YOUR Guide to: make the most out of your study abroad experience by travelling, learning, and living
If you’re anything like me, the fact that Harry Potter was essentially created in Edinburgh is pretty much the coolest thing ever. From listening in on tours in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard to roaming the streets of Edinburgh and experiencing the tales first-hand, I’ve learned my fair share of the history of Edinburgh’s influence on J.K. Rowling’s creation of Harry Potter. SO, whether you live in Edinburgh or are visiting for the weekend, here are the must-see stops on your very own DIY Harry Potter Tour.
- Greyfriar’s Kirkyard: You can actually visit Voldemort’s grave!! Okay well maybe not Voldemort himself, but Rowling did get some inspo from this graveyard. Take a stroll through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and try to find the tombstones of actual people whose names Rowling thought were just too perfect not to turn into characters in her series. Some of these include Elizabeth Moodie (Mad-Eye Moody), William McGonagall (Professor McGonagall), and none other than Thomas Riddell (we all know who that guy is). Someone even sharpied in Sirius Black on a grave near Riddell’s which I thought was absolutely hilarious.
- George Hariot’s School: Nicknamed ‘Hogwarts House’, George Hariot’s School can be seen from Greyfriar’s Kirkyard just across from the tombstone of William McGonagall. It is said to have been the inspiration of Hogwarts both in its undeniable physical resemblance, but also in its separation into four different schools within the institution (although I don’t think there’s a Gryffindor here).
- Elephant House: Just down the road from Greyfriar’s Kirkyard on George IV Bridge is a charming café called the Elephant House. It is unmistakable with a huge sign in the window that reads ‘Birthplace of Harry Potter’. From its display of a signed copy by Rowling herself of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to the walls of the restrooms which are covered from top to bottom with little HP-themed notes from fans, the Elephant House is a HP fan must-see.
- Victoria Street: Only a few hundred feet from the Elephant House is the top of Victoria Street, or what HP fans claim to be the inspo for Diagon Alley. From the joke shop at the bottom, to the colourful, quirky shops stacked next to each other, and even the two-story Harry Potter themed store, Victoria Street is undeniably the ‘Diagon Alley’ of Edinburgh.
- Balmoral Hotel: Once Harry Potter started to become one of the most popular series basically ever, Rowling was too famous to post up at a café all day and finish her books (unless she was fine with an endless swarm of die-hard HP fans screaming at her for a picture and an autograph every 2 seconds which, like many of us, she probably wasn’t). Rowling then turned to the high-end Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street. She rented out a grand suite in which to finish her later books in the series. The plaque which now hangs in the suite states, “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the room on 11th Jan, 2007”. COOL. My dad actually tried to surprise me with a night to stay in that room because he knows how o b s e s s e d I am with HP… until we were told that the avg. night costs over £700. Like nope, I’m not that crazy about it. Nevertheless, def a fun fact to know!
- Spoon: Contrary to the Elephant’s House claim of being the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, a true HP fan would know that the café in which JK Rowling wrote the first book of the series was Spoon café on Nicolson Street. While the Elephant House is more well-known for being the place in which Rowling created the magical series, Spoon is a great (and quite honestly, less touristy) café to experience the ambiance in which the famous Harry Potter was first created.
Well, that’s the end of my DIY Edinburgh HP Tour; however, if you find yourself able, try to find these other famous filming locations in Scotland!
- Glenfinnan Viaduct: The scene in which Harry almost falls out of the Weasley’s flying car above the Hogwart’s Express was filmed at this location! You can actually go visit this beautiful expanse in the West Highlands as well as the real railway bridge the Hogwarts Express chugs along.
- Glencoe: The Three Sisters mountains in Glencoe are a famous backdrop for several scenes in the Harry Potter movies. One in particular in which the beautiful Scottish scenery is unmistakable is in the Prisoner of Askaban; Hagrid’s hut is filmed in front of the Three Sisters in Glencoe.