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Harry Potter’s Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a great city, and I’ve written about it a few times. But if it’s not a great enough city as it is, it’s also a great place for Harry Potter fans to visit as it’s steeped in Harry Potter history. J.K. Rowling moved to Edinburgh to be near her sister, and the welfare-dependent single mother wrote her first Harry Potter novels in this magical city. It’s easy to see where her inspiration came from.

There are a lot of walking tours to take but everything can easily be seen on your own, so I suggest saving some money and skipping a tour.

Getting Some Inspiration

George Heriot's School

Site #1: George Heriot’s School

Look familiar? This school is said to be the inspiration for Hogwarts. The school itself actually has four “houses” into which students are sorted – also sound familiar? J.K. Rowling actually sent two of her three children to school here.

Thomas Riddell's Grave

Site #2: Greyfriars Kirkyard

One of the prettiest and most interesting places to visit is Greyfriars Kirkyard. It’s filled with gorgeous and grotesque tombstones that J.K. Rowling herself also looked at. You can see the graves of William McGonagall, Elizabeth Moodie, and of course Thomas Riddell. Riddell’s grave actually has some gates around it since it’s so popularly seen!

Victoria Street

Site #3: Victoria Street

This is a quite popular street near Edinburgh castle that wraps around in a circular motion. You can kind of call it diagonal, as this was the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Actually, one of the great things about Edinburgh is that it’s filled to the brim with so many beautiful stone buildings and colourful facades. Though one can clearly see the inspiration here, the whole of Edinburgh feels like inspiration enough.

Pen to Paper

Spoon

Site #4: Spoon (formerly Nicolson’s Cafe)

Rowling’s brother-in-law used to own a place called Nicolson’s Cafe, and Rowling would go there to write her first books, along with the next location. It’s now called Spoon.

The Elephant House

Site #5: The Elephant House

The Elephant House is a cute cafe that also has a small gift shop. They advertise themselves with the slogan “The Birthplace of Harry Potter.” If you look out the back window, you can see Edinburgh Castle looking majestic atop its hill. What a great inspiration for Hogwarts!
Don’t forget to stop in the restroom because there’s a tonne of graffiti dedicated to Harry Potter there. I may or may not have written something there myself!
I’ve also eaten here twice and both times were delicious.

Balmoral Hotel

Site #6: Balmoral Hotel

A little less humble, Balmoral Hotel is where Rowling wrote the books after the rose to fame (in room 552 to be exact).

Geeking Out

Butterbeer from The Dog House

The Dog House

A local recommended The Dog House as one of his favourite pubs, but I already had it on my list. Why? They serve butterbeer! Actual alcoholic butterbeer. It was quite good. It could’ve done with a bit more butter flavour (and more alcohol) but we liked it. The bar is very eclectic and does seem to be a place that locals go to, so that’s a plus.

The Department of Magic

I have not been to the Department of Magic myself but it does look like quite a unique thing to do in Edinburgh. It’s an escape room and potions making complex.

Harry Potter as a Cat
They must have taken some Polyjuice Potion.

Shopping

There’s a tonne of shopping to be had for Harry Potter fans in Edinburgh. One cool place we went to was called “Museum Context,” which had a bunch of unique HP souvenirs. (Not that it’s particularly difficult to find Harry Potter themed things in Edinburgh or anywhere else.)

Did you know: The Harry Potter manuscript got rejected 12 times before it was accepted! The 13th time, the publisher’s young daughter really enjoyed the book, which is why it was accepted. They told J.K. Rowling not to quit her day job since they didn’t think she had a future in writing.

Talk about those publishers’ failure. I like to remember that J.K. Rowling was in a place where her work was being rejected and even ridiculed by the “professionals.” Then her work became one of the most celebrated and important literary series of all time. It’s just so inspirational.

Victoria Street

I usually end each post with a question, so here’s a different one: what Harry Potter house are you? I always identified as Slytherin.

Posted on Monday, August 12, 2019 in Destinations
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