Anyone who has a love for Harry Potter (like me) knows Edinburgh is closely connected to the boy wizard. J.K. Rowling moved to the Scottish city in the 1990s, and it was there she began writing the books that have become the worldwide phenomenon they are today. Eagle-eyed fans will be able to see that Edinburgh has influenced Harry Potter and several locations around the city are worth visiting for any fan.
The Elephant House Café
The first stop on the list should be The Elephant House Café on George Street. Styled as the ‘Birthplace of Harry Potter’ it was this café, overlooking Edinburgh Castle, where Rowling wrote parts of the first book in the back room. Though queues are long, and you have to squeeze past people snapping pictures outside, it should be top of your list. I got a table in the back room, facing out over the castle, with a slice of cake (Nutella and chocolate if I remember correctly) and a pot of tea to accompany me. I honestly felt a little giddy about being in the same room where Rowling had dreamt up the beginning of a story that has become one of my favourite books. There is also the café Spoon (previously called Nicholson’s Café) where Rowling also wrote parts of the books.
Visiting a graveyard might not be everyone’s idea of a top attraction, but as you wander through Greyfriars Kirkyard (near the statue of Greyfriars Bobby), you can see some of the names that have influenced characters in the books. There are Blacks, McGonagall’s and most notably, Thomas Riddell Esq and his son, also Thomas Riddell. Tom Riddle is Lord Voldemort’s real name, the same as his father. The other grand stones and mausoleums in the kirkyard may have also been the inspiration for the gravestone of Tom Riddle Senior Rowling describes in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, and brought to life in the film.
George Heriot’s School
George Heriot’s School, built in 1628 has four towers, four houses and is a grand building, and it is no stretch of the imagination to see it was clearly a source of inspiration for Hogwarts School itself. You can’t go in, as it is a functioning school, but even from the outside, you can easily picture it as a place for educating young witches and wizards.
The Balmoral Hotel
The Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street is one of the more luxurious Harry Potter hotspots. The building dominates the Edinburgh skyline nearly as much as the castle, and it was in room 552 that Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on 11th January 2007. How do we know that? Rowling scribbled that wonderful piece of information onto a piece of furniture when she had finished the book. In her honour, the room has been renamed the Rowling Suite.
Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row
Near The Elephant House is Victoria Street and the adjacent Candlemaker Row. Both streets are colourful, quirky and could possibly have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley. The narrow and curved Victoria Street, with old buildings and pointed roofs feels like it could easily fit into the shambling world of Harry Potter. There is even a Diagon Alley plaque and mural in Candlemaker Row and a Harry Potter shop and joke shop on Victoria Street.
The Edinburgh City Chambers
On the Royal Mile, in the City Chambers quadrangle, you can find the handprints of J.K. Rowling, which had been reproduced to commemorate her winning the Edinburgh Award in 2008. The award began in 2007, and you can also find the handprints of author Ian Rankin, Sir Chris Hoy and Elizabeth Blackadder.
Have you been to Edinburgh and any of these Harry Potter locations? Let me know in the comments or via social media! And if you want to know more about my trip to Scotland, read about my highlights here!
Top image credit: Ken Eckert