Edinburgh is the city which inspired JK Rowling as she wrote the Harry Potter books. It is packed with reminders and inspirations which will delight visitors looking to recreate the spirit of witchcraft and wizardry. A tour around the old town and surrounding areas will bring some fascinating and magical insights for Potter fans:
Begin at the end by visiting the Balmoral Hotel. When writing the last chapters of The Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling booked into a suite at the Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street. Now called the Harry Potter Suite, the room features her writing desk and the bust she signed on completion of the book. A brass knocker in the shape of an owl was fitted to the door in her honour. While you cannot visit the suite itself, you could enjoy a sumptuous afternoon tea in the Palm Court while there – no butterbeer included.
As you walk around the atmospheric Old Town in Edinburgh, you can well imagine how the winding closes and tall, quirky buildings inspired the locations in the books such as the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley. In the entrance to the City Chambers on the Royal Mile you’ll find a golden imprint of JK Rowling’s hands in the pavement. Maybe by resting your hands inside hers, you will find inspiration to write your own masterpiece?
Continuing up the Royal Mile towards the Castle, Potter fans might spot Hedwig outside the National Trust for Scotland’s Gladstone’s Land where live owls are often available for visitors to hold. Further up the street, stunning venue, The Hub’s building and interiors might even have the look of Gringotts Bank.
A detour to Victoria Street will reveal JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley: a high sided street that feels almost subterranean, with shops and restaurants, some of which are said to have similar names to the shops Harry and his friends visit before the beginning of term. The joke shop, with its giant eyes and nose, might easily belong to the Weasleys!
Nearby you will also find “the birthplace of Harry Potter”: The Elephant House Café, where JK Rowling wrote some of her later books. Now a buzzing stop-off for many of Edinburgh’s visitors, this is the place to sit where she sat and have a cup of tea before continuing the tour. Another café nearby on Nicolson Street, now called Spoon, was her other favourite place. A plaque on the corner of the Black Medicine Coffee Shop beneath commemorates the location.
Other vital stop-off points on your private Harry Potter tour should include the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby: a fiercely loyal dog who sat on his master’s grave for years – possibly an inspiration for Dobby the House Elf? And the nearby Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is the ideal place to peer through the gates into the grounds of Heriot’s School: said to be the inspiration for Hogwarts. With its towers and turrets, you can well imagine the building as a school for witchcraft and wizardry. While in the graveyard, check out the names on the graves as it is thought JK Rowling walked here and found names for characters in her books. The eagle-eyed will spot names including McGonaghall, Cruikshanks and Moodie – and on a far wall is the jewel in the crown for any Harry Potter fan: Thomas Riddle’s Grave.
Fans of Harry Potter will find much in Edinburgh that will remind them of the character and inspiration for the books. As you walk around the city, keep your eyes peeled as streets, shops, statues and their names will remind you of elements of the book. And when you have finished your tour, enjoy a piece of cake or lunch in the inspiring, gothic surroundings of Cafe Hub safe in the knowledge that your mischief has been managed.