Like any Potterhead, when I was told I was going to be in Edinburgh for a weekend I started planning an itinerary of all the Harry Potter related places I wanted to visit. I was a little unsure about how much I was going to be allowed to see as I went to Edinburgh with my mum, someone who has never read all the books. However, I was indulged. Here is a list of all the places I saw and would recommend to anybody who, like me, won’t be able to stop grinning while simply stood outside The Elephant House cafe.
- The Elephant House Cafe – Probably one of the best-known haunts of Harry Potter fans the world over; this cafe prides itself on being ‘the birthplace of Harry Potter’. As the name suggests, every available surface is home to an elephant or two, but it was the signed copy of The Philosophers stone and the apparently candid photos of a younger Rowling writing away that had me giddy. If you can, I would recommend sitting in the back room, by a window, overlooking Edinburgh Castle. A word of advice: go for the experience and its connections, not the food …
- Edinburgh Castle – The day we went to the castle it was, predictably, raining. The weather and the fact that cobbles and wheelchairs do not mix meant that I wasn’t able to take in the dramaticism of it as much as I had hoped. Equally, English castles, I think, tend to be bigger than Scottish ones; maybe I’ve been spoilt. The view from below the castle, however, is fantastic. It is very impressive and a little intimidating. It’s easy to see how it could inspire a fantastical setting. It is almost impossible not to see the castle when in Edinburgh but I would definitely recommend taking a moment to really absorb the majesty of the view.
- Edinburgh city chambers -An entirely serendipitous discovery, the grounds of the Edinburgh city chambers are home to the handprints of the Edinburgh Award winners. J.K. Rowling has been presented with this award twice. I hadn’t realised quite how much I admired and was a fan of, J.K. Rowling before seeing this commemoration of her achievement.
- Greyfriars churchyard – Maybe most famous for the story of Greyfriars Bobby, this churchyard also provided a wealth of inspiration for the characters now synonymous with Harry Potter. From McGonagall to Tom Riddell many of the characters started as living and breathing people who have now become immortalised in the written word. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go into the churchyard, and I also find it a little strange that someone’s grave has become a tourist destinationI, but it was exciting to think of J.K wandering about testing their names against her characters as she went.
- Maggie Dickson’s pub – Our gorgeous hotel was located almost directly opposite this history-laden pub on the other side of the Grassmarket. Possibly better known as half hangeth Maggie, Dickinson was to be put to death by hanging for the suspected murder of her premature baby. Whether she did commit the crime or not, I am not sure, but when her time was due to come to an end, the mechanism broke, and she lived. 40 years later she died of natural causes having birthed more children during her lifetime. If this tale reminds you of another, admittedly fantastical, failed execution, you’d be right. Nearly Headless Nick is Rowling’s interpretation of the tale of Half Hangeth Maggie.
- Although not located in Edinburgh, I would urge any Harry Potter fan to take a trip to Fort William and ride the Jacobite steam train. Deemed to be ‘the greatest railway journey in the world’, the route and the train itself are both beautiful (which kept my parents happy) but what made me almost explode with excitement and joy is its path over the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Forgetting that it is also a fantastic feat of engineering, the viaduct has made an appearance in four of the Harry Potter films; the most recognisable appearance being in The Chamber of Secrets as Harry and Ron struggle to control the Ford Anglia. Continuing its journey the train also passes a number of different Crannogs, One of which was used in the sixth film as Dumbledore’s finally resting place. Although difficult to identify which crannog it was specifically it was easy to see why they had been chosen – so dramatic, so atmospheric, so … perfect – and it was still very exciting.
So, that’s everywhere I managed to get to during our two days in Edinburgh! Even without all the Harry Potter hype, Edinburgh is amazing; so vibrant, pretty and friendly. It’s a city I would recommend to anyone! Also, it is worth mentioning that it isn’t just Harry Potter that has roots in Edinburgh – it’s a literary lovers paradise!
I made a previous post about Scotland and how accessible I found it, find it here.