Harry Potter 20th anniversary: A magical impact on Northumberland

A scene from the film with Alnwick Castle starring as Hogwarts.
A scene from the film with Alnwick Castle starring as Hogwarts.

It all started two decades ago, on June 26, 1997, when Bloomsbury published a children’s book by an unknown author called JK Rowling.

Entitled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this enchanting story told the tale of an 11-year-old boy who finds out he is a wizard, and, well, you know the rest!

Harry Potter-themed marketing material for Alnwick Castle.

Harry Potter-themed marketing material for Alnwick Castle.

So began the worldwide phenomenon, as the young sorcerer became a household name around the globe.

With Monday marking 20 years since The Philosopher’s Stone was released, the unrelenting Potter craze shows no signs of stopping.

And this devotion to such a renowned franchise has proved a truly magic formula for Northumberland, particularly Alnwick.

The town’s castle doubled up as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two films, released in 2001 and 2002.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter

The Outer Bailey is recognisable as the area where Harry and his fellow students learned to fly broomsticks, as well as being the spot where Harry learned the rules of wizarding sport Quidditch.

Parts of the castle were used to film Hogwarts students and staff going about their daily activities, while ​Harry and Ron crash-landed the Weasley family’s flying car in the Inner Bailey. Meanwhile, The Lion Arch was a way in and out of Hogwarts.

Such exposure has seen visitors from around the world flock to Alnwick Castle, almost on a Potter pilgrimage, to catch a glimpse of Hogwarts. And the castle has played to this, with regular events and activities based around the boy wizard and his adventures.

It has been a winning concoction. James Boyd, visitor activity manager, said: “Harry Potter has been a huge boost to the area and the number of visitors to the castle increased massively after the release of the films.

Alnwick Castle has held outdoor screenings of Harry Potter.

Alnwick Castle has held outdoor screenings of Harry Potter.

“There were other factors – like the opening of The Alnwick Garden – but Harry Potter certainly had an impact.

“We always factor Harry Potter into our events, like broomstick training and people recognise the castle from the films – it is a big draw.”

To celebrate the castle’s link to Harry Potter, the attraction is holding a wizard weekend this Saturday and Sunday. There will be broomstick training sessions, look-a-like characters, owls, and an Alnwick on location tour with a costumed guide.

A replica turquoise Ford Anglia, which transported Harry and his pals through the air in the Chamber of Secrets – the follow-up to the debut film – will also be on show.

Many visitors recreate the broomstick training when they visit Alnwick Castle.

Many visitors recreate the broomstick training when they visit Alnwick Castle.

It isn’t just the castle that utilises Alnwick’s links to Harry Potter. Recently, the town’s Bailiffgate Museum hosted the Illustrating Harry Potter exhibition, which showcased Jim Kay’s depictions of the wizarding world and characters from the first book. Organisers described it as a resounding success.

Speaking about Harry’s influence, Jude Leitch, of Northumberland Tourism, said: “Harry Potter has had an impact on Northumberland.

“I recently spoke to a taxi driver who said that he picked up visitors from Alnmouth Station and they said that they wanted to go to Harry Potter’s castle at Alnwick.

“We make the point about Harry Potter when we market Northumberland to a wider audience, but we also mention other films and shows that have been filmed here.”

Jim Kay's drawing of Hagrid for the exhibition at the Bailiffgate Museum.

Jim Kay's drawing of Hagrid for the exhibition at the Bailiffgate Museum.

The replica turquoise Ford Anglia.

The replica turquoise Ford Anglia.