Finding Magic in Edinburgh

According to TripAdvisor, the top three tourists sights of Edinburgh are the Castle, Holyroodhouse Palace (the Queen’s residence) and the Royal Yacht Brittania (now decommissioned.) Entrance fees for two adults? Kah-ching! $130.

I have a tip for you.  Google a city and “free walking tours.”  I have taken free walking tours in Quito and Edinburgh. They aren’t really free – the guides don’t want to work for free; they solicit tips.

We, along with a couple dozen folks, met Richard, our robed guide, at the Greyfriars’ Kirk for The Potter Trail Walking Tour, to see several areas which inspired scenes and characters in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as well as the coffeehouse where she wrote the first book.


In the Greyfriars Kirk cemetery we are shown gravestones with the names MCGonagall and Tom Riddell (JK changed it to Riddle, maybe because his character was a riddle – or enigma or maybe she didn’t want to slander this man’s character.)


Outside the cemetery gates is a school which has 4 named groups with similar colors that JK Rowling used for Hogwarts School of Magic.


JK Rowling started writing the series at age 25. An English woman, she had been living in Portugal, but now was a single mother. She moved to Edinburgh to be near her sister. JK allowed herself one year to write the first book, living on welfare. She wrote the manuscript longhand in coffeeshops while her daughter slept next to her. The Elephant House, near the cemetery, is one of the cafes where she wrote.


This unusal looking structure on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile may have been the inspiration of the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets in the lavatory at Hogwarts. It looks extremely similar to what was used in the film.

Recognize which scene this may have inspired? Is it coincidence that it also is named Potter?


Was this Joke Shop inspired by the book or did it inspire the author?

This street in Edinburgh may have inspired Diagon Alley (although London claims to have it as well.)

Temporary stadium seating is assembled in front of Edinburgh Castle for the annual Military Tattoo. With flags waving high above it looks very similar to the Quidditch Stadium of the novels.


The Balmoral Hotel where the author wrote the final chapter of the final book in the seven book series. The hotel has capitalized on this, put a brass owl knocker on the door and the J.K. Rowling Suite rents for $1500 a night.

One doesn’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to enjoy the tour. Despite 12 rejection letters, “Harry Potter” became a phenomenal world-wide success and is recognized as single-handedly improving literacy among children! You can’t help but be amazed at her rags-to-riches story. Books, films, a theme park…J.K. Rowling is a billionaire!

The next day driving through the Highland lochs we continued the Harry Potter theme by detouring to Glenfinnan not so we could visit the Monument (see below), but to see the famous railroad viaduct featured in the Harry Potter films.  The employee at the Glenfinnan Monument Visitors Center kindly gave me a map and explained where to park and hike to get the best view of the viaduct. (They get lots of Harry Potter fans!)

Situated on the shores of Loch Shiel, this monument was erected to remember the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died for Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonny Prince Charlie) in the last attempt to reinstate the exiled Stuarts on the throne of Great Britain and Ireland (1745-46.) Opposite this view is the famous viaduct.

The viaduct is visible from the Glenfinnan Visitors Center.

It would’ve been exciting to witness the Hogwarts Express steaming over the viaduct!

I posted a video on Facebook (Meet You in the Morning Travel)

West Highland Railway operates an antique steam engine (Hogwarts Express) between Ft. William and Mallaig traversing this viaduct 4 times daily.

In the end, I feel we found the magic.  We had fun discovering the beautiful city of Edinburgh, enjoyed driving the scenic countryside, saw a deer in the meadow by the viaduct, and best of all – it was (almost) free!

2 responses to “Finding Magic in Edinburgh

  1. What a magical post! One of my favorites yet 😊 You did a great job keeping this Harry Potter fan interested and excited as you “showed” me around Edinburgh. Thank you! Now I just need to find a way to get over there meself, as well as to Harry Potter World!


    • so glad to hear you enjoyed it. I was surprised to learn how much influence Scotland had on JK Rowling. There’s so much more in London! I hope someday you’ll make it to the UK.


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