J. K. Rowling's Exeter

If you ever wanted to leave the muggle life behind while abroad, one of the best places to go is Exeter! Rowling lived here for her three years at the University of Exeter. Though she never confirmed that she based any of her locations off Exeter, walking around this historic city can sometimes make you feel like you’re in the world of Harry Potter, and many locations are rumored to be the inspiration for wizarding world locations.

So grab your wand, your pointed hat, and your copy of Bathilda Bagshot’s A History of Magic, and then click here to find an interactive map to follow along with!


Mardon Hall (aka the Gryffindor Common Room)

“You might belong in Gryffindor

Where dwell the brave at heart,

Their daring, nerve, and chivalry

Set Gryffindors apart” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


Steal your courage to treck up the hill and find the home of Gryffindors. In the muggle world, it’s a residence hall, which makes it harder to get inside to see the actual common room. However, if you are able to get in, enjoy the old library and cozy living space!


 Washington Singer Building (aka Moaning Myrtle’s Bathroom)

“If you die down there, you’re welcome to share my toilet.” – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (movie)


Don’t worry: no Basilisks here… I think. Though the bathroom still resembles the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, in Rowling's time, it was even spookier. While she was there, clear tubing ran throughout the bathroom that is reminiscent of Moaning Myrtle's haunt. Strangely enough, here at Exeter, it’s nothing more than a bathroom, so if you want to pop in and take a peak, just make sure you do so during the school term.


Pennsylvania Road, Exeter (aka Privet Drive)

“A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of Privet Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky, the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen.” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 


J. K. Rowling famously did not enjoy much of her time here in Exeter. Rowling was unable to study what actually interested her, because her parents wanted her to have a practical degree, so Rowling’s university life was not the best time for her. It is no wonder, then, that people associate Pennsylvania Avenue, where Rowling lived in Exeter, with the dreaded Privet Drive. While the street looks much like any other small British residential area, for Rowling, her feeling of oppression while there was probably much like Harry’s while at Privet Drive.


The Old Firehouse (aka The Leaky Cauldron)

"Ah, the Leaky Cauldron! If you have the pea soup, make sure you eat it before it eats you!" – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (movie)


Though you may not see a wizard stirring his coffee with magic, the Old Firehouse is one of the most famous Harry Potter landmarks in Exeter. Widely regarded as the inspiration for the Leaky Cauldron, the Old Firehouse has the feeling of a magical place because of its dimly-lit, cozy atmosphere. I mean, they put candles on your table and everything! If you want a magical meal out, make sure to stop by in the afternoon, when they’re open.


Gandy Street (aka Diagon Alley)

“’Welcome,’ said Hagrid, ‘to Diagon Alley.’” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


Wander down this winding alley and be amazed by Diagon Alley’s secret double. At the heart of the city, you can pop down and poke around to see the cute shops that are almost as charming as the real Diagon Alley. This comparison is the most common connection to the Harry Potter books, and it’s definitely worth the trip!


Vaults Bar on Gandy Street (aka Gringotts Vaults)

“Gringotts was the safest place in the world for something you wanted to hide – except perhaps Hogwarts.” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 


Well, it’s not actually a bank, but the outside sure looks a lot like Gringotts. It’s right off Gandy Street and is also right near the local library, so you can grab a book and some food while you keep an eye out for goblins.


Exeter Cathedral (aka The Great Hall at Hogwarts)

“It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn’t simply open on to heaven.” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


Alright, there are a lot of cathedrals that have this similar vaulted ceiling design, but going inside the Exeter Cathedral is truly magical! Just wander inside (after paying the entry fee), sit down in a pew and imagine that you’re waiting for Dumbledore to announce the beginning of term. It’s hard not to enter the Cathedral and feel like you’ve stepped into a different world. 


Text © Emily Daluga, Photos © Emily Daluga, Alex Kirshy, and Deirdre Sheridan


Works Cited

Cornforth, David. “J K Rowling – author of Harry Potter.” Exeter Memories. 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Dir. Chris Columbus. Warner Bros, 2002. DVD.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Dir. Alfonso Cuarón. Warner Bros, 2004. DVD.

“Pictures: JK Rowling’s Exeter inspirations for Harry Potter.” Exeter Express and Echo. Local World, 16. Mar. 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.

Romaine, Luke. “12 Things Harry Potter Fans Must See in Exeter.” Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed, Inc, 16, Oct. 2014. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Print.