It shouldn’t be surprising that the two cities that inspired JK Rowling the most are the most represented.
London and Edinburgh, of course, feature most heavily in the author’s life.
With the Scottish capital where JK has set up her demesne.
The two major capitals in the UK are also, because of their history and their architecture, among the most used sets.
The journey starts, obvs at King’s Cross Station at Platform 9 and three-quarters.
Your Potter planner
And this is how Family Money lay out your Potter planner for you, the cost, and how much time you will need.
King’s Cross Station
20 minutes to the next destination
3.6 miles to the next destination
10 minutes to the next destination
1.7 miles to the next destination
10 minutes to the next destination
1.8 miles to the next destination
30 minutes to the next destination
2.8 miles to the next destination
Platform for success
Your journey will take you more than 70 hours to enjoy if you are driving (not including sleep or food time) and could cost you up to £2714 if you are taking part in the full trip.
Explore the different bridges that were used as filming locations in The Big Smoke and enjoy walking the corridors at Gloucester Cathedral.
And relax with a drink in one of the many Harry Potter themed bars or stay in the J.K.Rowling suite for just £2370 a night!
As well as London and Edinburgh, you will also be traveling to Watford where you can look at the Great Hall and go behind the scenes of the filming.
Other essentially English sets include Oxford, Chippenham, Gloucester, Northwich, and Alnwick.
And to reiterate your journey (and I always need telling once, twice, thrice).
You’ll start in King’s Cross Station, venture to Leadenhall Market, Millennium Bridge, Tower Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, The Harry Potter Photo Exhibition, The Potion Room Tea at Cutter & Squidge, House of Mina Lima and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
That Warner Brother Studio Tour in Watford, north of London, is a must for families.
So next one will be Warner Brother Studio Tour before going all academic in Oxford at The Dining Hall at Oxford’s Christ Church College, Duke Humfrey’s Library at Bodleian Library, New Colleges Cloisters & Courtyard and The Divinity School at Bodleian Library.
Now I confess the next bit of geography and Potterology gets sketchy for me but you’ll know where to go.
So it’s Bodley Tower Staircase and Cloisters, Lacock Abbey, Harry Potter’s Parents’ House and Horace Slughorn’s Hideaway.
I know that Gloucester Cathedral is in the West, then there’s Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience before you hit the north and Alnwick Castle.
Welcome to Edinburgh
And seeing that I’m in the second chapter of my Scottish capital life let me take you around.
The Balmoreal Hotel where the clock is always set three minutes late to allow rail passengers at Waverley some extra time to catch their train.
But that trip up to the Highlands can wait.
First we have to take in The Elephant House where JK wrote the early Potter.
Greyfriars Kirkyard where she took the names for characters such as McGonnigal.
The Victoria Street shops, J.K. Rowling Handprints, the Department of Magic Escape Rooms, the dramatic George Heriot School, The Dog House and The Cauldron (Harry Potter Cocktails).
Bridge of highs
Now some of these I confess have stumped me but I’m seduced by those cocktails, particularly as I wouldn’t be a fan of Butterbeer.
We’ll finish it off, of course, by driving past the bridge we all know, Glenfinnan Viaduct.
And if you have young people in the back make sure that the broadband is good and they can crank up the films on their laptops.
‘There is no post-holiday spike for Scottish travel agents, as holidaymakers’ confidence in travel has been shattered over the last 20 months.
“This will push travel agents who have fought tirelessly for almost two years to save their businesses to the edge.’
And aren’t travel agents more important than ever to help us through the morass that is travelling in a pandemic.
Our dream makers
Back to Joanne: ‘In 2021, travel agencies were operating at just 22% of their previous annual revenue compared to pre Covid yet their fixed costs remained the same.
‘Many of our members tell us they were operating at 10% or less of previous years.’
Now our agents are our first point of contact when something goes wrong.
And wouldn’t it be good if for a change to tell our dream makers how much we appreciate them.?
The whole nine yards
Joanne reminds us: ‘Travel agents have become administrators; rebooking and issuing refunds while receiving no revenue and no grant support to help.
“We support those in all industries which have been told there is grant support there for them.’
Because as Joni Mitchell would say ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.’
Joanne again: ‘Travel agencies are being pushed out of business by stealth.
‘Restrictions around travel have been oppressively stringent, meaning people have no confidence in travelling.’
Plan of attack
And at least she’s got a plan.
Go Joanne: ‘We need a structured plan to be drawn up by the Scottish Government in full consultation with all aspects of the travel industry which supports the future of Scottish travel rather than allowing it to wither and die.
“A viable plan would include winter resilience grants to keep travel businesses open and their staff in jobs.
‘The return of some form of furlough scheme to give income support to the sector is also vital.
‘Travel agents cannot simply close down as they need to remain open to continue to help their customers.
‘Rates relief to all high street travel agencies ought to be extended.
‘Agencies also require help with loan payments as they now face the repayments on the bank loans they took out at the outset of the pandemic after 20 months of negative income.
Think, think, think
Think about it. ‘They have spent all of their savings, dipped into their pensions and borrowed from friends and family.
‘One of the key support measures we need is the lifting of restrictions and testing to allow people to get travelling again and to give them the confidence to do so.’
After a first year and summer away at University I was told in no uncertain terms to get back for Christmas with my family instead of going off with friends… all of which comes to mind with Storm Barra and island it’s named after.
Its Ireland’s turn to take over the alphabet of storms that are coming our way in Britain.
Unbeknown to me we’re in a mini-union with the Netherlands and Ireland (nobody tell the Brexiteers?).
And we’re flagging up storms with user-friendly and cuddly names.
Why Ireland have chosen Barra I’ve not got to the bottom of yet as it’s a Scottish island.
It may, of course, be named after Northern Ireland’s popular TV weather forecaster Barra Best, and be a hands across the border gesture.
Though quite what Irish fashion maven and weather forecaster Evelyn Cusack had to say about that.
And the fact that Eunice (who?) has got the ‘E’ I’d hate to think.
Anyway, back to the Irish storm alphabet, and apologies for not name-checking Arwen at the start of this round.
And again quite what the half-elven daughter of Elrond from Lord of the Rings has to do with Ireland is again a hole in my knowledge.
Life’s a Scottish beach
Back to Barra and it is only the fifth most scenic airport in the world.
Behind my Dear Old Mum’s beloved Donegal and some others.
Barra though lays claim to being the only regular beach runway.
It is served by Loganair and our browse found a return ticket from Glasgow to Barra from £71.99. The view and landing is free.
While landing on a beach means you can wear your flip-flops, if you’re an eternal optimist.
Having done the old seaplane in the Maldives, I surely must bookend it with the beach landing.
We’re pleased to see the Vikings are still coming with routes from Scandinavia.
Of course, you can also reach the island by the arterial Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, universally known as CalMac by Gaels and Barra lovers.
The Vikings were here
And while we’re here why Barra?
And some more flesh on the bone of Storm Barra and island it’s named after.
Because the Vikings were here and named it in Old Norse barr and ey, meaning rough island.
And by Vikings I mean Viking, with the ancient Grettis saga telling us ‘Omund the Wooden-Leg’ was the first to pitch up.
Although I imagine he had ‘Scariur The Evil Eye’ there too to keep an eye on him with all those sheep around.
The Vikings ruled Barra as part of its Southern Islands, or Suðreyjar, from the 9th century through to the 13th century, bar a short period when Somerled declared independence.
Barra has only actually been part of Scotland since 1266 as part of the Treaty of Perth and the payment of a large sum of money.
And if you’ve been to the Western Isles’ most southerly island (stay with me here) then you’ll know it’s been money well spent.
Money, in fact, isn’t the most important currency on the island, if the following story is anything to go by.
Ian MacNeill leased the stunning Kisimul Castle, off the coast of capital Castlebay, in 2000 out of patriotic fervour, to VisitScotland for 1,000 years… for £1 and one bottle of whisky per annum!
Walk this way
Like all our remote areas our tourism chiefs have jumped on them to promote walking routes.
And despite being in a chain of islands, Barra is no different, and is part of the Hebridean Way.
Whether you need to take your swimming gear or not but you can check out the island hop from here up to the northernmost isle of Lewis.
Call of Nature
Seal Bay is pretty much what it says on the tin.
While Cleat on the east of the 23sqmile island is where you want to go if you’re a surfer.
It’s probably a bit safer to be a historian (guilty) and The Dualchas Heritage Centre has all Barra’s rich history.
So we’ll all take shelter this week (I hate the old newspaper phrase ‘batten down the hatches’).
And we’ll reflect on Storm Barra and island it’s named after.
And perhaps if you are going to be homebound (hello?, we’re back in Covid lockdown territory again).
Then you can order an oul’ favourite book, Compton Mackenzie’s Whisky Galore!, to occupy you.
Or watch the Ealing film.
Basically, it pinches the true story of when the SS Politician ran aground off Barra’s neighbouring island Eriskay in the Second World War.
With a cargo including 28,000 cases of malt whisky as well as other trade goods headed for Jamaica and New Orleans
The locals from the two islands, one protestant Great Todday (Eriskay) and one catholic Little Todday (Barra) have different reactions to the whisky and cash shipwrecked off their islands.
Of course if you know modern-day Hebrideans you’ll know whisky is the religion which unites both catholic and protestant.
And much was drunk by my friends that Christmas which is why I’ll be toasting The Hebridean, my old friend Finlay.
I trust he will be on Cloud Nine up in Heaven now with his dram. Slainte Big Man.