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Tripping Through Cinematic Universes: From 'Star Wars' To 'Harry Potter' To 'Game Of Thrones'

My 2023 UK holiday trip was truly unforgettable in more ways than one.

By Marguerita TanPublished 6 days ago 6 min read
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Costume exhibit at the Game of Thrones Studio Tour. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

Star Wars, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones - just but three of my favorite things in the world. Joy is also having a BFF who love these pop culture phenomena as much as I do.

When we are not holidaying on our own, the BFF and I will embark on trips together which obviously will involve our shared interests.

That was how our 2023 UK trip—England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 20 days—came about and it all started with Star Wars.

You see, after years of trying, we lifelong fans finally managed to get tickets to the latest Star Wars Celebration, which would be held in London, England in April 2023.

As we were travelling so far from Asia (Singapore to be exact) to Europe, we decided to add Scotland and Northern Ireland to our itinerary—since we love Harry Potter and Game of Thrones just as much—so to make it a total Pop Culture Holiday Adventure!

London Part 1: We're One With The Force

Me (left) and the BFF at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

Our first London stint was focused totally on the 4-day Star Wars Celebration Europe held at the massive ExCeL London.

Being with thousands of fellow Star Wars fans from all over the world enjoying all things Star Wars was truly an exhilarating experience.

Star Wars Stars Past and Present

Return of the Jedi panel hosted by American actress Ming-Na Wen. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

As entry to the exclusive panels were by lottery and we didn't win a single ticket, one Celebration highlight for us was being able to get into the Return of the Jedi 40th Anniversary panel after queueing two hours for "unclaimed seats".

It was a real thrill as not only The Book of Boba Fett star Ming-Na Wen (who plays assassin Fennec Shand) hosted it, but we were also treated to exclusive video greetings from Star Wars legends Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.

We had met the lovely Ming-Na in person earlier that day at a photo op where she sweetly posed with us while holding my tiny Fennec Shand action figure. A memorable moment captured on professional photo print, yea!

Star Wars Cosplay Coolness

Troopers striking a pose at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

IMHO though, the true stars were the hundreds of cosplayers that turned up in full or makeshift costumes as they frankly make the fan convention swing.

Not only do most of them looked the part, there was hardly any cosplayer who would refused a request to be photographed or pose with you.

As requested, Darth Vader has a (choke)hold on things. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

One of my favorite Celebration images is the one above of a Darth Vader cosplayer acceding to a guy's request to Force-choke him for a shot. Fun was literally everywhere around you!

Spaced out after four days of Star Wars, we moved on to Scotland...

Scotland: Iconic Harry Potter Train Route

As fans of the J.K. Rowling Harry Potter books (1997-2007) and the subsequent eight films (2001-2011), the must-do thing in Scotland for us was to ride the "Hogwarts Express" that travels through the Scottish Highlands and over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct.

In reality, it is the West Coast Railways steam train, The Jacobite, that travels from Fort William to Mallig, the same route that the Hogwarts Express takes as it carries Harry, Hermione and Ron to school in the blockbuster films.

The Jacobite takes you on the Hogwarts Express route. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

As for most Harry Potter attractions, we'd booked tickets for The Jacobite months in advance, adding an English tea at that.

We based ourselves at Inverness for easy transfer to Fort William, so to be on time to catch the special train which only ran once a day. (It has since added an afternoon run.)

The 84-mile, 4-hour round-trip journey was beautiful and scenic. We were definitely not the only Potterheads on board as you can tell by the Gryffindor scarfs most were wearing (including yours truly), while some even had wands and golden snitches!

Scotland's Glenfinnan Viaduct as seen from a moving train. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

The highlight of course was when the train chugged across the magnificent 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct. The train driver would kindly inform all passengers to get their cameras ready as the train approached it to and from Mallig.

It's always a joy when you see iconic things on screen and then is able to see the real McCoy in real life. Cheap thrills, these aren't!

We also visited Loch Ness and many other attractions in and around Edinburgh during our week in Scotland. To say we were very adventurous on this trip is an understatement.

Onwards to "Westeros"...

Northern Ireland: Game of Thrones Territory

This was actually my second trip to Northern Ireland having been there in 2018 to attend a Game of Thrones live concert and visit the Emmy-winning series' Irish filming locations.

But after reading that there is a Game of Thrones Studio Tour set up in 2022, the BFF and I really wanted to visit the attraction. Besides it was only an hour's flight from Inverness to Belfast.

Stunning costumes at the Game of Thrones Studio Tour. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

Located within Linen Mills Studio in Banbridge, the tour features an extensive collection of costumes, props, sets, artwork and a gazillion other things used and seen on Game of Thrones throughout its eight seasons.

From the famous name swords to a life-sized Qyburn's Scorpion, to Daenerys' stone dragon eggs to monster-sized dragon skulls, every display made us go "ooh" and "aah" each time we remembered where and when we saw it in the masterfully-filmed series.

Me (left) and the BFF at the actual Winterfell Great Hall set. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

One cool insight was that some of the set displays are actual sets used in the series itself.

Take the Winterfell Great Hall, for example. The actual set used for filming the indoor scenes of the Stark homestead in the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones is meticulously preserved. Such a thrill to stand in a real-life set where the show's actors walked on!

At the end of our three-hour visit, we got to sit on The Iron Throne (ok, replica) for a photographic memento. See my Vocal profile pix for my Queen of the Seven Kingdoms stance!

A "Hold-The-Door" Surprise!

A sweet surprise from Game of Thrones actor Kristian Nairn! [Credit: Ireland Executive Travel]

Lastly, to add the icing to King Joffrey's wedding cake... Just before our private driver Seamus sent us to Belfast airport for our flight back to London, he gave us a delightful gift.

Amused by how enthralled we are over all things Game of Thrones, Seamus got his "acquaintance", Hodor actor Kristian Nairn no less, to give us his autograph and a photo to boot! You should hear the shrieks of joy that erupted in the car. What a brilliant end to our "Westeros" visit!

London Part 2: More Things Harry Potter

Costumes and sets galore at the Harry Potter Studio Tour. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

Back in London, it was all things Harry Potter and first up was the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter, which is in Walford.

There was literally thousands of visitors, including five bus-loads of school children, at the award-winning attraction and we were so glad we booked our tickets in advance!

Preparing to board the Hogwarts Express. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

With the films' familiar music scores playing in every room, it was really like walking into a magical wizarding world.

There were so much to gawk at: spectacular life-sized sets, original costumes and props, interactive stations, and many other stuff seen in the films. I mean, the studio was huge enough to house an entire Hogwarts Express replica, not to mention full-size houses and vehicles in outdoor settings!

It took us four hours to cover the place and we didn't even had time for a frothy Butterbeer at the Backlot Cafe (sob)!

Harry Potter on Stage

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at London's Palace Theater. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

Next up was the acclaimed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 2-part play at the Palace Theater and we opted to watch both parts on the same day.

Based on an original story by Rowling, Jack Thorne and Jim Tiffany and set 19 years after the events in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the West End production was brilliantly-acted, well-scripted and filled with mesmerizing special effects that made the show truly magical.

After the second show, we immediately popped into a nearby House of Spells collectible shop to see what Harry Potter merchandise we could buy!

Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station

A Harry Potter fan at King's Cross Station's Platform 9 3/4. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

Lastly, a visit to King's Cross Station was a no-brainer.

Harry and friends travel to Hogwarts every year via this station and in the real world, the busy London railway terminus has ingeniously put up a Platform 9 3/4 feature wall complete with luggage trolley, right beside an official Harry Potter Shop.

No tickets required but you have to be prepared to mingle with dozens of other Potterheads who want their turn at the trolley. Thankfully, we already took our Platform 9 3/4 shots at the studio tour!

All in all, my 2023 UK trip was a blast and arguably my most memorable holiday trip to date.

Besides tripping through our favorite cinematic universes, other touristy attractions we visited such as Loch Ness, Edinburgh Castle and Stonehenge were thoroughly enjoyable too.

Yes, we certainly packed a lot on this trip but hey, it was worth it!

(All photos, bar one, taken with Marguerita Tan's Samsung Galaxy S21.)

europetravel photographypop culture
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About the Creator

Marguerita Tan

A freelance writer who loves God, movies, music and TV; esp Star Wars, Animation/Anime, GOT, The Wheel of Time, and anything that's entertaining! X/Threads/ISG: @marfield49

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