If you are one of the 500 million people who have bought and enjoyed a Harry Potter book you’ll doubtless have been entranced by the heart-warming friendships, magic-filled journeys and fantastical characters. You’ll also have a special place in your heart for the historic architecture and evocative landscapes where the various films were set.
So, what better way to experience the wealth of beautiful locations than in your own campervan? Sure, it might not be as quick as Floo Powder and you’ll need to stick to the roads rather than travelling between fireplaces, but you will have everything you need for your trip right where you need it. You won’t have to deal with delays on platform nine and three-quarters and you’ll be the envy of the other muggles with the freedom of the open road ahead of you.
This guide to the ultimate Harry Potter road trip offers some inspiration for an itinerary taking in the very best of the film locations. We’ll also include some tips on the best motorhome campsites to stay on the way as well as the top haunts serving the best butterbeer and corned beef sandwiches. Our itinerary is for around ten days but you can easily extend this to spend more time in any of the locations. Let’s begin.
Day One and Two
Every Potter movie contains scenes that were filmed in London, so as you can imagine there are quite a few to see. If you don’t want to organise your itinerary in the capital independently you can book a space on the Tour for Muggles which starts from Monument Tube Station and lasts around two hours. However, it’s easy enough to track Potter’s steps without a guide.
No Potter-inspired trip to London is complete without a visit to the aforementioned platform nine and three-quarters. You’ll find the departure for Hogwarts at King’s Cross Station, just follow the signs for platforms 9 and 10 and you’ll reach your destination. If you want to pick up a souvenir wand or other memorabilia visit the Harry Potter Shop, right there on the platform.
Other central London locations include the Leadenhall market, one of the oldest markets in the city and Borough Market. Both have doors that feature in the Leaky Cauldron scenes and both offer excellent opportunities for getting a bite to eat which won’t cost you too many Galleons.
At Borough market seek out what is now the entrance to the Chez Michelle flower shop for the doorway featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. At Leadenhall head to the optician shop at Bulls Head passage for the entrance that was used in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
St Paul's Cathedral is another worthwhile stop on the London leg of your Harry potter road trip. This Anglican cathedral is a short 20-minute walk from Borough Market crossing the Thames via the Millenium Bridge where you can sneak a peek at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The church here is the highest point in the city and you’ll recognise the Dome from the scene when the Death Eaters attacked Millenium Bridge. A visit to St Paul's is always a treat, and the views from the roof are glorious.
Stay at: As you can imagine, it’s not easy to stay in central London as part of your Harry Potter campervan trip. However, located just half an hour from the big smoke, Lee Valley Campsite at Sewardstone is an excellent option. This friendly site welcomes individuals and groups and has a variety of pitches with electric hook-ups as well as fully-serviced pitches with water, gas and chemical toilet disposal. The site is open all year round apart from February. Prices for 10m hardstanding pitches with electric start at £20.50 for two adults.
Lee Valley Campsite at Sewardstone, Sewardstone Rd, Chingford E4 7RA
Day 3 and 4
Oxford is the next stop on your Harry Potter camping trip. Just 60 miles or so from London, this lovely city is probably the location that will get you feeling the true atmosphere of the Potter books and films. Oxford is super-easy to get around and all the following locations are within easy walking distance.
Start your tour at Christ Church. Head to the Tudor Great Dining Hall which was the inspiration for the Great Hall though no actual filming took place here. The Christ Church Staircase is recognisable from multiple Potter films including one of the first sightings of Hogwarts when the students arrive to meet Professor McGonagall.
We recommend you book your ticket in advance as the long queues can really eat into your day. Next up is New College, a quarter of an hour's stroll away to see the courtyard featured in the Goblet of Fire where Malfoy is turned into a ferret by Mad-Eye Moody and the cloisters which might be familiar with some of Hogwarts hallway scenes. The courtyard and tree here were where Harry was taunted by peers wearing “Potter Stinks” badges and where Harry tells Cedric Diggory that the first task they'll face in the Triwizard Tournament is dragons. New College isn’t anywhere near as busy as Christ Church but it does operate shorter opening hours so check the website ahead of your visit.
Next door you’ll find the Divinity School, where the infirmary scenes were filmed and the Duke Humfrey’s Library where - you guessed it - the library scenes were captured including Harry’s attempt to steal a book under his invisibility cloak. This area is only accessible with a guided tour which you can do as part of a general tour of the impressive Bodleian Library.
Oxford has plenty of good pubs though one of the best, and a favourite with the Potter cast and crew is The Turf Tavern. This historic pub has a great beer garden, a range of tasty ales and tempting food and Rosie, a resident ghost…
Stay at: Less than 30 minutes drive from Oxford, Greenhill Leisure Park provides handy accommodation for people on a Harry Potter campervan trip. Visitors can choose from a range of electric gravel or grass pitches from £30 a night for two adults. The site has good facilities including a kids’ play area and is set within 400 acres of land which includes four fishing lakes.
Greenhill Leisure Park, Station Rd, Bletchingdon, Kidlington OX5 3BQ
The 90-minute or so drive from Oxford to Gloucester takes you through the delightful Cotswold AONB where we thoroughly recommend you stop for a walk or bite to eat. Explore the Cotswolds has put together a guide to some great circular walks.
The main Potter-based attraction in Gloucester is the Cathedral which is right in the heart of the city. This 900-year-old landmark was given the blessing of the Gloucester Dean the Very Rev Nicholas Bury (he was a fan of the books) but a small number of religious campaigners protested the cathedral’s involvement claiming it would defile the building and incite witchcraft. As we now know, Mr Bury won the argument, stating that the Cathedral is the perfect setting and the books could be considered on the same level as C S Lewis's tales of Narnia, which have their roots in Christianity.
The Cathedral features in several Potter films including Chamber of Secrets where Moaning Myrtle causes a flood along the corridor from the girls’ bathroom and when we see the words “The Chamber of Secrets has opened. Enemies of the heir beware” appear written in blood on the wall. Another bathroom scene, this time when a troll corners Hermione while Ron and Harry hide features in Philosopher’s Stone. This is the Lavatorium which was once a communal washing area for the resident monks. Also in Philosopher’s Stone, we see the new Gryffindors walk down the corridors at Hogwarts for the first time which was filmed along the Cathedral’s South Corridor. After this scene, the students arrive at the door to Gryffindor Common Room where a talking portrait known as The Fat Lady asks for the password to which Percy Weasley replies ‘caput draconis’ which is Latin for ‘dragon’s head’.
If you’ve seen The Half-blood Prince you might recognise the spot where Harry hides while listening to Snape and Malfoy talking about the Unbreakable Vow or on the West Corridor where we see Harry and Ron being passed by other students on their way to class.
Stay at: Gloucester Camping at Court Farm is a small campsite just north of Gloucester offering a handful of non-electric and electric grass pitches. If you opt for power you will need a cable of at least 25 metres in length. Facilities are good and include free WiFi, newly refurbished toilets and showers and chemical toilet disposal.
Prices start at £22.50 per night for up to five people with no power in low season and £25 with hook-up. It is only a few pounds more in high season. Please note that groups of four or more adults are not permitted apart from couples and immediate family members.
Gloucester Camping at Court Farm, Court Farm, Tewkesbury Rd, Twigworth, Gloucester GL2 9PX
Day 6 and 7
One of Yorkshire’s most beautiful places, Malham Cove is a bit of a drive from Gloucester, clocking in at about 200 miles depending on the route you take. However, it is an excellent addition to your Harry Potter camping trip and you could always extend your journey to a few more of the sites in the north of England such as Goathland Railway Station which found fame as Hogsmeade Station or Alnwick Castle which served as the magical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Malham Cove was used as a location in the seventh Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s a very picturesque place and a day or two exploring the dramatic limestone natural amphitheatre is a day or two well spent.
Standing at around 70m high the views from the top are truly awe-inspiring. Here you can ponder the cove’s formation at the end of the Ice Age some 12,000 years ago and cast your mind back to the moment when Harry and Hermione parted ways with Ron and set up camp for the night.
There’s plenty to do in the surrounding area and the village of Malham itself is delightful. It's also only an hour from Manchester if you fancy checking out this fun and very friendly city. If you fancy a hike, two of the best are the 8 km Malham Landscape Trail which takes in some of the natural highlights including the glorious waterfall at Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove or the 12.2 km Malham Tarn via Gordale Scar circular walk. All this activity is bound to give you a good appetite so head on over to the Lister Arms in Malham village where you can enjoy a local ale and delicious home-cooked food or coffee and cake.
Stay at: Based on a working farm just 15 minutes drive from Malham Cove, Ash Keys Caravan Park is a great location for your Harry Potter campervan trip. This is a quiet campsite with an emphasis on relaxation. Guests can choose from a dozen or so fully-serviced hard-standing pitches from £30 a night (up to six people). The facilities are good and there is a large exercise area for canine companions. Some areas of the site aren’t well-lit at night so make sure you pack your torch.
Ash Keys Caravan Park, Eshton, Skipton BD23 3QL
Days 8 and 9
Loch Etive, Rannoch Moor, Steall Falls, Glenfinnan Viaduct, and Loch Morar
The five or six-hour drive (250 miles) northeast from Malham Cove isn’t particularly spectacular but it is quite a stretch so take it at a leisurely pace if you can. Trust us, you’ll be glad you made the effort once you get there.
The Scottish Highlands offer a treasure trove of locations from a number of Harry Potter films. The following are all within an hour or so of one another and can be done in any combination that suits your group. We’ll start our journey in the most southerly point of Loch Etive and head north-west in a roundabout fashion.
Our starting point, Loch Etive in Argyll and Bute should be recognisable to Potter fans as the backdrop where Harry, Ron and Hermione jump off the dragon’s back into the misty waters in Deathly Hallows Part 2. From here we head on a circuitous route north to Rannoch Moor. The area around Rannoch Moor offers glorious scenery all year round and is particularly resplendent in Autumn when the leaves are turning and the morning mists set in. The Moor’s boggy marches are where the Death Eaters stop the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
From Rannoch Moor, we journey northwest for another hour or so to the awe-inspiring Steall Waterfall in the shadow of the mighty Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland. This 120m high waterfall features as the background of the Quidditch Arena and, as Scotland’s second highest falls, is well worth a visit in its own right. You can find out more about hiking to the falls in this handy blog.
From here it is only a quarter of an hour’s drive to the campsite we recommend below, so if you are feeling Pottered out, perhaps leave the next stage until tomorrow, or visit the falls at the start of your second day.
When you are ready to be back in the saddle it’s a 45-minute drive from Steall Waterfall to Glenfinnan Viaduct. You’ll be cruising along the northern flank of the beautiful Loch Eli so try to leave some time for a photo stop or a stroll around. Glenfinnan is a key Potter location in Scotland, being the site where the Hogwarts Express scenes are filmed. You can book a trip on the Jacobite steam train here though be warned it is very busy, especially in the summer months. If you’re looking for more locations to tick off the list head further north to Loch Morar which was used as the setting of Hogwarts Lake in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Stay at: You couldn’t wish for a more beautiful spot to enjoy the Scottish leg of your Harry Potter road trip than Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park. There’s plenty of space in the four fields devoted to motorhomes and campervans and all pitches have wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. This multiple award-winning site is open between 15th March and 5th November offering a range of good facilities including a well-stocked shop, hot showers, laundry and a nearby restaurant and bar. Prices start at £32 per night for an electric hard-standing pitch. There is space for an awning, with no extra charge.
Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park, Glen Nevis, Fort William PH33 6SX
Black Rock Gorge
Black Rock Gorge is 4.5 hours drive (138 miles) north-east of Loch Morar, traversing along the side of the wonderfully-named Loch Lochy and Loch Ness where you may be able to add another mystical site to your list!
Black Rock Gorge, is located a short drive away from the pretty town of Inverness and is featured in the first task of the Triwizard Tournament scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where Harry competes with Hungarian Horntail. The cast and crew were here in 2004 for ten days filming what would end up being quite a short scene!
Stay at: Less than ten minutes drive from the Gorge, Blackrock Caravan Park and its hosts Cathy and Gary provide a warm welcome to weary travellers. Guests can choose from 35 touring pitches with electric hookups from just £25 per night. Facilities include washing rooms with disabled access, play ground and a shop and pub nearby.
Blackrock Caravan Park, Balconie St, Evanton, Dingwall IV16 9UN
We hope you have enjoyed this guide to the ultimate Harry Potter road trip. Motorhome holidays are always an adventure and it can be even more fun to add a bit of a quest or theme to the mix. Harry Potter ignited the imaginations of a whole generation of readers and continues to entertain and delight audiences all around the world. A road trip to the places we have mentioned is sure to provide you with amazing memories that will last a lifetime.
In our opinion, journeys like this are so much more enjoyable and comfortable when you have the benefit of a motorhome. Not only does having your own accommodation and transport wrapped up in one offer you more freedom it is also surprisingly cost-effective and you get that extra storage space to pick up some Potter-inspired souvenirs on the way!
If you would like to hire a campervan for your Harry Potter camping trip, or any other holiday take a look at the motorhomes for hire on our website. We’re willing to bet a Galleon or two that you’ll find the perfect vehicle for your adventure.