Call yourself a Potterhead? A driving tour around the UK to some of the blockbuster movie series’ most iconic filming locations should definitely be on your bucket list. From centuries-old castles to prestigious university campuses, you’ll find various enchanting destinations across England and Scotland where Harry, Hermione and Ron got up to mischief and helped save the wizarding world.
If you’ve rented your hire car from London or one of its major airports, tick off the following magical locations in chronological order on an exciting Harry Potter themed road trip.
Oxford University, Oxford
Oxford should be on your UK road trip itinerary – regardless of whether you’re hunting for Harry Potter themed destinations. Its most famous attraction has to be Oxford University which was used as a backdrop multiple times in the films. Able to be visited for a small fee, the New College cloisters were featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as the corridors of Hogwarts; in particular the scenes where Harry’s classmates wear the ‘Potter Stinks’ badges.
If you have time, pop into the Christ Church dining hall that’s said to have inspired the design of the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Oxford University’s medieval Divinity School is also the filming location of the Hogwarts Infirmary and where the students are taught to dance by Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Good to know: Oxford is under two hours by road from London along the M40, a trip that covers around 56 miles (90km).
Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester
Another major Hogwarts backdrop is found in the very heart of Gloucester in south west England. The city’s Gothic cathedral dates back over a thousand years and is home to stunning fan vault cloisters which were heavily featured in at least three of the Harry Potter films.
The south side of the cloisters stood in as the Gryffindor common room, while the west end wall is where you’ll find the door to the common room that’s guarded by the portrait of the Fat Lady on screen. The same wall is also where the message warning the students that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened is written in the second film.
Gloucester Cathedral’s magnificent corridors and walkways additionally stood in as various Hogwarts hallways in all the Harry Potter films. Visits to the beautiful building are free, although donations are welcomed.
Good to know: Gloucester is around 45 miles (72km) from Oxford, a journey that’ll take you an hour by road.
Malham Cove, North Yorkshire
Despite the name of this location, it’s actually nowhere near the sea! In fact, Malham Cove is an impressive limestone rock formation resembling a natural amphitheatre that’s located on the southern fringes of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Once part of a huge waterfall, it’s now popular with hikers and is quite a steep climb – there’s over 400 steps to reach its summit!
You’ll recognise Malham Cove as the spot where Harry and Hermione camp during their search for the horcruxes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. To reach it, park up in pretty Malham village and follow the walking trail signs north.
Good to know: Driving time from Gloucester to Malham is just under four hours (around 190 miles or 300km).
Goathland Train Station, North Yorkshire
Want to stand at the spot where Harry alighted the Hogwarts Express for the very first time? You’ll need to drive east from Malham Cove to Goathland. The rail station here has served the local area since 1865 and stands in for Hogsmeade station in the first Harry Potter film.
Goathland Train Station is actually still a working station, although its trains are only scheduled to run between April and November. When there are no services, you can still view the old-fashioned platforms and station house or even enjoy a cream tea in its pretty tearoom. If you’d like to take the train to either Pickering or the picturesque seaside town of Whitby for a day trip, trains tend to leave once an hour and cost between £16 and £20 for an adult return ticket.
Good to know: Driving time from Malham Cove is around two hours and twenty minutes, covering just over 90 miles (145km).
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
As well as being one of the largest continuously inhabited castles in England, Alnwick Castle on the edge of the market town of Alnwick is also a major Harry Potter filming location. Unsurprisingly, its grand façade serves as the exterior of Hogwarts and is best seen in the broomstick lesson scenes from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The 11th century stronghold has also been used as a location for various other silver screen hits, from Downton Abbey to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Once the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland, it’s currently a National Trust site and open to visitors throughout the year. Tickets cost £16.75 for adults and £8.85 for kids, and visitors can even take part in Harry Potter themed activities – including Broomstick Training! You’ll also find a carpark onsite which costs £3 to use. Note that Alnwick Castle is currently closed for renovations until March 2020.
Good to know: If you’re driving up from Goathland, you’ll journey 110 miles (177km) in around two and a half hours.
Glencoe, Scottish Highlands
Next up, you’ll be crossing over into Scotland and driving to gorgeous Glencoe in the West Scottish Highlands. This stunning valley that’s surrounded by jagged mountains was the backdrop of numerous scenes set in the grounds of Hogwarts.
Hagrid’s hut and pumpkin patch were built specially for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at Clachaig Gully, as was the covered bridge leading to Hogwarts. Sadly, neither set was permanent, but you can still soak up the glorious scenery on a hike. Park your hire car at the Clachaig Inn, cross the road and then follow the road left for 400m before turning off on to a dirt track. It’s then just a short walk to the famous filming spot.
Good to know: Glencoe is a four hour drive along the A1 from Alnwick Castle, covering around 200 miles (322km). Why not stop over in Edinburgh on the way and enjoy a cup of tea at The Elephant House café on George IV Bridge where JK Rowling supposedly wrote some of the Harry Potter books?
Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scottish Highlands
The final stop on our Harry Potter adventure is perhaps one of the most iconic filming locations outside of London. You’ll likely recognise the Glenfinnan Viaduct as the bridge the Hogwarts Express crosses en route to Hogsmeade. Built in the late 1800s, it’s one of the finest examples of Scottish Victorian engineering and overlooks both Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument.
You can either follow in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione by taking the Jacobite steam train (only operates in summer) over the viaduct from Fort William to Glenfinnan or drive right up to it. There’s a carpark next to the Glenfinnan Viaduct and you can then follow the path up to the viewpoint for great vistas of the entire structure and surrounding dramatic countryside.
Good to know: From Glencoe, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is 35 miles (56km) away and the scenic drive takes around an hour.
If you’re searching for other road trip ideas around the UK, why not check out our guides to driving coast to coast in Wales or exploring the Lake District by car?