When the magical world of Harry Potter was brought to life on film, much of the success of the films, based on the bestselling novels by J. K. Rowling, was due to the fact that the locations seemed so familiar.
Although computer graphics and special effects played a large role in the films and much of the filming was done at Leavesden Film Studios, the external locations are very real.
Some of the most iconic British landmarks and scenery were the settings for the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione in their quest to battle the forces of the Dark Lord and the Deatheaters.
From the chalk cliffs of East Sussex to the Scottish Highlands, the trail of Harry Potter filming locations runs the length of Britain.
So if you want to escape the mundane muggle world and enter the magical world of Harry Potter, here is the full list of Harry Potter filming locations you can visit around the country (broomstick not required).
Warner Bros Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour
This fascinating behind-the-scenes tour at the Warner Bros Studio displays the sets, costumes and props used in the films.
Kings Cross Station, London
No true Harry Potter fan can miss a visit to the famous station where Harry first began his adventure.
Head over to the west concourse. There you’ll find a plaque and a baggage trolley embedded in the wall between platforms 9 and 10. Don’t miss out on a perfect photo opportunity, complete with Gryffindor scarf. There is also a Platform 9 ¾ gift shop where you can buy exclusive Harry Potter merchandise.
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London
Although Platform 9 ¾ can be found at King’s Cross Station. The station’s entrance featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is actually the stunning exterior of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, a 5-minute walk away.
Leadenhall Market, London
The cobbled streets, quirky shops and gothic architecture of this beautiful London market is so atmospheric, you could almost believe you’re in Diagon Alley. Well, you are! The market was used as the setting for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Turning into Bull’s Head Passage, you’ll see the blue painted door of an optician’s shop. This was used as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Millennium Bridge, London
When the bridge first opened in 2000, it had to be adjusted because it wobbled disconcertingly. But that was nothing compared to its dramatic collapse into the River Thames after a Deatheater attack at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
The Reptile House at London Zoo is the very same one where Harry spoke parseltongue with a Burmese python. You won’t see Dudley Dursley in the glass tank though. The enclosure is actually the home of a Black Mamba.
Other London locations used in the films were:
- Australia House – Gringott’s Bank
- Cecil Court, just off Charing Cross Road – entrance to the Leaky Cauldron
- Great Scotland Yard – entrance to the Ministry of Magic
- Claremont Square – Grimmauld Place
Why build a film set when you have at your disposal, historic, authentic and stunning villages that are seemingly untouched by time?
The beautiful, medieval Suffolk village of Lavenham looks like time stood still. The quaint, rustic higgledy-piggledy houses were the perfect setting for Godric’s Hollow, home to Lily and James Potter. It was also where baby Harry was struck by Voldemort to become ‘the boy that lived’.
The village features in the last film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
Virginia Water, Surrey
When you think of Hogwarts’ Lake, an isolated loch in the remote Scottish Highlands comes to mind. Yet, ironically, the lake featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where Harry soars across on the back of the Hippogriff, is at Virginia Water in Surrey only a few miles away from Heathrow Airport. In fact, the first landscape scenes of Hogwarts’ Lake were filmed up in Scotland at Loch Arkaig. But the biting midges were such a nuisance that the scenes involving actors were made at Virginia Water instead.
Ashridge Woods, Newbury
Situated on the Ashridge Estate between Didcot and Newbury, Ashridge Woods is a woodland paradise with tree walks, carpeted with bluebells and other wildflowers. But this peace was shattered when it was used as the setting for the Quidditch World Cup in The Goblet of Fire.
Ashridge Estate was also home to the infamous ‘Whomping Willow’. Sadly, due to the strain of its own weight and age, the ancient tree collapsed in 2014.
Swinley Forest, Bracknell
This forest in South East England was used to film chasing scenes in The Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2. In Part 1, Harry, Ron and Hermione are chased through the forest before being captured by Deatheaters. Neville is also chased through the forest in Part 2.
Seven Sisters Country Park, Eastbourne
The dramatic white cliffs of the Seven Sisters Country Park at Exceat on the South Coast of England featured in The Goblet of Fire. It’s here that Harry climbs the hill to find the boot that will transport him to the Quidditch World Cup.
Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire
Nestled in the heart of Wiltshire between Salisbury and Bath, you’ll find the charming and historic village of Lacock.
Almost entirely owned by the National Trust, the historic appearance of Lacock has been beautifully preserved, and care has been taken to hide any signs of modernity such as overhead wires. No wonder then, that Lacock has been the setting for many period dramas including Pride and Prejudice and, more recently, Downton Abbey.
The village is also home to the magnificent 13th century Lacock Abbey. The interior of the abbey was featured in various scenes in the first two Harry Potter films.
In the first film, Harry was chosen to play Quidditch in the halls of the abbey. The abbey’s interior was also used for Professor Snape’s potions class and the Mirror of Erised scenes.
In The Chamber of Secrets when leaving Professor Lockhart’s room after detention, Harry hears the Basilisk in the cloisters of the Abbey.
The cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral will be very familiar to Harry Potter fans. They were used as the corridors of Hogwarts in several interior scenes including:
- The hallway where Harry and Ron, searching for Hermione, spot a 20ft troll in The Philosopher’s Stone
- The ‘fat lady’ scenes in the first movie
- The writing on the wall and the flooded corridor in The Chamber of Secrets.
Oxford is not only famous as an elite centre of academic excellence, but also for the magnificent architecture of its scholarly buildings.
The stone staircase of Christ Church College featured in The Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry, Hermione, Ron and the other new students enter Hogwarts for the first time.
Hogwarts’ Library, frequented by studious Hermione, and the restricted section where Harry sneaks in wearing the cloak of invisibility was actually Duke Humfrey’s Library in Oxford.
The Divinity School on the ground floor of Bodleian Library featured as Hogwarts’ infirmary in the first two films. Recognise the big window? It’s where Harry’s bed was positioned when he woke up in the infirmary at the end of The Philosopher’s Stone.
The cloisters of New College are where Mad-Eyed Moody turned Draco Malfoy into a ferret in The Goblet of Fire.
The poignant scene in The Philosopher’s Stone, where Harry walks with his white owl, Hedwig, through the snowy cloister courtyard, was filmed at Durham Cathedral.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
If you’re looking for the real-life Hogwarts, then head to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. The spectacular castle grounds were used for external scenes at the school of witchcraft and wizardry.
The outer bailey is where Harry and his companions learn to fly their broomsticks under the tuition of Madame Hooch in The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s here that poor Neville Longbottom gets thrown about by his broom, before being left to hang from one of the towers.
The inner bailey is where Ron and Harry crash-land the flying car at the beginning of The Chamber of Secrets.
The imposing lion arch was used as the gateway that led out of Hogwarts to Hagrid’s hut and the Forbidden Forest.
Goathland Train Station, North Yorkshire
The small Yorkshire village of Goathland is famous as the setting for the popular police soap drama, Heartbeat.
The station here also featured as Hogsmeade Station in The Philosopher’s Stone. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs steam and vintage train services from Goathland to Pickering so you can experience a ride just like the Hogwarts Express.
Malham Cove, Yorkshire
The desolate, rugged, rocky landscape of this natural limestone cove in Yorkshire featured in The Deathly Hallows Part 1. It’s where Harry and Hermione set up camp while hiding from Voldemort.
Freshwater West Beach
This windy, isolated and spectacular beach in South Pembrokeshire was the setting for Shell Cottage, home of Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour, featured in both The Deathly Hallows films.
The tragic and emotional scene of Dobby the house elf’s death was filmed on the sand dunes here.
One of the most iconic scenes of all the Harry Potter films is the Hogwarts Express journey over the 21-arched viaduct to deliver the students to the school of witchcraft and wizardry.
It is, in actual fact, the Glenfinnan Viaduct that goes from Fort William to Glenfinnan. The 380-metre-long and the 31-metre-high viaduct was built in 1898.
In the films, the viaduct that overlooks Loch Shiel (also used as the Black Lake), acts as the bridge to Hogwarts. In The Prisoner of Azkaban, the train is halted here by the Dementors who subsequently torture Harry, before Professor Lupin saves him.
If you’ve ever wanted to take the journey yourself, you can – on the original Hogwarts Express!
The Jacobite Steam Train was used as the original Hogwarts Express in the films. Scottish West Coast Railways provides a service described as ‘the greatest railway journey in the world’. The 84-mile round trip starts at Fort William, passes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct and ends at the beautiful fishing village of Mallaig. As well as passing over the viaduct, you’ll be able to enjoy the spectacular coastline, Highlands and lochs of Western Scotland including Ben Nevis and Loch Nevis.
Possibly the most famous glen in Scotland, the wild and rugged Highland hillside of Glen Coe was the filming location of Hagrid’s Hut.
Glen Coe, meaning ‘The Glen of Tears’, was also the main setting for many exterior scenes in The Prisoner of Azkaban, including the brilliant scene when Hermione punches Draco Malfoy in the face!
This spectacular waterfall at the foot of Ben Nevis was where Harry’s battle with a Hungarian Horntailed dragon during the Triwizard Tournament in The Goblet of Fire was filmed.
It was also used as a backdrop for some Quidditch match scenes.
A rather apt and poignant place to finish up your discovery of Harry Potter filming locations is Loch Eilt in North West Scotland.
It’s here that Hagrid skimmed stones across the water in The Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s also where Voldemort stole the elder wand in The Deathly Hallows Part 1.
More significantly, it is the final resting place of Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
Loch Eilt featured as the island location of Dumbledore’s grave in The Deathly Hallows Part 1.
No self-respecting Harry Potter fan can visit Edinburgh without popping into the place where it all began.
The Elephant House coffee shop is located on Marshall Street in the heart of historic Edinburgh. It’s here that J.K. Rowling wrote most of the first books of Harry Potter. She wrote in the quieter back area of the cafe with a view overlooking Edinburgh Castle. This is where the inspiration for Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft came from.