I just returned from a fabulous trip across the pond where some friends and I had many adventures in England, Ireland, and Wales. We found lots of fun photo ops that were motivated by our mutual love for movies and television. In the event you find yourself traveling in the UK and are in need of some pop culture inspiration, you might want to consider some of these British entertainment adventures.
For Harry Potter Fans:
Of course London is riddled with J.K. Rowling’s hero’s haunts and you can even take “Muggle tours” to get the full Harry experience (but not, apparently on Wednesdays, our only free day there). Denied the tour because of unfortunate timing yet being the intrepid fans that we are, we headed to King’s Cross Station one evening to find the magical Platform 9 ¾ where wizarding students can catch the Hogwarts Express. Fans of the series will know that one accesses said platform by running at the wall between platforms 9 and 10 at a good speed, usually pushing their trolley of luggage. As wizard wannabes in present day King’s Cross Station, you can queue up (our wait was about 40 minutes at approximately 9:00 pm) for a photo opportunity with a trolley disappearing into the wall (complete with a stuffed “Hedwig”). Props include a scarf from your Hogwarts house of choice, round framed glasses (like Harry’s) and various magic wands. A couple of participants in line behind us even sported eyeliner lightning bolt scars on their foreheads for added authenticity. A professional photographer snaps your pic while a staff person from the Harry Potter Shop at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters flings your scarf so it looks like you’ve built up some speed. Bystanders can also take quick snaps so bring a friend to save yourself the cost of a professional Harry Potter portrait.
For Sherlock Fans:
I confess, I would’ve completely missed this one if it wasn’t for a traveling companion who had done her research. She pursued a lead that took us to the BBC exterior shooting location for 221B Baker Street, or as it is known during non-filming, 187 North Gower Street. Sherlock’s front door is next to Speedy’s Cafe, the exterior of which appears (often briefly) in pretty much every episode of the series. The location is easily accessible from Euston or Euston Square tube stations. Alas, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman must’ve been off fighting crime at the time (that’s what they do, right?).
For Doctor Who Fans:
The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff is a must for those who love the series and even those (like me) who have just a passing acquaintance with it. We are ushered into a room and shown a number of artefacts from the Doctor’s past (or is it future?) when the Doctor himself (Matt Smith) appears to us on screen announcing he is trapped in the Pandorica II. Referring to us as “Shoppers”, he uses his sonic screwdriver to summon the TARDIS and we all pile in, because if you’re a fan, you know it’s bigger on the inside. Through the course of the interactive adventure fully narrated by the Doctor, we face Daleks, Weeping Angels, and Cybermen with some 3D action to boot. It’s well worth the price of admission, a mere £15. After the 30 minute interactive story, there is an extensive exhibition of props, costumes, and set pieces throughout the many years and incarnations of the Doctor that you can wander through at your leisure. And of course there’s merch. Tons and tons of Doctor Who merchandise of every description. Fans can also take a walking tour of the different sets and filming locations around Cardiff – my traveling companion, more of a die-hard fan, took the walking tour and said it was worth the extra time and investment for a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens. Pics aren’t allowed during the interactive story at the Doctor Who Experience, but we were given snap-happy free reign in the exhibit. Here’s a sample…
On a related note, Torchwood fans can find a shrine to the character of Ianto Jones at Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay.
For Game of Thrones Fans:
Those familiar with the behind-the-scenes world of the HBO series Game of Thrones will know that there are multiple filming locations worldwide, including some in Northern Ireland. Titanic Studios in Belfast houses some sets while Magheramorne Quarry in County Antrim doubles as the backdrop for Wall and the Castle Black set. While my friend and I didn’t opt for the full on Game of Thrones sightseeing tour (there are several if one is so inclined), as luck would have it, the quarry is on the coastal route from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway Unesco World Heritage site, which was one of our tourist destinations. Our tour guide and driver explained he was not permitted to stop or slow down as we passed said filming location. There’s also a high fence between the location and the road – I suppose to protect production from overeager fans who may spy something on the set and leak it online. However, I was able to snap a decent photo of the quarry walls considering it was taken out of the window of a moving bus! It may seem a tad anticlimactic though, as filming locales can sometimes be – they never really look like they do in the movies or on the show.
I hope you enjoyed my Fan Girl tour and be sure to share your own favourite show- and movie-related tourist sites in the comments!