A sorcerer’s schedule

Date Posted: 03/11/2011

Cast a spell over your group by letting Harry Potter inspire your next outing.

If you organise for any Harry Potter fan, why not consider arranging a themed trip based around the movie locations of the teen wizard? Whether you want to dedicate a whole day to the film franchise, or just a stop-off on your itinerary, Group Leisure can provide some muggle-friendly ideas.

Magical tours

The ideal way to immerse yourselves in all things J.K. Rowling is with a specialist tour, and one that is hitting the headlines recently is the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. Set in the Hertfordshire film studios where elements of all eight movies have been shot, bookings are being taken now for its March opening. The attraction will offer groups an opportunity to journey behind-the-scenes and experience the magic first-hand. Visitors will be able to see the sheer scale and detail of the sets, costumes, animatronics, special effects and props.

Highlights will include the Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office, the Ministry of Magic, Harry’s famous cupboard under the stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Gryffindor common room, the boys’ dormitory, the Potion’s classroom, Professor Umbridge’s office, the Weasley kitchen, and the Hogwarts bridge.

Tour operator Newmarket Travel Service offers a group package to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. The two-day trip includes entrance to The Making of Harry Potter, a visit to Windsor, one night’s bed and breakfast, return coach travel, and the services of a tour manager.

Walking tours of the series’ London sites are particularly popular, and Celebrity Planet runs Harry Potter's London Walk. As well as the London landmarks which provided inspiration behind the novels, it boasts film locations which should be easily recognisable to your group’s fans.

Scene sights include the real thoroughfare on which Diagon Alley was based; Platform 9¾, where Hogwart's students catch the Hogwart's Express; the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron where the Knight Bus dropped Harry off (Prisoner of Azkaban); the cafe attack and the Seven Potters Battle in the London sky (The Deathly Hallows) amongst others.

Focussing on locations in Oxford as well as the capital, Blue Badge Guide Deborah Charles knows her Harry Potter. London’s iconic structures frequently featured in the movies, including the Houses of Parliament, Canary Wharf, and Tower Bridge. From the dramatic opening scenes of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, witness the City of London which provided the backdrop as Death Eaters destroyed one of London’s modern icons – the Millennium Bridge.

Moving to Oxford, visit Christchurch College Hall, which provided the creative inspiration of Hogwart’s Hall, and the nearby Divinity School which doubled as the setting for the infirmary for those sick and injured young wizards. Overhead lies the dark rows of the Hogwart’s library, where Harry conducted his night-time research under the protection of his invisibility cloak, much to the frustration of Argus Filch.

British Tours Ltd specialises in private trips with a driver-guide by car, minibus or coach, and offers three separate Harry Potter-themed tours. The first is a full eight-hour-day, and is located in both London and Oxford. Meander through the market that set the scene for the Leaky Cauldron and follow the route of the Knight Bus in London. In Oxford, see the grand staircase where Mrs McGonagall greets the children and the Great Hall that provided the model for Hogwarts Dining Hall.

The second option is five-hours-long, tours solely Oxford, and comprises the attractions above, plus the setting for the defence against the dark arts scene, in which Mad-Eye Moody demonstrates the three unforgivable curses, in the Chamber of Secrets and Goblet of Fire.

The third itinerary is based around a ten-hour-schedule, and tours Oxford as previously described, plus further adventures in Gloucester. Your group will visit the Norman Cathedral of Gloucester which plays a role in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Spell-binding stop-offs

Several National Trust properties and their land have been used as locations for Harry Potter movies, and Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire is one of them. The woodland at Ashridge was utilised for the majority of forest locations in the films, including the Quidditch World Cup woods and portkey location, and the Forbidden Forest.

Set in rural Wiltshire, National Trust-owned Lacock village is famous for its picturesque streets, historic buildings, and its latest role as a television and film location. Most recently, Lacock Abbey was the setting for the first two Harry Potter movies, as its cloisters and side rooms were transformed into the magical classrooms of Hogwarts. The location was also used for Harry’s discovery of the mystical Mirror of Erised.

NT’s Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire is a Tudor mansion, and took on a menacing air to play its part as the headquarters for Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire was used for the setting of Shell Cottage.

Heading further north you’ll find Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. As one of the largest inhabited castles in England, it has been home to the Duke of Northumberland’s family for over 700 years. Groups can walk through the archway that Harry, Ron and Hermione used to get in and out of Hogwarts, and explore the castle’s ramparts to view the wall that Harry and Ron flew over in the blue Ford Anglia, before crashing into the Whomping Willow. Have a broomstick lesson on the very spot where Harry and his friends first took off under the watchful eye of Madam Hooch, and make your own magical wand in one of the wand-making workshops.

From 2012, Alnwick Castle will also be offering private Battleaxe to Broomsticks tours, which will provide the chance to journey through Percy family history and find out how the two Harrys – Hotspur and Potter – shaped the future of Alnwick.

In the summer of 2003, the Harry Potter team crossed the Scottish border, where much of the location shooting for Prisoner of Azkaban took place in the village of Glencoe. Memorable scenes include those featuring Hagrid’s hut and Hogwarts’ bridge. Filming for the subsequent movies has also taken place at Glencoe, but on a much smaller scale. Your group could even book accommodation at the nearby Isles of Glencoe hotel, as resided in by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint during shooting.

Finally, looking further afield, those groups visiting the US state of Florida should not miss a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Orlando theme park is inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters, and was opened in 2010 at Universal Studios resort in Orlando. You can tour Hogwarts castle, shop in Hogsmeade, and dine in the Three Broomsticks. Other adventures will allow visitors to fly with Harry, ride on a dragon, sample Butterbeer, eat exploding sweets, and experience all the magic and adventure of the Harry Potter books and films.

Photo credit: © 2011 Warner Bros. Ent.
Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R.


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