The unfathomably famous Harry Potter series is full of references to real-life places in the UK. From Gloucester to London, you can discover the top spots that either inspired the Bristol-born author or were used as locations in the blockbuster films. It’s quick and easy to explore these destinations when you travel by train – just sit back, relax and read some Rowling as you go.
Harry Potter and his celebrated creator need little in the way of introductions. Since the release of the first Potter novel in 1997, more than 500 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide and the series has been translated into 79 languages.
The final book in the saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, became the fastest selling book in history, with 2.6 million copies sold in the first 24 hours of its launch.
The films alone have grossed over $7 billion, helping to make author JK Rowling one of the wealthiest living writers.
Born in Yate, near Bristol, Rowling was brought up in Gloucestershire and Gwent.
She penned the first Harry Potter novel, which was turned down by 12 publishers before its eventual release on 26 June 1997. The world was introduced to the now famous bespectacled wizard, never to be the same again.
Rowling drew much of her inspiration from personal experience, featuring well-known British landmarks. The filmmakers similarly went on to use UK destinations as inspiration for sets and locations for filming.
Here are some of those inspirational spots on the Great Western Railway network that helped bring the tale of Harry Potter to life, and which you can visit by train:
Christ Church College in Oxford was just one of the many places in the city of dreaming spires used as a location in the Harry Potter films.
The staircase that leads to the college’s Great Hall was used for the stairs at Hogwarts, where Professor McGonagall (played by Maggie Smith) greets Potter and his fellow students on their first day at the magical school.
The Great Hall itself was the main influence for the dining hall at Hogwarts, and the film’s production company built a replica of the room at Warner Bros’ Leavesden studio where the dining room scenes were shot.
You can visit the hall at Christ Church as part of a tour of the college. Tickets start at £8 per adult.
Take a GWR train to Oxford station
Gloucester cathedral has been used for a number of scenes in the Harry Pooter films, and particularly the building’s gothic cloisters, which doubled as the corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the east wall at the end of the north walk is where the words ‘The chamber of secrets has been opened’ were written in blood.
The cathedral is open to the public 365 days of the year, but we recommend you check in advance before visiting, in case your trip clashes with a service.
Take a GWR train to Gloucester station
Last but not least, fans of the books and films can get their latest fix of wizardly action at the award-winning Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which is playing at the Palace Theatre in London’s West End.
Catch up with Harry as he struggles to juggle a busy job at the Ministry of Magic with life as a husband and father of three. While he wrestles with a past that won’t leave him alone, his youngest son grapples with the weight of the family legacy.
The is play presented in two Parts, which are intended to be seen in order on the same day (matinee and evening) or on two consecutive evenings, and together offer a total running time of more than five hours – a generous slice of sorcery.
Take a GWR train to Paddington station