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Harry Potter Trail (Self Guided), Edinburgh

Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter. On this Harry Potter Trail, you will visit the locations that inspired J.K. Rowling.
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Harry Potter Trail Map

Guide Name: Harry Potter Trail
Guide Location: Scotland » Edinburgh (See other walking tours in Edinburgh)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: Helen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Diagon House / Museum Context
  • Victoria Street
  • The Elephant House
  • Greyfriars Church
  • George Heriot's School
  • Nicolson’s Cafe (now Spoon)
  • Edinburgh City Chambers
  • Balmoral Hotel
Diagon House / Museum Context

1) Diagon House / Museum Context

Museum Context (Or Diagon House as it is also known) is an immersive shopping experience in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town and the flagship store in Victoria Streeta unique celebration of the fact that Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter.

The shop contains a world-class selection of officially licensed Harry Potter merchandise, in turn making it a magnet for Harry Potter fans worldwide who queue from morning until night to explore the store.

After the 20th anniversary celebration summer, the shop rebranded as Museum Context, honouring it’s eclectic Scottish collection. Potter pilgrims the world over continue to converge on the shop for it’s Tardis like transportation.

Developed by Alice and Andrew McRae, a conservation architect, this is the busy, claustrophobic full on immersive Diagon Alley experience. The same scene & bustle Harry would have experienced elbowing sniggering Slytherins aside as he struggles to purchase his new year supplies.

The shop's second location is at 42-44 Cockburn Street. Both stores aim to offer visitors and local residents alike an “authentic Harry Potter experience that celebrates JK Rowling’s wonderful legacy.”
Victoria Street

2) Victoria Street

Victoria Street in the Old Town has to be one of the most photographed locations in the city. Its gentle curve and colourful shopfronts make it a favourite spot for tourist photos, postcards and TV adverts.

Built between 1829 and 1834, Victoria Street is the masterpiece of architect Thomas Hamilton, the man behind Edinburgh’s network of neo-classical wonders. Unlike his usual neo-classical stamp, he received orders that the architecture of Victoria Street was to mimic the Old Flemish style. During construction, many of the medieval buildings were demolished, while the notable arches lining the new terrace transformed into shops.

Victoria Street and the West Bow has recently achieved a degree of notoriety as one of the (slightly spurious) inspirations for the Harry Potter books, being a template for Diagon Alley, the wizards' market.

With JK Rowling crafting the Harry Potter books in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh is famed as a Potter pilgrimage site. With its higgledy piggledy array of vibrant buildings, shops of all sizes and descriptions, noteworthy arches, cobblestones and general air of eccentricity, it’s no surprise that Victoria Street is the inspiration for the ever-so fabulous Diagon Alley.
The Elephant House

3) The Elephant House

Established since 1995, The Elephant House in Edinburgh is renowned as one of the top destinations for tea and coffee connoisseurs. Eventually, the place has also become famous through association with J.K. Rowling, author of the bestselling Harry Porter series, who used to come here often, as an emerging writer, and create her early novels while sitting in the back room with a view of Edinburgh Castle. Among other literary names to have frequented The Elephant House over the years have been Ian Rankin, author of the Rebus novels, and Alexander McCall-Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Love Over Scotland and other novels. If you consider a writing career for yourself and seek inspiration, or simply want a nice cup of tea or coffee prior to venturing out into historic Edinburgh, feel free to pop in and enjoy the place!
Greyfriars Church

4) Greyfriars Church

It is easy to find ancient buildings in Edinburgh as the whole city is divided into two quarters: Old Town and New Town. You will find Greyfriar’s Church in the former.

The construction of the church started in 1602 and it was consecrated in 1630, making it one of the oldest buildings in the Old Town district, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built on the site of an abandoned Franciscan monastery and took its name from the monks who wore grey cassocks and were called the “Grey Friars”.

In 1718 a dividing wall separated the nave for the worshippers of Old Greyfriars and New Greyfriars so that the Covenanters were separated from the Roman Catholics, while worshipping in the same church. In 1845 part of the church’s roof and interior was destroyed by fire.

During restorations in the mid 19th century the beautiful stained-glass windows were added. It was the first time that such windows appeared in a Presbyterian church and it caused something of a scandal. A little later an organ was placed in the building, which caused a further scandal. The church was further renovated in 1929 and at this time the dividing wall was removed.

The adjoining graveyard is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of George Mackenzie, called the “Bloody” Lord Advocate as he was responsible for the persecution of the Covenanters. According to legend, you will have cuts and bruises wherever his hand has touched you.

Today the church hosts fashion shows, exhibitions, lectures and drama productions. The church museum is full of artefacts found in the area and you will find a comprehensive history of the Covenanters there.

***Literary Landmarks Tour & Hary Potter Tour ***
Hidden behind the Elephant House Café is another place of interest for the avid Potter fan visiting Edinburgh. The grave of Thomas Riddell can be found within the historic Greyfriars Kirkyard, with many fans citing it as author JK Rowling’s inspiration for the character of Tom Riddle (aka Lord Voldemort). From here you can also view George Heriots School, which is often believed to have inspired the fictional Hogwarts.

In Greyfriars Kirkyard you will find the gravestones of Robert Potter, Tom Riddell and William McGonagall. Other gravestones with potential links include Elizabeth Moodie (Mad-Eye Moody?) and Margaret Louisa Scrymgeour Wedderburn (Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic in the final Harry Potter book?)

From August 2019, a map is available to purchase in the cemetery for 50p. This map locates all of the Harry Potter themed gravestones in Greyfriars Kirkyard with proceeds going to the upkeep of the grounds.
George Heriot's School

5) George Heriot's School

George Heriot's School is a Scottish independent primary and secondary school on Lauriston Place in the Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland. In the early 21st century, it has more than 1600 pupils, 155 teaching staff, and 80 non-teaching staff. It was established in 1628 as George Heriot's Hospital, by bequest of the royal goldsmith George Heriot, and opened in 1659. It is governed by George Heriot's Trust, a Scottish charity.

The main building of the school is notable for its renaissance architecture. It is a turreted building surrounding a large quadrangle, and built out of sandstone. The foundation stone is inscribed with the date 1628. The intricate decoration above each window is unique (with one paired exception - those on the ground floor either side of the now redundant central turret on the west side of the building). A statue of the founder can be found in a niche on the north side of the quadrangle.

***Harry Potter Tour***
Those who see George Heriot's School for the first time usually say that the resemblance between this castle-like school and Hogwarts is uncanny. This private school also uses the House system to sort students, which could have inspired J.K. Rowling into sorting her wizards as Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Rowling’s children also attended George Heriot’s School!

Like Greyfrier’s Kirkyard, the George Heriot School can be seen from the windows of the Elephant House Café, leading to speculation it was the inspiration behind Hogwarts.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Nicolson’s Cafe (now Spoon)

6) Nicolson’s Cafe (now Spoon)

Another cafe where J.K Rowling spent time writing the Harry Potter books. Now known as Spoon, in 1997 it was called Nicholson’s Café, and it was owned by Rowling’s brother-in-law.

The cafe has large windows which overlook the University of Edinburgh and still to this day has a plaque to commemorate where part of one of the world most famous book series was written.
Edinburgh City Chambers

7) Edinburgh City Chambers

Edinburgh City Chambers in Edinburgh, Scotland, is the meeting place of the City of Edinburgh Council and its predecessors. It is a Category A listed building.

The current building was originally built as the Royal Exchange. It was designed by John Adam with detail alterations by John Fergus. The building works absorbed many small streets, commonly known in Edinburgh as "closes", that ran north to south across the breadth of the site. The Royal Exchange building sat partially on top of the truncated buildings on the closes that were subsequently blocked-off. These now underground closes were still accessible but were closed for public access for many years until reopened as 'The Real Mary King's Close'.

The main building is set back from the High Street behind a quadrangle fronted by a groin-vaulted open arcade screen facing the street. There is a prominent bronze statue of Alexander Taming Bucephalus, by John Steell, in the quadrangle.

***Harry Potter Tour***
The City Chambers features a fantastic Hollywood-style plaque that pays tribute to winners of the prestigious Edinburgh Award, presented to outstanding Edinburgh residents.

J.K. Rowling won in 2008, which means that the hands that wrote the Harry Potter books are immortalised in bronze in the chambers’ courtyard.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Balmoral Hotel

8) Balmoral Hotel

The Balmoral, originally built as the North British (Railway Station) Hotel, is a luxury five-star property and landmark in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is located in the heart of the city at the east end of Princes Street, the main shopping street beneath the Edinburgh Castle rock, and the southern edge of the New Town.

Since 1902, the hotel's clock has been set three minutes fast to ensure that the people of Edinburgh wouldn't miss their trains. This is still the case today. The only day that the clock runs on time is on 31 December (Hogmanay) for the city's New Year celebrations. The clock tower, at 190 feet (58 m) high, forms a prominent landmark in Edinburgh's city centre.

In February 2007 it was confirmed that author J. K. Rowling finished the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at this hotel. Rowling left a signed statement written on a marble bust of Hermes in her room saying; "JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007".[8] The room has since been renamed the "J.K. Rowling Suite," and the marble bust has been placed in a glass display case to protect it. The suite, priced at nearly £1,000 per night, is a pilgrimage site for Harry Potter fans.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Edinburgh, Scotland

Create Your Own Walk in Edinburgh

Create Your Own Walk in Edinburgh

Creating your own self-guided walk in Edinburgh is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Old Town Walking Tour

Old Town Walking Tour

With a lot of famous museums, art galleries, theaters, old churches, countless historic landmarks, shopping avenues and amazing architectural and recreational attractions all over the city, Edinburgh can seem quite daunting when it comes to sightseeing. The Old Town of Edinburgh, the oldest part of Scotland's capital, has preserved much of its medieval street plan and many Reformation-era...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
New Town Walking Tour

New Town Walking Tour

The New Town is a central area of Edinburgh, considered to be a masterpiece of historic city planing, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy, but also to an upmarket range of independent eateries and restaurants, as well as some of the best pubs and bars you will find in Edinburgh. Take the following tour to discover the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Famous Squares and Streets Walking Tour

Famous Squares and Streets Walking Tour

While in Edinburgh, discover the popular avenues, boulevards and streets that lead to its most famous squares. While exploring these streets, you can find a copious amount of historic and religious edifices, fashion boutiques, classy restaurants, famous market areas, and hidden gems. Check out a few popular Edinburgh squares and streets in this self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Old Town Museums

Old Town Museums

Popular for its rich cultural heritage, Edinburgh attracts a large number of tourists towards its numerous history and science museums that tell the compelling story of Scotland. Edinburgh is also a city where many locals spend their free time visiting galleries and attending art events. You can find amazing collections of original artwork in the many exhibitions around town. Take this tour and...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Edinburgh Introduction Walk

Edinburgh Introduction Walk

Comfortably yet tightly packed on the hilly terrain, Edinburgh – the Scottish capital – is a picturesque city much popular with tourists, in large part, due to its unique architecture comprising medieval (Old Town) and elegant Georgian (New Town) buildings. The cityscape is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, once the seat of the Scottish royals and now home to the country's crown jewels. To...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Literary Landmarks Tour

Literary Landmarks Tour

Edinburgh is proudly the home of many great writers: Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.K. Rowling, just to name a few. For those wishing to tread in the footsteps of your literary heroes, follow this self guided tour visit the places that have had an impact on the writers' live and career.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles

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