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Book Pilgrimage | Discovering Harry Potter’s Scotland

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Tweet: May your books open doors to wandering paths and may you find them always.-Author Valarie Budayr @JumpIntoABook1

On September 2nd it was back to Hogwarts Day

It’s a special day when all of the wizarding students take that very famous train back to their beloved school.

Just like those very famous Hogwarts students, I find myself here in Edinburgh Scotland where one of my favorite book friends began. J. K. Rowling use to live in this area and would write in the local eateries and coffee shops. Not only that but she took a lot of inspiration from her surroundings and they found their way into Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In Scotland and the rest of the UK it’s known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone.

Just like Harry Potter, I find myself completely enamored with the area. It draws me in and says, “come explore further.” I simply can’t resist. Each time I come to Edinburgh I find myself having a “Harry Potter Day.” In each place I’ve discovered my own little corners to daydream and create in. I find a quiet inside and allow myself to become charmed.

I’ve created this little guide incase you too should find yourself in Edinburgh and just happen to like Harry Potter as much as I do.

The first stop is where the first draft of Harry Potter was written.

Spoon Cafe and Restaurant

It’s a great little place to curl up with a book, and some wonderful eats. When JK Rowling was writing Harry it use to be called Nicholson’s. There is another more famous eatery which also has the Harry Potter claim to fame. You have to be a true fan and in the know to know about the Spoon Cafe. It is one of my favorite places in Edinburgh and I go here every time I’m in the city.
6A Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DH, UK

Here’s the other famous Harry Potter cafe I told you about……  Elephant House.

Harry Potter's Scotland

This is the second place JKR use to write Harry Potter. All of the edits were done here. You have to wait in line to get in which gives one a good time to view the menu. It’s a full menu complete with great meals and wonderful sweets. Just before 2 o’clock or around 3 are good times to go here. The lines aren’t long. Anytime before or after that the lines are horrendous. The painted sign in the window claims they are the “Birth Place of Harry Potter” and indeed they are.

A little cafe law never hurt anyone !!
There is a 3 hour cafe law in Edinburgh. You have to purchase something, such as coffee, tea, food etc, from the time you’re served the clock starts ticking. After 3 hours any cafe or restaurant can kick you out no matter how many things you’ve purchased. Edinburgh is a UNESCO heritage protected site as the world’s most literary city. It probably works hand in hand with writers sitting everywhere taking up tables writing.

Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt Anyone?

Greyfriars Cemetery

Harry Potter's Scotland

If you make a right hand turn coming out of the Elephant House and walk down one block, Greyfriars Pub is on the right hand side of the street and behind that is the cemetery.

JK Rowling would often times walk in this cemetery either going to or coming from the White Elephant.

The names on the tombstones inspired some of her more known characters. Time for a little scavenger hunt. See if you can find the following names:

Harry Potter's Scotland

Thomas Riddell (There’s actually loads of notes, flowers etc here. You shouldn’t have a problem finding it)

William McGonagall ( Professor McGonagall)
Elizabeth Moodie (Mad-eye Moodie)
Anne Potter
Grizel Arbuthnut
Daniel Scrymceour

I have to share that I have been in many a cemetery but Greyfriar is one of those very imaginative places that could make one truly believe in haunted places and spaces. It is both exquisitely beautiful and creepy all at the same time. It is also one of the cemeteries that has the greatest sense of humor. There use to be a little dog referred to Greyfriars Bobby who sat on his owner’s grave for 14 years. The caretakers of the cemetery also took care of the dog. Both caretakers are buried in the cemetery as well. On one of the tombstones there is this very long epitaph saying how well he took care of this little dog. In smaller print at the bottom of the tombstone it reads, “buried somewhere near here. ” 🙂 I chuckled a bit to myself.

George Heriot School

George Herriot school inspiration for Hogwarts
Come out of the cemetery the way you came in. When you get to the street make a right. Go to the next corner which is rounded. Follow it around and you’ll see this cool looking school called the George Heriot School. This is the school which inspired Hogwarts.

Candlemaker Row

Retrace your steps from the George Heriot School and head back toward Greyfriars pub. Pass the pub on your left and go down the hill. When you get to the end of the street look up. You’ll be seeing the back of Elephant House. JK Rowling use to write on the third floor of this building.


Harry Potter's Scotland
If you continue you on this sidewalk to the left you’ll find yourself in a large square in the center of the road surrounded by big buildings on either side. This is known as Grassmarket. There are many Harry Potter inspirations here.

Directly across from you will be a pub named Maggie Dickson’s Pub. There is a gruesome tale to this one which I’ll tell you in person. This story inspired Nearly Headless Nick.

Harry Potter Mural

Harry Potter's Scotland

On Candlemaker Row in Grassmarket, Gary and Cheryl MacDonald of Maple Arts commissioned Scott Methven to paint a Harry Potter mural to stop graffiti artists from decorating the side of their building. Currently the mural is no longer there because plans for a new mural are in the works. Gary is a treasure trove of Harry Potter knowledge and owner of a wonderful graphic arts and frame shop. Be sure to stop by the side of his building to see the new mural as it unfolds.
Thanks to Gary and Cheryl for use of this photo.

Victoria Street
Standing in the square facing Maggie Dickson’s Pub you’ll see a street that is going up and has many-colored houses on it. This is known as Victoria Street and is the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Nowadays there are lots of Harry Potter inspired things with their own personal flare to them such as a witches store, an antique book store and many really fun shops.

Harry Potter's Scotland

While walking down the street that inspired Diagon Alley, I discovered a new shop called Diagon House. It’s so popular that they have a waiting line to get into the shop. It’s a wonderful two-story shop filled with so many curiosities from all 7 Harry Potter books. Want to know if you’re the stuff wizards are made of , be sure and get measured.

Harry Potter's Scotland

Balmoral Hotel


Way down the Royal Mile, make a left onto North bridge and this will take you to the Balmoral Hotel. It’s by Waverly Station. This is the hotel that JK Rowling finished the Harry Potter series in. She couldn’t get any peace at home with 3 kids and 3 barking dogs and a husband. She thought ,”I can throw money at this problem.” She rented room 652 for two years and would go there and write. It became her writing office and space. There is now a note in that room which reads,” JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11th January 2007.” The note leans against a bust of Hermes, the god of writing.

Harry Potter's Scotland

So it’s here what has become known as a “Harry Potter Day.” I take great comfort in it as I pass these places coming and going. Spending time here with my own creations and sharing happy moments with family and friends.

May your books open doors to wandering paths and may you find them always.-Author Valarie Budayr

Discovering Harry Potter's Scotland

Tweet: May your books open doors to wandering paths and may you find them always.-Author Valarie Budayr @JumpIntoABook1

2 thoughts on “Book Pilgrimage | Discovering Harry Potter’s Scotland

  1. I am a Potter fan and I heard about Harry Potter day! Thanks for doing a post on it. So much fun seeing places that inspired J.K. Rowling. Especially, the hotel where she finished the series.

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