I absolutely LOVE the Harry Potter series, and J.K. Rowling. It’s part of my childhood, and I grew up reading the books. My dad and I would read them every night before I went to bed when I was a kid, and Harry Potter helped me in so many ways. I have compiled a list of things, in no particular order, of things that Harry Potter lovers HAVE to see in Scotland, the “birthplace” of Harry Potter. You’ll be able to see the very cafe in Edinburgh that J.K. Rowling would sit at everyday writing Harry Potter, as well as the magnificent nature that inspired the famous scenery and views throughout the series.
Edinburgh: The majority of the sites to see listed below are in Edinburgh. There is a deep connection that you can truly feel and see between Edinburgh and the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Most notably, it was J.K. Rowling’s home when she wrote the majority of the Harry Potter books. Rowling has even acknowledged her connection to the city, stating that “…Edinburgh is very much home to me and the place where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in cafes.” So…? Do you get a thrill when you hear that you can sit in the actual cafes where J.K. Rowling wrote the very Harry Potter series? Want to see antique buildings that may have been the very inspiration for Hogwarts? See the very shop that may have been the inspiration for Flourish and Blotts? See names and streets that may have influenced the names of certain Harry Potter characters? If so…then this post is right for you, so keep reading!
Before I move on…my love for Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling made me want to add a little bit of background information on the relationship between J.K. Rowling and Scotland to this post…feel free to skip ahead to the sites if you’re not too interested!
J.K. Rowling grew up in England, but it is interesting to note that she is 1/4 Scottish on her mother’s side, and her parents actually met on a train ride to Scotland. Trains seem to run a theme for J.K. Rowling, as she later first had the idea for a young boy with a lightning shaped scar on his forehead on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. Rowling went to Edinburgh in 1993 to be closer to her sister, and although she had already started working on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), a lot of the writing of the seven-book series would happen in Edinburgh. Despite this connection between Edinburgh and the Harry Potter series, none of the filming for the movies actually took place in Edinburgh…but part of the Harry Potter films were shot elsewhere in Scotland, including many of the famous Hogwarts Express scenes, as you will read about later in this post. But you’ll still be able to find many places to visit that were real-life places in J.K. Rowling’s life and places around Edinburgh that may have inspired Harry Potter characters and settings. The great things about these sites is that most of them are very close together and are easy to walk to and from central Edinburgh.
So..? Ready to learn about the top things to do and see in Scotland for Harry Potter lovers..?!
The elephant house cafe: edinburgh
Address: 21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN
The Elephant House Cafe is literally THE birthplace of Harry Potter. It is where J.K. Rowling wrote part of the first book. Not only that, J.K. Rowling also got her inspiration for Hogwarts from the back room, where a window overlooks Edinburgh Castle. This castle, from a certain angle, looks like a very similar version to the famous Hogwarts. The cafe is a great place to go to in the morning right when it opens, as it does get crowded as the day goes on.
While you are at the cafe…check out the bathroom! Inside the walls are COVERED in graffiti in gratitude to Harry Potter, Dobby, Hermione, Ron, Luna, Fred & George, Voldemort, Snape, and countless of other characters, actors, actresses, and contributors! Be sure to take a pen with you and leave your mark.
nicolson's cafe (now spoon cafe): edinburgh
Address: 6a Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DH
Harry Potter Connection: Nicolson’s Cafe was the place where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the first book. She had already begun writing the novel before she came to Edinburgh, but she finished the manuscript there. Rowling had very little money in her early years of living in Edinburgh, so she would go to cafes and write for hours. One of the reasons that Rowling spent so much time at this cafe was because at the time, it was co-owned by her brother-in-law.
Location: Nicolson’s Cafe was later renamed to Spoon Cafe. It is on the second floor (first floor in UK) on the corner of Nicolson and Drummond Street (remember this, it’s a little hard to find).
Tips for Visiting: While you are in Edinburgh, you might as well see Spoon Cafe. However, Nicolson’s Cafe has been closed for many years. It is now a cute little cafe named Spoon. You’kk find a plaque on the corner of Drummond Street saying that “J.K. Rowling wrote some of the early chapters of Harry Potter in the rooms of the first floor of this building.” I would recommend paying a short visit to it, and it’s also generally less busy than the Elephant House.
Note: You may see the cafe’s name and address spelled incorrectly across the internet. The street is called Nicolson Street (not Nicholson) and the cafe was called Nicolson’s Cafe not Nicholson’s Cafe.
victoria street & the grassmarket area: Edinburgh
Address: Victoria St., Edinburgh EH1 2HE
Harry Potter Connection: Victoria Street is a narrow, curved street in central Edinburgh’s Grassmarket area. Just looking at it, you can see that it’s the inspiration for Diagon Alley.
Victoria Street is a colorful, old street with many brightly-painted shops and buildings, some with pointed roofs, which are similar to the shops described along Diagon Alley. A couple of streets (West Bow and Candlemaker Row) are buildings in the Grassmarket area that definitely provided inspiration for J.K. Rowling.
Tips for Visiting: The Grassmarket area is a great place to wander around if you are visiting Edinburgh for the first time. It’s a pretty street not at all far from the Elephant House. We just parked out car along Victoria Street, walked around and went to some of the shops, walked to the Elephant House and Spoon Cafe, etc. The Grassmarket area is a popular area for eating, shopping, taking photos, etc. It’s a lot of fun, trust me:)
diagon house: edinburgh
Address: 40 Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH12JW
Harry Potter Connection: Diagon House (aka Museum Context) is a shop that sells all things related to Harry Potter – from wands to broomsticks to stuffed Hedwigs and Harry Potter T-shirts.
Tips for Visiting: There are a variety of shops in Edinburgh that have a collection of HP merch, but Diagon House was pretty big and had almost everything. Here are a few other options:
- Avalon Collectible Gifts – 116B Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 3JF
- Blackwell’s book store – 53-62 South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1YS
- Galaxy – 47-49 South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 iLL
Edinburgh castle: edinburgh
Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG
Harry Potter Connection: The Edinburgh Castle is very clearly a direct inspiration of the Hogwarts castle. J.K. Rowling had an absolute perfect view of it from The Elephant House, where she wrote much of the first book. You can’t go inside the castle…however, you can walk all around it and take some great pictures. It’s not at all far from the Elephant House so I highly recommend going!
Harry Potter Connection:The famous Hogwarts Library is a library any book-work would love. There are several libraries all over Edinburgh that are free to go to…go inside one and see how similar these libraries looks to the Hogwarts library!
the lochs: lochaber
Glenfinnan Viaduct: The Victorian railway viaduct at the head of Loch Shiel is instantly recognizable as the famous bridge the Hogwarts express travels across. There is a small and short hike leading up to the point where you can get a very clear view of the bridge.
Loch Shiel: The gorgeous Loch very near Glenfinnan was one of two Lochs used for the Hogwarts lake. The Lochs are a very long drive from Edinburgh, but each of the Lochs are very close. While you are there, you might as well see as much as you can!