor Snape’s class where he taught potions.
Lacock looks like the postcard-perfect English villages of a bygone era. At the southern end of the picturesque Cotswolds, Lacock boasts traditional stone cottages for which the region is renowned. Though the village was inhabited around the 11th century, most of its standing buildings date back to the 18th century.
The Leadenhall Market, a Victorian marketplace, stands as one of the major Harry Potter filming locations. In 1881, it was given its glass-roofed building design, and the entrance was widened with the support of Dutch-style houses on each side in a Queen Anne Revival style. The market centre is octagonal and has a dome at the top.
Located at the heart of London, the market draws everyone from locals to tourists to its quaint shops, restaurants, bars and boutiques. Everything, from the roofs to the stone pediments bearing heraldry, such as dragons and shields, has been well preserved.
Originally created in 1321, Leadenhall Market celebrated its 700th anniversary in 2021.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the market inspired the creation of Diagon Alley. In the film, Harry and Hagrid enter the Leaky Cauldron wizarding pub from the Leadenhall Market.
De Vere House
The building depicted as Harry’s birthplace in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One (2010) was filmed at the De Vere House in Lavenham, Suffolk. It was also the house where Lord Voldemort killed Harry’s parents.
Lavenham, known for over 300 protected heritage buildings and considered the best-preserved medieval village in England, was depicted as Godric’s Hollow in the Harry Potter films.
The De Vere House, built in the 14th century, can be rented on Airbnb. It boasts a colourful exterior and an even more vibrantly decorated interior. The furnishings, including a four-poster bed, remind of an old English home depicted in children’s books, which is apt for its Harry Potter connection.
Millennium Bridge was one of the few modern-day architectural structures to feature in the Harry Potter films. Though it appeared briefly, the bridge is intricately connected to the franchise. Opting for a Harry Potter walking tour of London is a great way to explore the connection of the bridge to the films.
In the opening scene of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the Death Eaters — Lord Voldemort’s minions — attack the world of muggles, or humans without magical powers, in London. In doing so, they destroy the bridge, which collapses into the River Thames below.
The Millennium Bridge is a footbridge that opened in 2000. It connects St Paul’s Cathedral with Tate Modern and is one place frequented by those who want to take panoramic photos of the London skyline. The steel suspension bridge earned the infamous nickname “wobbly bridge” because of a structural problem that made it sway. Though the tremor was fixed soon, the nickname stuck.
Of all Harry Potter filming locations, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is perhaps unique because it effortlessly combines nature with an architectural triumph of humans.
The viaduct was constructed in the 1890s and was the first British structure to be built from mass concrete. The single-track viaduct is about 380 metres long with 21 arches and is approximately 30 metres high.
It is located in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands — one of the most beautiful places in the UK. The trains pass over the slightly curved viaduct which is situated at the head of the Loch Shiel — a lake.
While regular trains provide service for the rest of the year, summers make viaduct a favourite of tourists. During this time of the year, the Jacobite steam train pulls the carriages through the Glenfinnan Station from Fort William to Mallaig.
The view of the lush mountainous greenery of the Highland, the Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument from the railway viaduct, as the train passes over it, is truly mesmerising.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct was featured in several Harry Potter films. It was most notably shown in the scene from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as a line on which the Hogwarts Express was travelling, with Harry and Ron following it in their flying car.
It was also shown in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Dementors hijack the train. Its famed appearances in the Harry Potter films gave the bridge the nickname, Harry Potter Bridge.
(Main and Featured images: Elizabeth Jamieson/@diywm/Unsplash)