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Alright muggles, did you know that there are Virginia Water Harry Potter filming locations in Windsor Great Park?
Many people know that the lochs in Scotland were the filming locations for Hogwarts Great Lake. But, a little known fact is that they filmed some of Hogwarts Lake at Virginia Water in Surrey too!
They filmed many recognisable scenes for the Prisoner of Azkaban here along with scenes during the Triwizard Tournament in Goblet of Fire. Plus, it featured in other Harry Potter movies too.
That’s why Virginia Water is known as ‘the other Hogwarts Lake’ and it makes a great day trip from London if you were on a Harry Potter tour of the UK.
Here is a complete guide for one of the real Hogwarts Lake locations and where to find all the magical Virginia Water Harry Potter filming locations in Windsor Great Park!
Virginia Water Lake history
This great royal lake had its humble beginning as a small stream in the 17th-century and it’s thought that it got its name from the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I.
The lake is man-made and was begun by William, Duke of Cumberland in 1746. He was a ranger at the park and had his own regiment. It was much smaller than the one we see today but it was destroyed in a flood in 1768.
In 1780, Paul and Thomas Sandy began construction of a much larger lake under the orders of King George III. This project included the wonderful cascade and meadow pond.
The Roman Ruins from the city of Leptis Magna were installed in 1826 under George IV as the Temple of Augustus named after him.
Also, you’ll find a 100-foot Totem Pole was a gift from the Canadian people to Queen Elizabeth II in 1958. It was gifted to mark 100 years of British Colombia started under Queen Victoria. There is one foot for every year and it weighs a whopping 12 tonnes.
Did you know? In World War II the lake was entirely drained as they thought that enemy forces would be able to easily identify Windsor from the air!
What is the Virginia Water Harry Potter connection?
It may surprise you to know that there is a Virginia Water Harry Potter connection. But, it’s true and this amazing parkland was used to film parts of Hogwarts Lake!
At first, I found this hard to believe. I mean, if you look at the scenes of Hogwarts Great Lake, you’d never believe that it was filmed in Surrey near London.
I mean, where are all the mountains and all the mysterious islands that make it look, well…magical?!
Unlike Scotland, England isn’t exactly known for its mighty peaks standing over impressive lochs! In fact, most of England is flat in comparison.
But, the Highlands of Scotland do have one annoying thing that we don’t usually see in the south…midges!
The Highland midge is a tiny fly and can be a real nuisance. They fly around everywhere, get in the way, and can bite. So, many people wear face nets…that’s okay for hikers but not ideal for filming actors in movies!
So, the director and the production team decided to film some of the close-up scenes of Hogwarts Lake on the banks of the midge-free Virginia Water Lake instead.
The backdrop of the mountains that you see is actually a mix of Loch Shiel and Loch Arkaig in Scotland and it was superimposed onto the backdrop of the footage! It’s all down to the magic of cinema.
Although you won’t find magical mountains, Potterheads will still be thrilled to know that the actors were here at Virginia Water Lake. You’ll recognise many filming locations where they brought the stories to life!
What Harry Potter was filmed at Virginia Water?
There were quite a few Harry Potter movies filmed at Virginia Water as it featured as the close-up scenes of the Great Lake at Hogwarts.
Firstly, we see Virginia Water Lake in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), then it featured in many scenes during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).
It also features briefly in Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix (2007) but mostly in unused footage.
Magical Virginia Water Harry Potter filming locations
So, where can you find all of the Virginia Water Harry Potter locations in Windsor Great Park?
Well, the easiest place to start is at the Virginia Water visitor centre near the car park.
Then, you can make your way around to the Cascade and the Roman Ruins as nearly all of the scenes were filmed around here.
Here’s a complete list of all the magical Virginia Water Harry Potter filming locations and roughly where to find them!
Virginia Water Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban filming locations
1. Where Harry rides Buckbeak
The first time that we see Virginia Water Lake is in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
If you remember in the movies, Hagrid becomes a new professor at Hogwarts and runs his ‘Care of Magical Creatures Classroom’. In the lesson, Harry meets a Hippogriff called Buckbeak.
Once Harry has bowed to the proud creature and gains his trust, Hagrid unceremoniously shoves Harry on top of him and they take a ride around Hogwarts Great Lake!
Some of the close-up lakeside scenes were filmed around here along with Loch Shiel in Scotland as the backdrop.
2. Hagrid tells the Golden Trio of Buckbeak’s execution
Another clever scene filmed at Virginia Water Lake is when Hagrid later tells the Golden Trio about Buckbeak’s Execution.
In the movie, Draco Malfoy decides to annoy Buckbeak instead of gaining his trust and so the Hippogriff naturally gets angry.
Buckbeak ends up knocking Draco to the floor and so Draco decides to tell his father Lucius Malfoy about it which means that the case is brought to trial.
At the trial, Cornelius Fudge who is Head of the Ministry of Magic sentences Buckbeak to death, and Hagrid is obviously extremely upset.
He’s skimming stones in the lake will telling Harry, Ron, and Hermione the tragic story.
The Loch that Hagrid is facing is actually a mix of Loch Eilt’s small island of Eilean na Moine superimposed on the impressive Loch Arkaig in Scotland.
But, some of the close-up scenes of Hagrid’s face with the Golden Trio stood behind him on the river banks were filmed at Virginia Water Lakeside. So clever!
3. Harry fights off the Dementor’s Kiss with his Patronus
The last Virginia Water Harry Potter filming location in the Prisoner of Azkaban is where Harry Potter fights off the Dementor’s Kiss of Death in the Forbidden Forest with his Patronus.
If you remember, Harry is trying to save his Godfather Sirius Black’s life, and the Dementor’s Kiss is too powerful for him.
Later, he is saved by himself and his Patronus charm once Hermione and Harry use her time turner to travel back and save the lives of both Buckbeak and Sirius!
Most of the scenes were filmed in Torren Lochan in Scotland. This is a place near Clachaig Gully near the Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe.
This is where they set up Hagrid’s Hut for the production and the Wooden Bridge to Nowhere at Hogwarts.
Also, this is the location where Hermione gives a rather satisfying punch to the face to Draco Malfoy in the Sundial Garden!
But, because of the pesky Highland midge, the close-up footage of these Dementor’s kiss scenes was filmed at Virginia Water Lake.
So, you can stand here with your wand and shout “EXPECTO PATRONAM” too if you fancy!
Click here to read my complete guide on visiting Hagrid’s Hut at Clachaig Gully in Scotland
Virginia Water Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire filming locations
4. Harry and Neville sit at Hogwarts Lake
The next Harry Potter movie we see Virginia Water Lake is in the Goblet of Fire when Harry shockingly becomes the fourth champion in the Triwizard Tournament…much to the distaste of his best friend Ron!
At this point, Harry and Ron are not talking and he needs to find a way to solve the second task of the Triwizard Tournament.
Neville gives Harry his ‘Magical Water Plants of the Highland Lochs’ to read while Neville is fishing for magical water plants in the lake.
It’s at this point Neville waves to Ron, Hermione, and Ginny who come over for Hermione to relay a message.
This filming location can be found just after the Cascade but before you reach the Roman Ruins. You’ll find it to your right on the lakeside!
It’s quite hard to pinpoint the exact spot but you’ll recognise a tree that almost swoops into the lake.
5. Hermione relays messages but is “NOT an OWL!”
The next Virginia Water Harry Potter filming location comes just after this and is filmed almost directly opposite the place where Harry was with Neville.
This is the part where Ron, Hermione, and Ginny head over and Ron asks Hermione to relay a message:
“Ronald would like me to tell you that Seamus told him that Dean was told by Parvati that Hagrid’s looking for you.”
Harry then asks Hermione to speak to Ron but she gets fed up and screams “I’m NOT an OWL” (one of my favourite lines).
This scene is filmed opposite the lakeside on the left-hand side of the pathway. You’ll notice a cluster of five trees together on the hillside.
It’s easy to spot and locate once you have the picture which I’ve provided for you below.
6. Students walk on the jetty to take boats to the second task of the Triwizard Tournament
Did you know that the production team made their very own purpose-built jetty for the Triwizard Tournament? That’s right and they set it up right here on Virginia Water Lake!
This is the scene where the students head over to the boats which will take them to see the second task of the tournament over the Black Lake.
The backdrop is again Loch Shiel with its amazing mountains but the close-up scenes of Neville giving Harry Gillyweed for the second task were filmed on the banks of Virginia Water Lake.
7. Harry talks with Barty Crouch Senior
The last Virginia Water Harry Potter filming location happens after Harry comes second place in the second task of the Triwizard Tournament.
Harry asks Barty Crouch Senior about his son who he sent off to Azkaban. Mad-Eye Moody then arrives to join in the conversation.
It’s here that Barty Snr notices the weird tongue twitch on Mad-Eye Moody and figures out that Moody is in fact his son Barty Crouch Junior disguised using Polyjuice Potion! Let’s just say, it doesn’t end well for Barty Snr later…
All of the scenes with Harry, Barty Crouch Senior, and Alastor Moody are filmed on the Virginia Water Lakeside.
Other Virginia Water Harry Potter filming locations & theories
There are some other Virginia Water Harry Potter connections that are worth mentioning:
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix there was a deleted scene of Professor McGonagall sitting in a wheelchair reading a newspaper filmed here
- The Cascade at Virginia Water Lake featured in the backdrop of some behind the scenes footage of the Golden Trio.
- There are some fan theories that Hagrids Care of Magical Creatures class was filmed here for the Prisoner of Azkaban. But, I believe it’s been confirmed that Buckbeak’s lesson was filmed in Black Park Country Park in Slough.
How to find these Virginia Water Harry Potter filming locations
Mostly all of these Harry Potter filming locations can be found at the edge of Virginia Water lakeside near to the Cascade & Roman Ruins.
Luckily, Virginia Water park has a huge flat pathway that surrounds the whole of the lake. So, it’s really easy to find them on a scenic and accessible walk.
From the Virginia Water main car park entrance, head left from the visitor centre and café and follow the signs towards the Cascade and the Roman Ruins.
The first thing you’ll see to your right is the reeds on the river banks. This is where they set up the jetty for the students to catch the boats to the second task of the Triwizard Tournament.
Also, the scenes where Harry flies over the lake on Buckbeak. The banks of the river were filmed here and the backdrop was Scotland!
Next, you’ll find the cascade. This wasn’t used but did feature in some behind-the-scenes footage.
In the tree walkway before the Roman Ruins, you’ll find where Harry sits with Neville. Opposite you’ll see the place that Hermione passes messages between Harry and Ron.
Opposite the Roman Ruins, you’ll see the area where Harry fights off the Dementors and the (potential) location of Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class.
It may be difficult to pinpoint exact locations but the forests and lakeside here are pretty magical. The production team was particularly inspired by the twisted and gnarled roots of the trees here!
Potterheads will also be in their element knowing they are exploring one of the real Hogwarts Lake locations!
Things to do in Virginia Water Lake
There are many places that you can visit aside from chasing Virginia Water Harry Potter filming locations!
As Virginia Water is part of the Royal Estate and Windsor Great Park you can be sure there are a wealth of attractions to see.
Here are the top things to do in Virginia Water Lake.
Virginia Water Cascade
You will have probably already passed the amazing Virginia Water Cascade waterfall on your way around.
This waterfall was part of the original construction which began in 1752 but it was later destroyed by a great storm that emptied the lake in 1768. It was then remade later under George III.
It’s now one of the most popular attractions in the Great Windsor Park and if you visit in autumn or winter the waterfall will be spectacular with the rainfall! In summer, the cascade often stops due to warm weather.
There’s a small platform and a bench where you can enjoy the views and it’s an amazing photo stop.
As well as featuring in the behind-the-scenes in Harry Potter, this magical cascade featured in the Netflix series Cursed.
The Roman Ruins
The Roman Ruins, also known as Leptis Magna Ruins, are an impressive site here on the lakeside.
Although we do have Roman settlements here in the UK, these ruins have not stood here in this park for thousands of years. They were actually imported over from Libya in the 19th-century!
These are the remains of the once-great ancient city of Leptis Magna dating back to the year 193 A.D. This grew to prominence in North Africa under the Roman rule of Emperor Septimius Severus. After his death, the city fell largely into ruin.
In 1816, British officer Hanmer Warrington visited the ruins of Leptis Magna and had the vision to move them back to Britain. Despite local outrage, the ruins and other artifacts were loaded on ships headed for British shores.
Once delivered to London, officer Warrington didn’t get the fanfare and celebration he’d hoped for. In fact, the ruins stood in the British Museum for some time but no one knew what to do with them!
So, instead of sending them back to the people of Libya, they put them in Windsor Great Park. Jeffry Wyatville, who was King George IV’s architect, wanted to use them to create a folly called The Temple of Augustus. Nothing to do with Leptis Magna..
To this day, what remains of the once-mighty city of Leptis Magna sits by a roadside in Surrey… A fine example of British Colonialism in action *sigh*!
The Totem Pole
Talking of colonial monuments, the next thing to see is the Virginia Water Totem Pole which towers over the park.
This 100-foot tall totem pole was a gift from the people of Canada to Queen Elizabeth II in 1958.
It has one foot for every year of the centenary of British Columbia which was named by Queen Victoria in 1858!
It was carved by Chief Mungo Martin from the Kwakiutl tribe out of a single log of Western Red Cedar and weighs 12 tonnes.
Virginia Water café & facilities
If you were looking for somewhere to eat at Virginia Water Lake then your main option is the Virginia Water Café by the main car park and the takeaway stand just outside of it.
There is a Virginia Water Lake Pavilion cafe that is right by the front entrance of the main car park. They serve up light refreshments and drinks throughout the day.
There is also a little food stall and takeaway counter outside of it that serves up drinks and light bites to take away.
Or, if you fancy bringing your own lunch, there are plenty of picnic benches and places to sit around the lakeside for a picnic!
The Virginia Water visitor centre is a lovely place with some (rather posh) toilets. There is also a small shop with some gifts to purchase but, sadly, no Harry Potter merchandise in sight!
Where is Virginia Water
Virginia Water is located on the border of the counties of Berkshire and Surrey and falls within The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.
It’s easily accessed by car on the M25, M3, or M4 so it’s a popular stop with commuters.
Virginia Water address is A30, London Road, Virginia Water, GU25 4QF.
The Windsor Great Park is also a short drive from the centre of Windsor, a town that is home to the famous Windsor Castle. It’s a holiday residence of the Royal Family so it’s often referred to as the ‘Royal City of Windsor’.
That being said, you can expect to find lots of pubs and streets named after royal family members and gift shops selling all sorts of royal paraphernalia.
There are lots of great tourist attractions near Windsor like the family theme parks of Thorpe Park and Legoland.
Also, it’s close to Ascot which is home to Royal Ascot races. So, it makes a great day out from London or a weekend away in the UK.
How to visit Virginia Water Lake?
The easiest way to visit Virginia Water Lake would be to drive and there are two car parks available.
If you’re heading to Windsor by train, you can easily plan walks around Windsor Great Park which includes Virginia Water lake.
It’s important to note, it will take you around 2 hours to reach Virginia Water Lake from the centre of Windsor on foot. So, you may wish to travel closer by bus, train or take a taxi.
Alternatively, there is a Virginia Water train station but it will be a 30-minute walk to the lake from there.
There is a White Bus service 500 that runs from Windsor High Street to Virginia Water on Mondays – Saturdays. Or, you can take the bus from the Ascot train station. Click here for more details.
Virginia Water Lake parking
The only downside of visiting the Virginia Water Harry Potter filming locations is the fact that the Virginia Water parking charges are expensive.
There are two car parks that you can use to visit Virginia Water Lake. These are the main Virginia Water car park (GU25 4QF) and Virginia Water South car park (SL5 7SB).
The main Virginia Water car park is the best place to park as it’s closest to all the Virginia Water Harry Potter filming locations.
Virginia Water Lake parking prices
The Virginia Water parking charges are:
- Up to 1 hour – £3
- 1 – 2 hours – £6
- 2 – 3 hours – £9
- over 3 hours – £12
These parking charges are taken by card payments only and are now cash-free.
You get a parking ticket before you drive into the car park and there are parking machines to pay outside the Visitor Centre before you leave.
If you didn’t fancy paying, there are some layby’s on the main road just outside of the car park which (I believe) are free! But, these are limited and you should always check if there is a parking meter before you leave your car.
If you’re heading to The Savill Garden, visitors get free parking with a paid entry ticket. So, you could walk to Virginia Water from there.
Virginia Water opening times and prices
Virginia Water is a completely free park that is open from dawn to dusk every day of the week, all year.
But, I’d definitely recommend visiting during daylight hours as there is no artificial lighting at the park!
The Virginia Water visitor centre, toilets, café, and car park have set opening hours. The Virginia Water car parks are open from 7.45 am – 7 pm throughout the year.
Virginia Water Lake FAQs
- How big is Virginia Water lake? It’s a man-made lake that is 24 hectares!
- Can you paddle or swim in Virginia Water Lake? No. there are signs everywhere to avoid paddling or swimming in the water! Dogs were paddling on the shores though.
- How long does it take to walk around Virginia Water lake? The walk around the lake is around 4.5 miles or 7.2 kilometres! It’s all accessible via flat paths. I’d allow 2-3 hours to do the whole walk at a leisurely pace with stops at the main viewpoints and attractions.
- Does Virginia Water Lake close in the evening? Technically, no. But, there is no artificial lighting there at all so you won’t see much after sunset! The car park does have a closing time of 7pm.
Where to next?
If you were chasing Harry Potter filming locations, then you couldn’t be in a better place to find them!
Of course, any Harry Potter fan needs to make a visit to the Warner Brothers Studios Tour in London also known as the Making of Harry Potter tour!
It’s an incredible attraction where you can experience walking down Diagon Alley, seeing the Hogwarts Express, taking a walk in the Forbidden Forest, and even sip on Butter Beer.
London also has many filming locations including Leadenhall Market as The Leaky Cauldron and Kings Cross Station for Platform 9 3/4’s. Cecil Court and Goodwin’s Court are thought to be inspirations for Diagon Alley.
Plus, many Harry Potter-themed attractions and experiences like the Cursed Child and a Potion Making Cocktails Class at The Cauldron. Plus, you can visit London’s only Butterbeer Bar!
There are other filming locations near Surrey like Picket Post Close in Bracknell that featured as 4 Privet Drive. Plus, Black Park Country Park featured as the Forbidden Forest, and Burnham Beeches is featured in the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
If you’re up for a drive you could also plan a visit to Oxford, Gloucester Cathedral, or Lacock Abbey which all featured as classrooms and corridors in Hogwarts!
Read more of my Harry Potter travel guides
Harry Potter locations in Lacock
Harry Potter filming locations in Oxford
Harry Potter filming locations in Alnwick Castle
How to spend the night in Hagrid’s Hut
Where to find Harry Potter in York
Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh
All the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland
How to find the Harry Potter Tree at Blenheim Palace
The Shop That Must Not Be Named Review
How to visit the real Godric’s Hollow in Lavenham
How to find Dobby’s Grave in Wales
Harry Potter filming locations in Gloucester Cathedral
A complete Forbidden Forest Experience Review
How to see the Hogwarts Express in Scotland
Visiting Malfoy Manor in Real life!
How to visit a real-life Knockturn Alley
Where to find Tom Riddle’s grave in Edinburgh
Visiting the Quidditch Town of Tutshill Tornados
Harry Potter locations in Exeter along with Gandy Street and the Room of Requirement
Instagram locations at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Is Cecil Court a real Diagon Alley in London?
How to visit Dumbledore’s Grave in Scotland
How to find the Malham Cove Harry Potter Deathly Hallows filming location
Harry Potter filming locations at Durham Cathedral