On Holiday With Harry Potter

By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 31, 2006

Q. I will be going to Scotland next summer. Are there any Harry Potter tours or areas near Edinburgh or Glasgow where filming took place?

Alyssa Allro, Waldorf

A. Harry Potter fans don't need magic to see the boy wizard on his home turf; they just need a good map. "The movies were filmed in the United Kingdom," says Jeannie Barresi, whose Colorado company, Beyond Boundaries Travel, runs Harry Potter tours in Great Britain. "A lot of the scenery was shot in Scotland, plus some other places in England."

The fifth HP movie, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," is set to be released in July. To celebrate the movie, as well its predecessors, swing by the Elephant House in Edinburgh, J.K. Rowling's early writing haunt. The author also frequented Nicolson's, now a Chinese restaurant called Buffet King whose Web site touts "the very same view which J.K. Rowling enjoyed when she frequently visited the previous restaurant whilst writing 'Harry Potter and the Philosopheres [sic] Stone.' "

To visit scenes that appeared on the big screen, head for the Highlands. In the second, third and fourth films, the Lochaber area played a starring role. The Quidditch matches, for example, were filmed against the backdrop of Glen Nevis; Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was digitally placed on Ben Nevis; and the scene involving the near collision between a flying car and a train was shot in Glenfinnan, along a section of an arched railway viaduct. The Jacobite Steam Train ( travels along this route, between Fort William and Mallaig; trips start at $28 round trip. Glencoe also features prominently in the Potter oeuvre; for instance, the sets of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts were built nearby. For film locations in Scotland, check out or Visit Scotland (800-462-2748,

For the release of "Phoenix," Beyond Boundaries Travel has planned a number of July tours. A five-night Scotland trip includes Alnwick Castle, which appeared in two Potter movies, a Highlands ride on the train used in the movie and a gala at Edinburgh Castle. Cost is $1,949 per person double, land only. Info: 800-487-1136, For a less structured trip, Lynott Tours (800-221-2474, organizes self-drive tours of Harry Potter sites. Cost: $791 per person double, including car and five nights' lodging.

I have a 6 a.m. flight to Jamaica leaving from BWI. Can I go the night before, get through security and sleep in the airport?

Sharon Greenspan, Rockville

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport never closes, but don't get too comfortable. "You can sleep in the terminal, but we don't encourage it," says Jonathan Dean, a BWI spokesman. "If you have a ticket, you won't be asked to leave, but we can't guarantee a king-size bed and fluffy comforter."

Since the airport is always open, you can camp out on any of the benches in the pre-security area. Concourse E, the international terminal, has an assortment of chairs and tables, and there's a 24-hour cafe between piers B and C. For travelers' personal experiences sleeping in airports, see (BWI received more rants than raves.)

Overnighting in the post-security area is a different matter. Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Amy Kudwa says BWI's checkpoints close at 10:30 p.m. and don't reopen until 3:30 a.m. Compounding the problem is that for international flights, you must check in at the ticket counter, and many airlines let travelers check in only a few hours before their departure time. On Air Jamaica, for example, passengers can start checking in three hours before takeoff.

As an alternative, you might want to spring for a room at an airport hotel. BWI's Web site ( lists 30 properties nearby, and at many of them you can leave the morning drive to a shuttle driver.

Are credit card information and other personal details lodged in hotel key cards, and can such data be extracted by malevolent finders?

Judy Cohen, Bridgewater, Va.

Criminals stealing your personal info from hotel card keys is as likely as alligators living in the sewers. "It's an urban legend that's been around for a while," says Jessica Maccaro, marketing director of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, "but the cards don't contain guests' personal information."

Maccaro explains that most hoteliers use an embedding and encryption track that includes the bare minimum of data: guest name, room number and check-in and checkout dates. All sensitive info is kept in the computer.

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