If you’re bemoaning the end of the Harry Potter movie franchise, cheer up; there are other ways of experiencing J. K. Rowling’s world of wizards and witches.
Besides the upcoming virtual experience at Pottermore, muggles can plan upcoming vacations around these Harry Potter sites.
Even if you’re not a huge Potter fan, the anglophile in you will appreciate these detours to the English countryside.
Situated in the Southwest of England, the village of Lacock has been used as a film set for many period productions; including the well-loved 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Enthralled by the scenes of train journeys to Hogwarts? Opt to travel from Kings Cross station in London to Edinburgh for one of the most picturesque journeys across the United Kingdom.
Make your trip to the UK even more spellbinding by adding these five Harry Potter destinations to your itinerary:
Christ Church College, Oxford. Image: Corbis
1. Oxford University
In the films: Harry’s classrooms
Be it cosy dormitory get-togethers or just sneaking around after curfew, boarding school has never looked so appealing. The Hogwarts school experience has enchanted many readers and moviegoers and is one of the main draws of the series.
Most of the Harry Potter school scenes were shot at Christ Church college, one of the largest colleges in Oxford. A replica of its main hall has served as the Hogwarts hall in the films, the site where students dined and gathered. The Hogwarts Library scenes were shot at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the oldest research centre at the university.
All architecture styles – from the medieval, the high Victorian Gothic to the modern glass facades of the newest buildings – can be found on the school grounds of the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
Amidst the stunning architecture of Oxford, the die-hard Potter fan can play pretend at being a student of Hogwarts. Robe, broom and wand are optional, unless you’re perfectly fine with those stares and raised eyebrows.
Old Bank Hotel. Image: Hotels.com
Go to www.chch.ox.ac.uk and www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/bodley for more visitor information on the college and the library. If you’re keen on exploring more of the Oxford grounds, stay at the Old Bank Hotel – Oxford. The centrally-located boutique hotel is surrounded by the university colleges. Rooms start from S$390* per night on Hotels.com.
2. Gloucester Cathedral, UK
In the films: The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Fan vaulted cloisters at the Gloucester Cathedral. Image: Corbis
Make a trip to this part of Southwest England: This cathedral is definitely worth the visit for its brilliant architecture and Potter fans will recognise these beautifully vaulted corridors as the Hogwarts walkways of the first, second and sixth films.
Visitors will be captivated by the medieval stained glass windows and the vaulted corridors; as you walk along these corridors, it’s not that difficult to imagine trawling these as a student of Hogwarts.
Holiday Inn Gloucester-Cheltenham. Images: Hotels.com
Visit www.gloucestercathedral.org.uk to find out more about the cathedral. While in Gloucester, travellers could opt to stay at the Holiday Inn Gloucester-Cheltenham. The hotel is situated close to Kingsholm Stadium, City Museum and the Gloucester Cathedral. Rooms start from S$175* per night on Hotels.com.
3. The village of Lacock
In the films: Harry’s outdoor school classes
Still can’t get enough of Hogwarts? Go forth to the village of Lacock to seek a quaint pastoral setting; with a history of over seven centuries, this National Trust-protected village has served as the backdrop of many period productions.
The outdoor Hogwarts classes were shot among Lacock’s 16th-century cottages and tranquil streets; the interiors of Lacock Abbey was also used as one of Harry’s classrooms.
You’ll find a cauldron in the nunnery’s warming room, so go trigger-happy with that camera and pretend that you’re sitting in for a Potions class.
Or just breathe in that “rustic” air and make believe that you’re right in the heart of the wizarding village of Hogsmeade.
Bowood Hotel & Spa. Images: Hotel.com
Go to the National Trust’s online section on Lacock Abbey for more visitor information. Take the time to unwind at the Bowood Hotel & Spa; besides the indoor pool and spa facilities, the hotel is also equipped with a golf course and a health club. Rooms start from S$197* per night on Hotels.com.
Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and Parliament … Fans will remember seeing these notable landmarks during the airborne clash between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix.
London, Image: Corbis
There’s still nothing quite like seeing the actual sights for yourself; or perhaps the “broom’s eye” view of London, if you’re going to milk the Harry Potter experience for all it’s worth.
Make sure to stop over at the Westminster station when you’re on the Tube in London. The train station was used as the set for the Harry’s first visit to the Ministry of Magic. Fans will remember a striking red telephone box as the secret entrance to the Ministry; unfortunately, the box was removed after filming.
Even if you can’t find the red telephone box at Westminster, Singapore fans needn’t fret. As bizarre as it sounds, yes, there’s really one of these at “home”: Pose with an almost exact replica in our very own Jurong Bird Park.
Central Park Hotel. Images: Hotels.com
Go to the official Visit London website for more information on recommended sights and other visitor information. Consider staying at the well-located Central Park Hotel. Situated in central London, the hotel is within walking distance from popular tourist sites: the Portobello Market, Hyde Park, the Kensington Gardens and more. Rooms start from S$78* per night on Hotels.com.
Board a train travelling from London to Edinburgh; this is probably the best real-life equivalent of boarding the Hogwarts Express. Choose to take the four and a half hour trip from King’s Cross station or opt for Scotrail’s Caledonian Sleeper for that oh-so-romantic overnight journey.
View of Edinburgh from the Dugald Stewart Monument. Image: Corbis
While J K. Rowling began writing Harry Potter on a train from Manchester to the King’s Cross, the bulk of the series was written in Edinburgh.
It’s easy to see why. In this city where history and the contemporary meet, there is plenty to do and much to see. The spectacular castles and natural sights at the Lothians provide that countryside getaway while the city centre’s cosmopolitan bustle is easily within reach.
Do make a visit to The Elephant House while you’re in the city; Rowling worked on the books in its backroom, with Edinburgh Castle in view. Who knows, you might be inspired to start a novel of your own.
Fraser Suites Edinburgh. Images: Hotels.com
Find out more about the city by visiting www.edinburgh.org. Go to www.nationalrail.co.uk for information on train schedules and fare prices or read up more on travelling by train on the informative The Man in Seat Sixty-One website. After the long train journey, stay at the Fraser Suites Edinburgh. This boutique hotel is conveniently located in the midst of several sightseeing attractions, restaurants and pubs. Rooms start from S$171* per night on Hotels.com.
The five tourist destinations and hotels listed in this article have been suggested by Hotels.com. Room rates are subject to change; visit www.hotels.com to find out more on prices and room availability.