Fans making a trip to the Scottish capital should look out for these great Harry Potter inspired locations which are easy to find within the city centre. Be warned, Greyfriars Kirkyard is not only home to Thomas Riddell but the infamous MacKenzie Ghost……go in day light hours…this walking tour should take about 45-60 mins, depending how often you stop.
1.Where to start for your own Potter solo tour.
Start your solo H. Potter tour at Edinburgh Castle and soak in the views of Edinburgh city below. Walk down the stairs leading to Victoria Street. There is some debate whether this street is the inspiration for Diagon Alley or if it is another street named Cockburn street. I will start your Harry Potter tour here and finish at Cockburn street beside the new Harry Potter Store named Diagon House. From the top of Victoria Street, you should see Pizza Express on the corner, you are on George IV Bridge, walk down to the Elephant House.
2. Walk past the Library, walk for a few minutes until you reach the Elephant House cafe. The Elephant House cafe claims to be the birthplace of Harry Potter, however in Edinburgh most folks know that the first novel, Harry Potter & Sorcerer’s Stone was written in the Nicolson street cafe which is now called Spoons.
The Elephant house is a famous Edinburgh cafe that has signed photographs of JK Rowling and is a popular spot for Harry Potter fans. It was here that JK wrote her 2nd & 3rd book, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban. If you decide to visit this cafe please remember that it is a local business and a great place to stop for lunch or breakfast. It is hugely popular and you may have to queue for entry but it is deceptively large inside at the rear, where it overlooks the graveyard, Greyfriars Kirk.
Visit the ladies toilets....(this is where the Potter heads have being leaving their mark). The owners of the Elephant House cafe have stopped trying to clean the graffiti and Harry Potter fans have left many expressions of thanks, sketches and quotes to JK Rowling for her amazing contribution to literature.
Edinburgh has many other famous authors including Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns and Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. If literature interests you then pop into the free Writers Museum just off the Royal Mile or book a literary tour.
3. Keep walking past the Elephant House until you reach the statue of Greyfriars Bobby. If you are joining the free Potter Tour on a Friday afternoon, this is the meeting point. I enjoyed this walking tour and was told it was free, but in all honesty donations are expected, usually £5-10 p.p. It was great fun and if you think you are familiar with the Harry Potter books, just wait. There is always someone who knows every quote, every character and answers every question super fast. It’s amazing. This walking tour lasts an hour.
In the summer there are 2 tours a day at 12pm and 4pm every day of the week. check out pottertrail.com. Many children and adults arrived with their own wands, which was a surprise to me. Top tip: Wear comfortable, old shoes – Lots of cobbled streets and muddy graveyards.
4. Behind the statue of the little dog, you will see a pub and a lane next to it, this is the famous haunted graveyard, Greyfriars Kirk, claimed to be the inspiration for some of the Potter characters. Go straight to the back of the graveyard, next to the gates of a very imposing school, Heriots, and look for William McGonagall, Harry Potter fans think that he may be the inspiration for Professor McGonagall.
The grave of Thomas Riddell is also nearby and said to be the inspiration for Lord Voldemort. This grave is in fact after a General who died in 1806 and is not Lord Voldemort grave. Please try to stay on the pathways. It is extremely muddy underfoot in some parts. Many people believe that Heriots school was the inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (next to Greyfriars Kirk). Locals in Edinburgh are not convinced. Some people think it Fettes College and others think it’s Glasgow University. Photo@shutterstock
5. So now that you have walked a little way, had a mini break and refreshment in the Elephant House, time to cross the road down towards the Museum of Scotland, do not go in, keep walking up the street on George IV Bridge, away from the elephant house to the University of Edinburgh and Potterrow. Look out for the underpass, which resembles a certain fight with the Tormentors. I would go in day light, its another spooky place….
Walk past the underpass and you will reach a street called College Street, here next to the Captains Bar ( bright red) you will see the sign above the door for William McGonagall.. A famous Scottish actor and truly awful poet, who is buried in Greyfriars Kirk. He was determined to be successful, whatever life threw at him and is an interesting character to read about. There is a plaque above the door next to Captains bar to commemorate his life.
If you look down the street you will see Spoons, the cafe on Nicholson Street, above the Black Medicine Coffee shop. This is the cafe I mentioned earlier where JK Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter & Sorcerer’s Stone.
5. Walk back to the royal Mile, once you reach Deacon Brodie pub on the corner, you will see the famous St Giles Cathedral, opposite this is the City chambers and on the ground to the left is JK Rowling handprints, awarded to her in 2008 for her contributions to the capital city.
6. And Finally if you are on Princes street, the large hotel at the end is called the Balmoral Hotel. The one with the clock. This is where JK Rowling finished her Harry Potter series in a suite called…wait for it…”The JK Rowling suite”, saves any confusion really!!
The suite has been recently redesigned and is available to us mere muggles for £745 midweek off season. The great news is that the living room can accommodate 2 young children at a supplement of £98.
Click here for hotel link. Balmoral. The price increases considerably in the summer, easter holidays, weekends and festive period. Family of 4 for one night, where Jk Rowling completed her last book…..mmm, if your child is mad for H. Potter….what a birthday treat!
If you are visiting Edinburgh, the street behind Waverley station is called Cockburn street. This is where you will find a great Potter inspired shop with fabulous potter inspired gifts. Diagon House is on 42-44, Cockburn street.
That concludes our Harry Potter tour. I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you are travelling around Scotland then I would suggest that you include a stop at Glenfinan to see the famous viaduct where the Hogwarts Express steam train travels over. You can book a train ride on the Jacobite train for the most amazing views through the Highlands. If stopping at Glenfinan the path above the visitor centre will lead you to the viaduct. Don’t forget to visit the memorial where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the Royal standard to his armies, signalling the start of the Jacobite uprising.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate your time. Recent update to blog on Spring 2018 is that a 2nd Diagon house has opened on 40, Victoria street.
To see other family friendly Edinburgh activities in Edinburgh click here for my 3 min youtube guide of the best places to see in Edinburgh. https://youtu.be/kY9Oe9Oefws
Day trip from Edinburgh try Stirling Castle haunted by the Kilted Highlander and the Green Lady. https://youtu.be/3aBeYhAHyc0
If you love haunted happenings, check out Mary Kings Close.
(This post contains affiliate links).