My friend Hayley and I went to Edinburgh as part of a 3 week trip to England, Scotland, and Ireland. As huge Harry Potter fans, we of course visited Platform 9¾ in London, but we had no idea how much Harry Potter history there was to explore in Edinburgh. And as soon as we found out, we planned a whole day around it!
We started the day with a hike up to Arthur’s Seat. This hike gives you an amazing view of the city, and is a great start to your day. We then began our Harry Potter ‘tour’ at The Elephant House.
The Elephant House
This is the location where JK Rowling wrote many of the earlier Harry Potter books. This restaurant says that many other famous writers have eaten and written here, but let’s face it, we’re all here for JK Rowling.
Hayley and I went for lunch after our hike. The best seats are definitely by the back windows. From here you can get a view of Edinburgh castle, just like JK Rowling did as she wrote the first Harry Potter book, and understand how it helped inspire the idea for Hogwarts.
But unfortunately, it was very busy when we got there, and we weren’t able to get a seat by the windows. We were close, but it didn’t give the same view. I recommend going during a less busy time so you can really get the best seats.
The food was pretty good! I ordered the lasagna, feeling like I really needed some carbs after that long hike (at least that was my excuse). Hayley got Salmon, and enjoyed it as well!
Unfortunately, we didn’t know about one of the best parts of this restaurant, which are the letters to JK Rowling that people have written. I only found out later from other blog posts that there’s a drawer full of letters that anyone can read while in the restaurant. I’m pretty sad we didn’t know this while we were there, as I know it would have been awesome to read from fellow Harry Potter fans from all over the world. So I will definitely be stopping back the The Elephant House next time I’m in Edinburgh!
However, the one really amazing thing we did find during our stay was… the bathroom! Yes, you heard that right. As travelers, we always make sure to use the bathroom at restaurants because this could be the only free toilet you’ll find all day. And when we walked in, we stood there for a moment in complete aw. All over the walls people had written quotes and messages about Harry Potter.
Seeing these walls covered in messages from people who also love a series that is so close to my heart was truly amazing, and it was one of my favorite parts of the day. Definitely the best toilet experience I’ve had in all my travels.
The Harry Potter Graveyard
It sounds a bit dismal, but I promise it’s cool. Behind the Elephant House is a graveyard that inspired a lot of the names from the Harry Potter series. You can find gravestones with many familiar names, including Potter, Scrymgeour, McGonagall, and of course, Tom Riddle. The best way to find them all is to just explore.
We found Potter pretty early on, but seriously struggled to find Tom Riddle. We actually missed a walking tour we had planned on doing because we refused to leave until we found Tom Riddle’s gravestone! We ended up finding fellow Harry Potter fans while we were there and joined up with them in our search. And FINALLY we found it!
Once you’ve found all the names, don’t leave yet! There’s still an important site to see at this graveyard. At the back of the cemetery, there will be a gate that leads to a private school for boys called George Heriot’s School. It looks pretty magnificent, as you can see in the picture below.
This school helped inspire the idea for Hogwarts, as you can see from the 4 towers. It’s said that Hogwarts was inspired by a mixture of this school and the Edinburgh castle.
So of course, the next thing to see is Edinburgh castle! From the outside, you can definitely see how it inspired the look of Hogwarts. We unfortunately didn’t get a chance to go inside, but it’s on my to-do list next time I’m there. There’s a ton of really cool history there as well. For any Game of Thrones fans, the Red Wedding was based off of a real life event that happened in Edinburgh castle!
While I would consider these the best Harry Potter attractions that you shouldn’t miss on your trip to Edinburgh, there’s also some other places you can stop and see. JK Rowling stayed Balmoral Hotel while writing the 7th Harry Potter book. And while I have a feeling this is a bit out of the price range for most people reading this article, you can stay in the same suite that she did, room 552, which is now named The Rowling Suite (the door knocker on this room is even a brass owl!).
Jk Rowling was also awarded The Edinburgh Award, and her handprints can be found on the Royal Mile.
And lastly, while this particular adventure isn’t in Edinburgh, there is one more thing Harry Potter fans can do during they’re magical stay in Scotland. A Jacobite steam train ride on the West Highland Railway Line, which is basically the Hogwarts Express. I didn’t have time for it unfortunately, but it’s also on my to-do list for my next trip to Scotland!
Scotland is one of my favorite countries that I’ve been to, and I hope this list of Harry Potter related sites will help make it a favorite of yours as well! You can get more information on my itinerary while in Scotland here.