How to improve holidays with children

Hey Mum, let's track down Harry Potter

We've been busy doing guided tours of secondary schools this week, but my son's not sure he wants to go to any of them - he reckons they all look too scary. I find this surprising, because not so long ago I can remember him announcing that he wanted to go to Harry Potter's Hogwarts, which is surely top of the league table of scary schools.

I can see his reasoning, though; after all, my little wizard's strongest subject has always been magic: you'd be amazed at how he can make his school bag "disappear" whenever he happens to have maths homework.

Being a kind parent, I thought we should at least look at Hogwarts, but as with all things Potter, it's not that simple. The school doesn't have a real-life location; it has several. The makers of the films had to travel far and wide to gather the bits that make up the scenes, so we've got a whistle-stop tour of England to look forward to.

First there's Alnwick Castle in Northumberland (01665 510777; alnwick castle.com), the set for many of the outdoor scenes in the films, including Harry's first broomstick-flying lesson. This is one impressive castle - it's still home to the Duke of Northumberland, and has lots of other interesting ex-patrons, from the perpetrators of the gunpowder plot in 1605 to Kevin Costner, who filmed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves here.

The countryside and coastline are glorious too, so there's a good excuse to find a cosy cottage and stay a while. Rent one within a stone's throw of the castle's grounds with Northumberland Estates Holiday Cottages (01668 219941; alnwickcastle cottages.co.uk). Or stay by the sea: check out Nook End (0191-285 1272; coastalretreats.co.uk), a lovely stone cottage with log burner and iron beds.

Next stop, Gloucester, where the cathedral (gloucestercathedral.org .uk) provided the spooky setting for several scenes - beware the talking pictures and escaping trolls. The guided tour should please all Potter fans, but if you've still not had your fill, you can go on to nearby Lacock Abbey (01249 730227; national trust.org) where some of the classroom shots were taken. And after all that hard work there's a perfect excuse to stay over in a luxurious Cotswold retreat. Check out Calcot Manor (01666 890391; calcotmanor.co.uk), which has won several awards for its family friendliness (and it also has a rather good spa).

Our tour finishes with a day trip to Oxford. Many well-known scenes, including those really scary ones with you-know-who, were filmed at the university's Christ Church College (christchurch.net), part of Oxford University, where the Great Hall and cloisters will be instantly recognisable.

No doubt Patrick will be disappointed to learn that he won't be attending Hogwarts, but there is at least a short-term alternative to appease him: a dedicated summer camp for Potter fanatics. Camp Beaumont (0870-499 8787; campbeaumont .co.uk) runs some great weeks for all those Muggles who want to learn a touch of wizardry, including everything from broomstick manoeuvres to crystal-ball reading. A refreshing change from next year's national curriculum, if nothing else.

Katy's top tip

For an authentic Harry Potter experience, take the steam railway from Pickering to Goathland, aka Hogsmeade Station, in the Yorkshire Dales (01751 472508; northyorkshire moorsrailway.com).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea