If you’ve ever wanted to escape the real world to visit the magical world, I feel you. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found the real Platform 9¾ or Diagon Alley, but I have done some serious planning and scheming about how you can visit ‘magical’ sites on a Harry Potter tour. And where better to do this tour than in the U.K., specifically England and Scotland?
After living in England and visiting many of these sites, I’ve decided to try and put them all together into an itinerary you can use to plan your own Harry Potter tour in the U.K. It’s a little complicated, but worth it to feel like you’re walking in Harry’s footsteps. Read on for my advice on planning an independent Harry Potter tour in England and Scotland, and let me know any questions in the comments!
Is there an Official U.K. Harry Potter Tour?
With all my research and planning this itinerary, I couldn’t find any official Harry Potter tour that takes you to these sights across the U.K. There are a couple companies that offer Harry Potter tours to some sites – but none that are as comprehensive as what I’ve laid out below.
- Classic England offers a ‘Grand Harry Potter Tour.’
- Lynott Tours offers a small tour of Harry Potter sites in England.
- Original Travel looks like they can book a Harry Potter tour based on their own suggested itinerary – or you can probably have them use mine if you want.
In short, if you want to do a Harry Potter tour in England and Scotland, it’s possible, but it requires some creativity and planning to do it the way I’ve suggested below.
Harry Potter Tour Sights & Sites
Since the books are almost entirely based in the U.K. and the movies were filmed in England and Scotland, that’s where I focused in choosing which Harry Potter sites to put on this tour itinerary. Here are the ones I focused on.
Harry Potter Sights in London & England
There are so many Harry Potter sights in London that you could spend your entire time just visiting those. But, you’re here to plan a Harry Potter tour in the U.K., so you probably won’t have time to see them all. Some of the ones that you absolutely shouldn’t miss include:
- Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station
- Leadenhall Market
- Millennium Bridge
- The London Zoo
- Leavesden Studio Tour
- The Georgian House Hotel
And once you leave London, I recommend planning visits to Harry Potter sites in Oxford (Bodleian Library, Christ Church, New College), Alnwick Castle, Lacock Abbey, Durham Cathedral, and Goathland Station (aka Hogsmeade Station).
Harry Potter Sights in Edinburgh & Scotland
Once you cross Hadrian’s Wall (a 1st-century site that’s worth its own visit if you love history…), you’re in a whole new part of the Magical World. Some of the places to visit are in Edinburgh:
- The Elephant House
- Greyfriars Kirkyard
- Balmoral Hotel (Grand Suite where JK finished Book 7)
I have an entire list of Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh if you want even more options!
And you can’t visit Scotland without making the trek to ride the Jacobite Train – the one made famous by the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express.
My Self-Guided Harry Potter Tour Itinerary
So how do you string together that many Harry Potter sights and sites into a single tour itinerary? With magic of course! And a healthy dose of planning ahead and keeping track of train times. You don’t want to be like Harry and Ron in Chamber of Secrets missing the Hogwarts Express (or any of the other trains on this itinerary either)!
Day 1: London
If you’re flying from the U.S., you’ll arrive in London in the morning on Day 1. Spend a few hours recuperating with a full English Breakfast; try the Hawksmoor or The Breakfast Club for the best in town. You’ll need your strength for a day of full sightseeing; luckily, some HP locations in London are also major tourist sights.
In order, I’d recommend you visit Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station first. Start your trip off right! Then, head west to spend the morning at the London Zoo (be sure to visit the Reptile House featured in the Sorcerer’s Stone movie!).
After lunch, head to Westminster tube station to join a Harry Potter walking tour. Then make your way along the Thames to Millennium Bridge (in the Order of the Phoenix opening scene) and up to Leadenhall Market (where Diagon Alley scenes were filmed).
By this point, you will probably be wiped (hello, jet lag!), so head to your Harry Potter-themed room at the Georgian House Hotel.
- Entrance to the London Zoo is £24.30 in advance.
- The Harry Potter Walking Tour is free!
- Rooms at The Georgian House Hotel start from £239. Book in advance as the Harry Potter rooms sell out!
Day 2: London to Oxford
Rise early and make your way through the heart of Central London. En route to Euston Street station, stop off Charing Cross Road to walk down Cecil Court. This street is widely believed to have been JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. It’s a real-life Harry Potter location!
Catch a train from London toward Watford Junction station. From here, you’ll take the morning and early afternoon to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden. You need at least three hours for this, so I recommend trying to arrive around 11am and having lunch mid-way through the tour.
After the studio tour, catch a train from Watford Junction back to London, then another train from London to Oxford. When you arrive in Oxford, head straight to Oxford College to walk among some of the famous buildings used in various Harry Potter movies: Bodleian Library (the Hogwarts Library), Christ Church ( the inspiration for the Great Hall), and New College (Goblet of Fire).
Here’s an entire list of Harry Potter locations in Oxford if you want even more inspiration.
- Entrance to the Harry Potter Studio Tour is £39.
- Catch the 09:34 train from London Euston to Watford Junction for £11.10 return. This journey takes ~20 minutes each way.
- Aim for the 15:27 (3:27 pm) train from London Paddington to Oxford for £25.60 one-way. This journey takes ~100 minutes.
- Search for train tickets using the National Rail website.
- Entrance to Christ Church at Oxford is £7.
- Rooms at the Macdonald Randolph House start from £175 per night.
Day 3: Oxford to Goathland
If you love early morning walks, start your day by catching an early train from Oxford northward. This is a day of travel, so be prepared for several hours of beautiful English countryside flashing past the window of the train.
In short, you’ll catch a train from Oxford to Whitby by changing in Darlington and Middlesborough. From Whitby, you’ll catch a bus to Goathland, and arrive late in the evening. In total, you’ll spend about 8 hours in transit: catch up on social media, edit your Harry Potter photos, or read Half-Blood Prince for the twelfth time!
Upon arrival in Goathland, stay at The Goathland Hotel in the heart of this small English town. No need to go sightseeing today after such a long day of travel.
- Be sure to catch the 09:15 train from Oxford headed toward Whitby for £136.40 one-way. This journey takes about 6.5 hours.
- From Whitby, catch the North Yorkshire Moors Railway train at 17:10 (5:10 pm) to Goathland for £21. This is a 45-minute ride.
- Rooms at The Goathland Hotel start from £105 per night.
Day 4: Goathland to Durham
This morning, wake up to enjoy your English breakfast before watching the 10:10 am train pass through Goathland. Look familiar? Goathland is the scene used for Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter films! You won’t see a bright red steam engine, but it’s still unmistakably Hogsmeade. Where’s Hagrid?
After lunch, catch the train back to Whitby, and then another train from Whitby to Durham. Unfortunately, you’ll again make two changes in Middlesborough and Darlington in the process… Goathland is way the heck out there in the English countryside!
Upon arrival in Durham, you won’t have a ton of time left in the day, so enjoy walking around the town and stay at The Townhouse that evening.
- Watch the train pass through Goathland station around 10:10 am.
- Catch the 12:50 pm train to Whitby for £21. This journey takes ~55 minutes. You’ll have two hours to hang out in Whitby before catching your next train.
- Aim for the 15:59 (3:59 pm) train from Whitby to Durham for £17.80. This journey takes ~3 hours.
- Rooms at The Townhouse start from £80 per night.
Day 5: Durham & Alnwick
Halfway through your trip, let’s take a break from the trains, eh?
Start Day 5 with sightseeing in Durham. Particularly, you’ll want to visit Durham Cathedral. The interior and exterior of this 11th Century Romanesque cathedral were featured extensively in both the Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets movies as Hogwarts.
For the afternoon, rent a car and drive to Alnwick. En route you’ll pass through Newcastle-Upon-Thyne, so feel free to stop for lunch or additional non-HP sightseeing. In Alnwick, your destination is Alnwick Castle. Again, this castle was featured in the first two Harry Potter movies for exterior shots (particularly the one where Harry learns to fly!).
For the evening, you’ll return to Durham and stay for a second night.
- A car rental from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car on the outskirts of Durham is roughly £25 per day.
- The suggested donation to enter Durham Cathedral is £5.
- The entry fee to Alnwick Castle and Garden is £26.10.
Day 6: Durham to Edinburgh
Rise early to make your way from Durham to Edinburgh. There are trains throughout the morning, and there are no changes on the route! Woo!
Once you arrive in Edinburgh, take some time to see the local sights along with some popular Harry Potter spots. In particular, you’ll want to visit Greyfriars Kirkyard (where you can see a grave to ‘Thomas Riddle,’ suggesting JK may have taken inspiration here) and The Elephant House. The latter is a coffee house where JK Rowling spent time during the creation of early Harry Potter books. The view from the back room where JK sat writing her novels is truly inspiring. Take lunch or afternoon tea here.
Continue sightseeing in Edinburgh, as there are loads of must-see sights: exploring Edinburgh Castle, hiking Arthur’s Seat, wandering up the Royal Mile, pub-hopping along Grassmarket.
For the evening, check into The Balmoral Hotel. This hotel has a famous grand suite where JK Rowling finished writing Deathly Hallows; you can see a plaque and owl door-knocker outside the room that now bears her name.
- The 09:25 train from Durham to Edinburgh is only £13.50 one-way. The journey takes ~2 hours.
- Rooms at The Balmoral Hotel start from £225 per night. Grand Suite rooms start from £1195 per night.
Day 7: Edinburgh to Glenfinnan
Set out from Edinburgh to Glenfinnan by car in the morning after a hearty Scottish Breakfast (hello, haggis!). A car will help you have more mobility in the western part of Scotland, which is crucial at this stage to ensure you can see one of the most famous Harry Potter sights in all of Great Britain.
After arriving in Glenfinnan, you can check-in at The Prince’s House Hotel (Half-Blood Prince reference, perhaps?) about times the train will pass over the Glenfinnan Viaduct. You’ll then want to park and hike out to the viewpoint where you can see a steam engine cross the famous arched viaduct featured in multiple Harry Potter movies (most notably Chamber of Secrets).
Glenfinnan is a small town, so today’s a good day to rest up and recover from the intense travel schedule you’ve endured over the past week.
- A car rental in Edinburgh is roughly £35 per day.
- The drive from Edinburgh is roughly 3 hours.
- The Jacobite Steam Train runs across the Glenfinnan viaduct twice daily, in roughly the 11 o’clock and 3 o’clock hours.
- Rooms at The Prince’s House Hotel start from £125 per night.
Day 8: Glenfinnan
Today, your only goal is to ride the Jacobite Steam Train – yes, you’re going to ride the Hogwarts Express!
To do this, you’ll need to drive back to Fort William and buy a return ticket to/from Mallaig. You can ride the morning train to Mallaig and then return on either the mid-afternoon or evening trains to Fort William. Mallaig is a beautiful harbor town on the Scottish coast, and well worth the day trip.
You can stay again at The Prince’s House Hotel this night.
- The Jacobite Steam Train departs Fort William at 10:10 am and returns from Mallaig at either 14:10 (2:10 pm) or 18:38 (6:38 pm). Return tickets are £35 for standard tickets or £59 for first class.
Day 9 & 10: Glenfinnan to Edinburgh to London
Time to begin slowly making your way home. After checking out, drive back to Edinburgh for the evening. If your budget permits, stay again at The Balmoral Hotel, or opt for a budget friendly option.
The final day, catch the train from Edinburgh to London. High-speed trains run throughout the day, so depending on your London departure, you may want to spend one last morning exploring Edinburgh. From London, you can stay to explore non-Harry Potter sights, or make your way home.
- Trains run every 30 minutes from Edinburgh station to various stations in London (primarily King’s Cross) for £68 one-way. The journey takes roughly 4.5 hours.
If you really want to complete this self-guided Harry Potter tour itinerary, you’ll need a large budget and loads of enthusiasm. True Harry Potter fans are probably jazzed about this itinerary, whereas others may want to just take in Harry Potter sights in cities like London and Edinburgh.
No matter where you fall on the Harry Potter spectrum, it’s fun to dream about a trip like this! Do you have questions about this Harry Potter tour? Let me know in the comments!