After debunking the Greyfrair Bobby myth, we took a closer look at one of Edinburgh’s best kept literary secrets. Famed for its history and enchanting architecture, Edinburgh is also the inspiration for a large part of the popular Harry Potter franchise. Years before Potter-mania struck, J.K. Rowling could be found in cafes in the city centre penning a manuscript destined to change the world. Today, anyone looking to enjoy magical Edinburgh city breaks can join the Potter Trail and re-live the magic.
Places That Inspired Harry Potter
The Elephant House Café and Nicholson’s Café
The Elephant House Café and former Nicholson’s Café is where the magic began – quite literally. As a single mother trying to make ends meet, Rowling could often be found haunting local coffee houses for a cuppa-inspiration. Not only was it a smart way to save money (a cup of coffee was a lot cheaper than heating her flat for the day), it also became the birthplace of the Harry Potter novels.
From her nook in the Elephant Café, it is said that Rowling could find much of her Potter inspiration by simply looking out the window. The nearby Greyfrairs Kirkyard cemetery, home to the original Thomas Riddell father and son duo, was where she unearthed the dark past of Lord Voldemort’s character. As the resting place of poet William McGonagall, it was also were she found the perfect combination of courage and wisdom for the beloved, no-nonsense Professor Minerva McGonagall.
George Heriot’s School
Long before Harry, Ron and Hermione got their letters from Hogwarts, George Heriot’s School was the clear inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With its four grand towers and steeped rooftop, right down to its winding staircases and traditional four school houses, you naturally expect to see black-robed witches and wizards making their way to class. The only thing missing from its spellbinding setting is a Quidditch pitch in the grounds.
Maggie Dickson Pub
What people enjoy most about Edinburgh city breaks, is the rich, fascinating history found in every nook and cranny of the city. Like Maggie Dickson’s Pub. In the early 18th century, Maggie Dickson was sentenced to death by hanging. After a botched hanging in the town square, Maggie awoke in her coffin … much to the surprise of the cart driver. She was rushed back to the square, but since she had already received her punishment, she was allowed to live. She became a local celebrity, and was affectionately called Half Hangit’ Maggie. Sound familiar? Maybe that’s because Maggie’s story inspired that of Nearly Headless Nick’s.
Edinburgh city breaks are not complete without experiencing Old Town’s gothic charms and old pub potions. It is the true medieval heart of Edinburgh city. And places like Victoria Street’s historic architecture, narrow alleyways, elegant curve and colourful shop fronts, made it the perfect spot for witches and wizards to get all their bits and bobs. As the inspiration for Diagon Alley, you expect to find Mr Olivanders and Flourish and Blotts, or take a wrong turn down Knockturn Alley.
The Balmoral Hotel
At the end of a difficult journey for Potter and the gang, Rowling returned to Edinburgh to finish the final book. She booked herself into the Balmoral Hotel to determine the fate of the much loved characters. Not only is the Balmoral a holiday haven for anyone enjoying Edinburgh city breaks, it was here the final battle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort took shape. Where the story that dominated the lives of millions for over a decade came to an end.