A Harry Potter Tour Around Edinburgh
Harry Potter helped me through the confusion of adolescence, probably more than anything else did. It’s a story I’ve heard again and again from others, growing up with those books was like growing up with a friend inside the pages. JKR has my eternal gratitude for creating the series that I’ve loved for years, and that’s helped so many people get lost in a world other than their own when they were struggling.
Visiting Edinburgh was like stepping into some of that Harry Potter magic in real life. Everywhere you turned there were castles, and odd twisting streets and buildings, and an overcast yet still cheerful atmosphere. I made absolutely sure that an entire day was spend doing HP things around Scotland’s capital city, and I was not disappointed. Aside from visiting the Edinburgh Christmas market and feeling like I’d wandered straight into Honeydukes (candies and chocolate galore) there were four HP sights that took my breath away:
There’s a lot of debate as to whether this beautiful stretch or Candlemaker Row was the actual inspiration for Diagon Alley. I visited both, and while it very well may be the stunning Candlemaker Row, for me Victoria Street took the cake and then some. Like most of Edinburgh, it’s on a crescent hill, and man oh man does that amplify the pretty mystery that is this street. When you’re walking past it all you can see are foreshortened deeply colorful shops with that signature stone street below and stone walls of the residencies above. There really isn’t a word strong enough for how truly beautiful it was to stand at the bottom of the slope and walk up, peering in at all the little establishments. Then you see 40 Victoria St. And oh-my-god. I’d heard about there being a Harry Potter shop on Victoria Street before visiting, but I hadn’t looked too closely into it as I’d wanted to be surprised and I’m SO happy I did that. The entire place is bursting at the seems with all your favorite Potter things. It has the distinct feeling of walking into Olivander’s but it’s as crowded as the Leaky Cauldron and as filled with stuff as Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
THE ELEPHANT HOUSE
Coined the birthplace of Harry Potter, though any real fan knows JKR thought of HP while on a stalled train. She did, however, write some of her first notes and ideas for the books here. Rowling’s story has always awed and inspired me. Her success came at a time when she had nothing and no one to help her, and now she’s a household name. It’s the perfect example that I give to people in my life when they say they’re too old to start a new project, or they have no connections or when they reach a low point. To know that she actually sat in this little cafe and began creating what would inspire millions, was indescribable.
THE GRAVE OF THOMAS RIDDELL
This was probably my favorite part of the whole Potter day. Inside Greyfriars Kirkyard, a cemetery with graves dating back to the 1500s, there are quite a few headstones that are rumored to have inspired characters in the books. Firstly, I love a good graveyard. Weird? Maybe. But I know there are other people out there that agree. The day was cold and gray and drizzly at that point, and the mossy overgrown ancient graves were towering and menacing and it looked like we’d walked into the end of the Goblet of Fire. Damn it was cool. Now, the big thing to see here is Thomas Riddell’s grave, and you can find it on Google Maps, but I definitely think it’s way more fun to find it on your own. It’s not right in front, but it’s not too far of a walk. The crowd of people that are bound to be there probably might give it away, but still, the treasure hunt makes it more of an experience, and along the way you might catch some other names you recognize. I saw a Moodie, and Potters, McGonagall, and there’s also a Scrymgeour in there, though I missed that one. One of the coolest things for me was that this person, Thomas Riddell, who was a lawyer, is now immortalized and frequently visited daily for something he had no idea would exist.
Another breath taker for sure. Google Maps was not my friend here, it kept leading me to the middle of the street without telling me these handprints, among others, were inside an alcove in front of the Edinburgh City Chambers. It did sort of make it more fun though, to stand in the middle of this street, spinning around in a panorama searching for these little gold imprints on the street.
If you’re visiting Edinburgh soon, as a Harry Potter fan you should definitely check out the sights I’ve listed here. There are of course, other HP related sights to see in this magical city, and filming locations all around Scotland, unfortunately it was the coldest and rainiest day of our trip so we had to cut a few things short, but let me tell you, the rain enhanced the feeling of falling into one of the books!