Edinburgh is a fantastic destination and a brilliant city – but for Harry Potter fans, it has a special significance. The home of JK Rowling has a key place in the creation of the Harry Potter books and it’s a paradise for any fan looking for a Potter inspired city break.
I always seem to find somewhere Harry Potter themed whenever I travel. Last weekend I visited Lavenham which was the inspiration for Godric’s Hollow, when I visited Yorkshire I tracked down the camping spot from the Deathly Hallows that is Malham Cove and I’ve just booked tickets to visit the Warner Bros Studio Tour for the fourth time later this year. So when I visited Edinburgh, I made sure to include plenty of geeky Harry Potter places in my itinerary and I’ve put together five places you must visit if you are a Harry Potter fan like me.
1. The Elephant House
The "birthplace of Harry Potter" was of course the top of my list for my Edinburgh trip. The café is famous because JK Rowling wrote huge chunks of the first few books here, drinking coffee by the window. And it's easy to see why - the cake is delicious, the place is filled with quirky elephant themed items and there is a fantastic view of Edinburgh Castle from the huge bay windows. However, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, the part of the café you really want to visit is the toilets! Every inch of them is covered in “magical” graffiti from fans from across the world. It’s simply incredible and totally unique!
2. Greyfriar’s Kirkyard
From the windows of The Elephant House, below Edinburgh Castle, you can see Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. It's not a surprise that a graveyard is inspiring for an author such as JK Rowling and it's said she wandered the kirkyard looking for inspiration for names for her characters and, to prove this, you can see a grave for Tom Riddle. I’m not going to tell you exactly where because, for me, part of the fun is exploring the graveyard and finding the gravestone for yourself – but if you aren’t sure where to go, my tip is to follow a tour group who are sure to take you to it! There are a couple of other more tenuous links to the Potter books too – the grave of William McGonagall, who is known as Scotland's worst poet, from whom Minerva McGonagall takes here name and the potential inspiration for Alastair Moody – Mrs Elizabeth Moodie.
3. Victoria Street
Allegedly Victoria Street in Edinburgh is the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Now I’ve heard many cities claim that they have a street with inspired JK Rowling’s creation of Diagon Alley, including Gandy Street in Exeter and the Shambles in York. Personally, the Shambles is for me the closest to the real deal, but Victoria Street is worth a visit for the prettily coloured terraced houses just a short walk from Greyfriar’s Kirkyard.
4. City Chambers
If you want to seek out a Harry Potter sight which is a little less known, head to the City Chambers for a golden secret. Here, you can see the golden handprints of JK Rowling and her name emblazoned in the pavement outside the Chambers, just next to The Real St Mary’s Close attraction of the Royal Mile. It’s a quick but fun visit if you want to get close to the hands which penned the Harry Potter series!
5. The Balmoral
JK Rowling booked herself to The Balmoral to finish the final Harry Potter book. If you can afford the £1000 a night room, then you can book yourself into the very room JK wrote the last lines of the Harry Potter series and see the bust she signed "JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007" – but if you’re like me, you’ll just stand outside and dream!
If you have time, I would also recommend that you try the Pottertrail - a free walking tour of Edinburgh. Unfortunately it wasn't running on the days I was in Edinburgh but it sounds brilliant! An alternative is Pottertour for something different, which is both longer and focuses more on JK Rowling herself. Edinburgh is a fantastic city in many ways but if you’re a Harry Potter fan it really is a must visit. It’s a city packed full of culture and literary inspiration, particularly in relation to JK Rowling and I know any Potter fan will love it as much as I did!
Do you hunt out Harry Potter travel locations like me? Where would you recommend?