It doesn’t seem fair that wizards get to have all the fun. We think it’s high time that us muggles get into a little bit of mischief as well! So grab your wands and brush up on your potions because we are headed to the UK for the Harry Potter trip of a lifetime! Of course, it won’t be as easy as running through the wall at platform 9 ¾….we are muggles after all. But with a little bit of imagination (and maybe a few spiked butter beers for the parents), we will be flying around on our broomsticks in no time!
The Hogwarts Express
The first stop on our wizarding tour is a ride on the train made famous in the Harry Potter movies. The Jacobite (known lovingly by Potterheads as The Hogwarts Express) is an 84 mile round trip journey across the Western Scottish Highlands. And while there won’t be any ‘chocolate frogs’ or ‘every flavor beans’ on board to purchase, passengers will be treated to some of the most stunning views of charming villages and magnificent lochs. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Harry Potter train unless we actually felt like we were headed to Hogwarts; which is where the Glenfinnan Viaduct comes into play. The large, arched bridge is the famous landmark that the Hogwarts Express passes over in the movies before arriving at the school of witchcraft and wizardry (and making us all drool over the surrounding scenery). Luckily, as the train passes over the viaduct, passengers will be treated to a view of Loch Shiel which is just as beautiful in real life.
Details of train
Tickets for a ride on Hogwarts Express–sorry, I mean The Jacobite– run £65 for a round trip adult fare and £45 for a child ages 16 and under. Children 3 and under are free, if they do not require their own seat. The journey takes approximately two hours each way beginning in Fort William with a 1.5 hour stop in Mallaig before starting its return journey. Food and drink are also available on board to purchase. Please note that while strollers are allowed on board, they need to be folded up as space is limited and priority goes to wheelchairs.
Now grab your floo powder and let’s head to Alnwick Castle in the English County of Northumberland, which was the backdrop for many of the scenes during the Potter movies. In fact, the Alnwick Castle lawn is where Harry, Hermione, and Ron first learned to use their broomsticks. Fancy also learning to take flight? You are in luck! Alnwick Castle offers broomstick training where you can learn to fly just like a real witch or wizard! Tickets are £12 per person and children must be ages 6 and older in order to take part in broomstick flying lessons. Both parents and kids will enjoy running around the lawn with a broomstick in hand, and pretending to be the next Seeker; a must for any proper Harry Potter trip!
After you’ve mastered the art of broomstick flying, getting to our next stop should be a breeze! We are headed to Diagon Alley where we will be able to pick up the rest of our wizarding souvenirs and enjoy a bite to eat. There are actually two filming locations for Diagon Alley, and both are quite close to each other in London. Try visiting both and decide which one you think deserves the title of the official Diagon Alley award! The first location is the gorgeous Leadenhall Market which was used in the filming of the first two Harry Potter films, while the second was used in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and is at Borough Market. Both are must-see spots for the true Harry Potter fan, but be sure to save your appetite for Borough Market as it is consistently named the best food market in all of London.
Once you’ve picked up your supplies from Diagon Alley, head over to King’s Cross Station and make your way to platform 9 ¾. Remember, run confidently into the wall and don’t slow down until you are on the other side! Don’t do this of course–but DO jump on the next flying car to the town of Lacock in Wiltshire, England. Lacock Abbey will be the last stop on our Harry Potter trip and after seeing the 13th century architecture up close, you will understand why! The medieval cloisters served as the hallways for Hogwarts and walking up and down them will immediately have you daydreaming of a pet owl dropping an acceptance letter magically into your hands. Wander around the halls a bit longer and you may just find yourself in Professor Snape’s or Professor Quirrel’s room! In fact one of them holds a large black cauldron from the 1500’s that is believed to have been used for cooking, but made the perfect real-life prop in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (otherwise known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone if you live outside the US!). Once you’ve had your fill of pretending to be Gryffindor’s newest student, be sure to check out the rest of the town. Not only are there a few other Harry Potter spots that you might recognize (like his mom and dad’s house), but it’s also a charming English village that has been almost untouched by time. Enjoy a stroll with the kids and soak up the historical surroundings before grabbing your broomstick and heading for home.
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