This week, an annotated first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone went on show in Edinburgh Library. The series was written while JK Rowling lived in the city, and people from all around the world come here every year to walk in her footsteps (and maybe get inspiration to launch their own literary empire.) There are a few key places in Edinburgh that are worth a visit if you’re a Potter fan.
THE ELEPHANT HOUSE
Possibly the most retold story about JK Rowling is how she wrote most of the first books in Edinburgh cafés because she couldn’t afford to heat her flat. One of her most frequented cafés has reportedly been turned into a Chinese buffet on Nicolson Street; but the other, The Elephant House, is still standing.
There are a few mentions of Rowling around the building, and it’s normally filled with tourists, but it could be mistaken for an ordinary café – until you get to the bathroom.
The walls are covered in messages from all around the world come together to form a tribute to Harry Potter, in the very place where it was written.
GEORGE HERIOT SCHOOL
This school, originally founded for orphans (like a certain scar-headed hero) is said to have inspired JK Rowling when creating Hogwarts. With its’ four-house system and turreted architecture, it’s not hard to imagine Harry and his friends walking the halls here.
It’s one of the UK’s most haunted cemeteries, and Greyfriar’s Kirk (near Cowgate) is home to ghosts, a poltergeist, and the inspiration to several Harry Potter characters. William McGonagall, who lent his name to head of Gryffindor house and in real life was a notoriously bad poet, was buried there in 1902, along with a father and son who were both named – just like Voldemort and his father – Tom Riddle.
A more sombre landmark, this fountain is located on Castlehill, near Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile. It commemorates the deaths of nearly three hundred women after they were burned for practicing magic. Edinburgh has a strong association with witchcraft, and Castlehill was the most common place for burning people. You can learn more about the Scottish witch trials in the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.
In a room here in 2007, JK Rowling wrote the final chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book in the series. She descried finishing the series, which she worked on for seventeen years, as “simultaneously heart – breaking and euphoric.”
The magic, however, doesn’t end there for Potter fans. There are various tours around the city that will take you to Harry Potter locations. And when you’re done, pop into the Elephant House; sit down with a cup of tea and a notebook, and see if your surroundings can inspire another literary masterpiece.
Article reproduced here was originally published by the website of Impulse Magazine (February 2014) and is no longer available online.