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Sunday March 3rd 2024

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince | 2009

Harry Potter filming location: Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland
Harry Potter location: Harry and Dumbledore search for the horcrux: Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland | Photograph: Cliffs of Moher

Harry Potter location: City Hall, London
Harry Potter location: office workers witness the attack by Death Eaters: City Hall, London

With Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) increasingly turning to the dark side, and the benignly bumbling Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) seeming to know more than he’s letting on, the series continues to move further away from its chirpy beginnings.

The office block, with oddly slanting windows, from which workers see ominous portents in the sky, is unmistakably London’s City Hall, Queen’s Walk, SE1, HQ of the greater London Authority and office of the Mayor, on the South bank of the Thames alongside Tower Bridge. The quirky 2002 building is used as the starting point of the (fictitious) ‘Nike River Run’ in Run Fatboy Run, and becomes the HQ of a record company in Richard Curtis’ 2003 romcom Love Actually.

Harry Potter location: Great Newport Street, Leicester Square, London
Harry Potter location: Death Eaters attack Diagon Alley: Great Newport Street, Leicester Square, London

Soon Death Eaters are swooping over Trafalgar Square, in the heart of London’s West End, and racing north up Charing Cross Road, past the Garrick Theatre and Leicester Square tube station, before swerving right into Great Newport Street. There is indeed a tiny gated alleyway alongside number 12, on the north side, which is where the entrance to ‘Diagon Alley’ now seems to be.

Harry Potter location: Millennium Bridge, London
Harry Potter location: Death Eaters destroy the bridge over the Thames: Millennium Bridge, London

Bent on attacking the capital, the Death Eaters destroy the Millennium Bridge, the Thames crossing which links the City to Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe on the South Bank.

As the first members of the public set foot on the bridge, it began to sway disconcertingly. Inevitably dubbed ‘The Wobbly Bridge’, the new structure – though safe to use – was immediately closed down in one of those great British fumbles we’re so proud of.

It reopened two years later, having been firmly stabilised. This is admittedly practical but, honestly, a bit disappointing. The bridge crops up again onscreen, not quite so recognisably, providing the elevated walkway of Xandar in Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Harry Potter location: Surbiton Station, Surrey
Harry Potter location: Harry Potter in the station cafe: Platform 3, Surbiton Station

The railway cafe, where Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) sits glumly reading The Daily Prophet, can be found on Platform 1 of Surbiton Station, on the South Western Main Line, about 10 miles southwest of London.

Sort of. It’s not quite as it seems in the film. There’s no actual cafe, but the waiting room housed a small coffee bar – without tables – called Cafe Chaud. in early 2012, however, this was taken over by the Cafe Nero chain to become Nero Express, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some changes.

Harry Potter location: Surbiton Station
Harry Potter location: Harry sees Dumbledore: Nero Express, Surbiton Station

In the UK, Surbiton is synonymous with comfy, commuter-belt sitcom land – it was the setting for 70s TV series The Good Life. The current art deco-style station was built in 1937 and, though not seen in the film, the exterior (which is Grade II listed) is well worth a look.

Harry spots Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) across the lines, standing on Platform 3. The huge advertising billboard – “Divine Magic” – is no coincidence, of course, but was built for the movie.

It’s from the foot of the stairs on Platform 3 that the Hogwarts headmaster spirits Harry away from the mundane world of muggles to the slightly wonkier village of ‘Budleigh Babberton’.

Harry Potter location: Surbiton Station, Surrey
Harry Potter location: Dumbledore whisks harry away to the village: Platform 3, Surbiton Station

Their destination, where Dumbledore is taking Harry to meet Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) is Lacock, in Wiltshire. It was Lacock Abbey, you’ll remember, which provided Hogwarts classrooms for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. This time, the location is Lacock itself, where Slughorn’s house can be seen on the west side of Chapel Hill, just off Church Street, to the north of the village.

‘The Burrow’, home of the Weasley family this time around is amid the swampy reed beds of the Swannery in Abbotsbury, near Weymouth, Dorset. A fascinating day out, this is amazingly the only place in the world where you can walk through the heart of a colony of nesting Mute Swans. And, don’t worry, this is a sanctuary and the swans are all free flying.

It wasn’t always so. The Swannery was originally established by Benedictine Monks, who built a monastery at Abbotsbury during the 1040s, and the graceful birds were reared for the monks’ lavish banquets.

Harry Potter location: Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester
Harry Potter location: the corridors of Hogwarts: Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester

Once again, the corridors of Hogwarts are represented by the impressively carved cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester, southwest England. The cathedral played the same role in the first two film, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets.

Harry Potter location: Divinity School, Bodleian Library, Oxford
Harry Potter location: Ron Weasley recovers from the poisoning: Divinity School, Bodleian Library, Oxford

The library, in which Harry and Hermione (Emma Watson) mull over who to take to Slughorn’s Christmas party, is Duke Humfrey’s Library in the Bodleian Library, Broad Street, Oxford. The reading rooms are not open to the general public, but you can take a guided tour of the university’s famed Library.

Another part of the library is transformed into the infirmary, where Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) recovers after being poisoned, which is Oxford’s Divinity School. The elaborately vaulted 15th Century room also stands in for the lobby of the ‘House of Commons’ in Nicholas Hytner’s 1994 film of The Madness Of King George.

For once, the film is not entirely made in the UK. Hogwarts Express rushing through the snowy landscape was filmed (by a second unit) in Norway, around Bjorli, on the Raumabanen railway line, running between Oslo and the Norwegian fjord region.

And the sea cave to which Dumbledore takes Harry to find the horcrux, is in Ireland. It’s at the foot of the spectacularly forbidding Cliffs of Moher, south of Galway on the Atlantic coast of County Clare. One of Ireland's top visitor attractions, the cliffs are a designated UNESCO Geo Park.

Film buffs might recognise the sheer rock face from David Lean’s epic Ryan’s Daughter, or as the ‘Cliffs of Insanity’ in Rob Reiner’s 1987 The Princess Bride. Although there are genuine sea caves here, the one in which the horcrux is found was carefully recreated in the safety of the film studio.

There’s digital magic at work here, too. The wave-lashed rock on which Harry and Dumbledore appear is Lemon Rock, off the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, a good 90 miles south from the Cliffs of Moher.