Ok HP uber-fans, sit down, take a deep breath, and begin planning!
The UK has more Harry Potter sites than anywhere else in the world for the obvious reasons. In fact, it has so many ‘historical sites’ pertaining to Potter that future generations may just think he was a real person. There are Potter tours available but most things can be done solo. This tour includes both book sites and film sites – I’ll denote with a B or F for the purists. Here’s how I’d do ten days of Potter Mania.**
Arrive in London. You can nap off some set-lag or you can head over to Big Ben and the London Eye for a view of the iconic landmark which featured in the film in aerial views. If you want food, go to Millennium Bridge (the one that frighteningly was destroyed by He who Shall Not be Named). There’s a good pub here called Founder’s with good burgers, Pimm’s Lemonade (alcoholic btw) and outdoor seating.
Get tucked in, you’re going to be exhausted as no floo powder will be used! (Ok I’ll stop the HP puns) (F)
Head to WB Studios Harry Potter Experience. You will have gotten your tickets very far in advance. I will say no more about this because it is better as a surprise. I will, mention you can only get Butterbeer in the food court so if you want another buy it then. Also bring serious savings because the gift shop is expensive (although honestly could have been better, I already own a Gryfindor scarf, where can I get a hog head pitcher like those from the Great Hall, a steamer trunk like Harry’s, or even a poster of the awesome architectural drawings from Hogwarts and the robo-dragons? Adults love HP too! Shrink down the HP logo and get the ball rolling on this people! (F)
Early day again as you take your pre-booked tour to the outskirts and Cotswolds. The tours will mention a visit to a ‘Harry Potter film site’ and it usually goes to Lacock. Updated ones will mention Goderick’s Hollow so also ask. These tours are hard to find unless you look up tours to Stonehenge which go to Bath and these sites along the way. If you have to miss something on my list – this is it. It is a blue door you saw in the movie for a few seconds with Dumbledore and Harry chatting and Goderick’s hollow is just the outside. (F)
Take a day trip to Oxford. There is usually another destination on the list with Oxford so it is a nice day (especially if you’re toting muggles). Here is the closest you’ll find to a real-life Great Hall and it is also the steps Harry walks up to enter Hogwarts for the first time which is pretty iconic (where Neville finds his lost frog at McGonagal’s feet).
If you can only do one site visit do this one*
If you’re really brave rent a car (special license needed) or figure out some buses (this looked very complicated) and head to the Forest of Dean for some camping. I actually had planned this trip but it proved to expensive and was scrapped. The UK has great camping (during a very short dry/warm season known as August) and it is easy to rent a yurt (closest to Harry’s mega wizard tent) or these really cool tricked out caravans.
Morning train to Edinburgh from King’s Cross. Leave lots of time so you can take pictures of the station and find platform 9 3/4 which is difficult now that they moved it since apparently platform 9 has to actually function and stuff (lame!). The train can be decently long so depending what ticket you get you may prefer night or just let this be a nice relaxing catch up day.
Same day – get to Edinburgh, check into hotel (stay at the Balmoral room 652 if you want to shell out the big bucks – here JKR finished the series, tear) head to Black Magic Cafe. This is one of the most famous spots JKR wrote her novels, legend is it was because paying for a day’s worth of coffee and sandwiches was cheaper than heating her apartment and if she made enough money to cover the heat (but still not eat) she’d loose government dole. Not a problem for her now! There food here is yummy and it is cute anyway.
Have an early lunch at The Elephant Room where JKR not only wrote the novels but was inspired (allegedly). Look out the windows and see a neighboring building (I heard it is a boarding school but I’m not sure we didn’t get that close) with it’s castle-like grace and its four turrets. Eat up then be sure to use the restroom where fans have covered the walls with thank you letters to JKR for writing the book. Head out and then you have two options, right on the high street they offer ‘pay what you like tours’ run by students. Our tour guide was very knowledgable and we didn’t get lost the rain which was nice. I’d say it was worth it, and they will know everything HP, but if you prefer solo just wander into the graveyard and read on. Legend goes JKR would leave the Elephant Room to stretch her legs and then take her daughter for a stroll around the graveyard where she found a few headstones that caught her eye. Those were the unsuspecting Tom Riddle, McGonegal, and I think a few others I’ve forgotten. Pretty nifty eh?
Take a tour or drive yourself (I really don’t know how that’d work though since you’d have to backtrak) through the highlands which give you a real feel for the Hogwarts landscape. There is a specific spot where Hagrid’s cottage was filmed, a guide will know, but honestly it all looks the same. I’d suggest traveling round a bit – I went to Skye – or you can climb Ben Nevis. Then go to Fort Augustus and hop on the steamer train from HP! Be sure to get tickets for the mini booths and stock up on chocolate toads and Bot’s Beans so you can really get the effect. If you can’t get the tickets for the little cabins like Harry had, get there early to snap a pic before finding your seat. (Note: tours rarely leave you time to take this pic and get lunch and get in your seat so bring something). This also goes over the Viaduct so be ready and sit on the right (they announce it).
* I’m pretty sad my iPad Doesn’t know what a Dumbledore is.
** I’ve been to all of these places except for Forest of Dean and Goderick’s Hollow since I went to the Cotswolds in ’09 before it had been filmed there.