In 1990 Jo Rowling started writing Harry Potter. And 7 years later the first installment of Harry’s series was published. 3 years later, when I was 9 years old I started reading this incredible story and I quickly became what my friends call, a ‘Potter Geek’. However, if you’re reading this you’ll know that we prefer the term Potterhead. And as I sit, writing this in my Gryffindor dressing gown, I have no shame in acknowledging my inner geek. A lot of JK’s writing of the Potter series happened in Edinburgh, which makes the city a great place to be for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
From one Potterhead to another, let me take you through the must-dos in Edinburgh for all Harry Potter fans.
Fuel up before you start your Potter inspired tour.
It’s widely known that Jo spent a lot of time in cafes writing her earlier novels. The most well-known of these establishments has become The Elephant Café. This hot spot has even branded itself as the ‘Birthplace of Harry Potter’ and with brilliant views of the Old Town, it’s easy to see why Jo found inspiration here. Don’t forget to visit the bathroom – it was my favourite part!
This is a lesser-known cafe that Jo took refuge in, but it wasn’t always called Spoon. At the time of Philosopher’s Stone being written, it was Nicholson’s Café and happened to be owned by Jo’s brother-in-law. Now, you can re-read the books at part of the Wizarding World Book Club, whilst enjoy a spot of brunch.
The Dog House
There are a few eateries in Edinburgh that claim some of the Harry Potter books were written there, but The Dog House isn’t one of them. This friendly pub has a whole other reason to stop in past, and that reason is Butterbeer. It’s attractively cheap and the buttery goodness is something that all Potterheads can appreciate!
First on my itinerary after moving to Edinburgh was to visit all the Harry Potter locations. If like me you can’t Apparate, then it’s time to get your walking shoes on…
A short walk from the Elephant Café you will discover George Heriot’s School, which is thought to have provided the inspiration for Hogwarts. There are many similarities between the 2 beautiful buildings including the towers and turrets in the architecture. Heriot’s pupils also wear school uniforms and are sorted into houses, but unlike Hogwarts the house names are Lauriston, Greyfriars, Raeburn and Castle. Jo’s own kids have even gone to Heriot’s and I have a friend who was in Lauriston. But, there’s no better house than Gryffindor (I’m definitely not bias).
Throughout the Potter books, it becomes clear quite quickly that death is a main theme. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a few names of interest in this cemetery. Take a wander round and see if you can spot the inspiration for my Head of House, or ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’?
Victoria Street & Grassmarket
Head down from Greyfriars and you’ll find yourself in the Grassmarket and beside the connecting Victoria Street. Strolling down Victoria Street will make you feel like you’re walking through Diagon Alley. And with its quirky pubs and shopw, the Grassmarket is reminiscent of Hogsmeade. Unfortunately, you won’t find any Skiving Snackboxes here!
As Harry’s story became more popular, it became more difficult for Jo to write in city cafés. Room 552 in the Balmoral was where she managed to find some peace and quiet to complete Deathly Hallows. For a small (?!) fee Potterheads from Ivermorny, Beauxbatons and all over the world can stay in what is now known as the JK Rowling Suite.