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You don’t need the Sorting Hat to explain the links between Scotland and Harry Potter. This magical world of witchcraft and wizardry is immortalised both by Rowling’s books, her sources of inspiration and through the spellbinding Scottish filming locations. For nostalgia’s sake, dust off that trusty old Nimbus 2000 or whip out that floo powder and make way for Scotland to live out all HP dreams. Accio Firebolt!
Even muggles can see why Rowling sought writing inspiration from her adopted home town of Edinburgh — the world’s first city of literature — and the rest of bonnie Scotland. Dotted around the capital are a myriad of HP places, including the real Diagon Alley in the form of Victoria Street, with its hodge podge of alluring shops and kaleidoscopic colours, and also the nearby Candlemaker Row. Both streets are a stone’s throw from George Heriot’s School, a dramatic architectural masterpiece with ancient school houses. Both Heriot’s and Hogwarts bear an uncanny resemblance.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is a known respite spot for Rowling. It is also home to the real-life grave of Thomas Riddell Esquire. Could it be that Rowling found Voldemort’s true name, Tom Riddle, while wandering the grounds of this ancient graveyard? Greyfriars also hosts the resting places of Elizabeth Moodie and William McGonagall, aka Mad-Eye Moody and Professor McGonagall.
Hauntingly beautiful and destined to spark many a thought, Glencoe is the setting for Hagrid’s Hut — a place of peace for Harry and friends in the series. This iconic Scottish site actually features throughout multiple films as a breathtaking backdrop and also in the famous scene where Hermione punches Malfoy…shame it wasn’t a Glasgow kiss! Imbued with mind-blowing hues of green, amber and blue, Torren Lochan hosted a replica of this abode for the filming of The Prisoner of Azkaban.
A pocket of peace and unparalleled beauty, the wee island of Eilean na Mòine encompassed by the freshwaters of Loch Eilt plays an integral role as Dumbledore’s grave. Adding to the atmospheric shots, this compact island was digitally situated upon the ever-so scenic Loch Arkaig for the films. Loch Eilt also features in some exterior shots of the grounds at Hogwarts.
Those who find themselves spellbound with the Hogwarts Express will recognise Rannoch Moor, an area of untamed wilderness awash with an eclectic array of wildlife, lochans, and rocky patches, from the journey. This breathtaking place can be seen from the West Highland Line and was infiltrated by Death Eaters in the Deathly Hallows Part 1 when they appeared on the train.
A cascading ribbon of white water following the ways of the slope it caresses, Steall Falls is a picture-perfect waterfall situated in Glen Nevis. Its beauty is showcased, along with the all-encompassing scenery, in the Triwizard Tournament in the Goblet of Fire when Harry faces the Hungarian horntail dragon. More alluring than a golden snitch, the falls are also the backdrop for many Quidditch matches.
One of the many glens embellishing the Highlands, Glen Etive welcomes film buffs and book worms eager to explore its mystical ways. This iconic glen was used for numerous shots throughout the Deathly Hallows films and is a playground for those overcome with a sense of adventure.
Although no muggle could ever fully understand the bond between BFFs Hermione, Harry and Ron, Loch Etive is a good place to start! This sea loch and its bonnie banks made a cameo in the film as the setting for the camping trip.
Every witch and wizard needs an owl. Those intent on getting into Hogwarts should swing by the Scottish Owl Centre and learn a trick or two from Oulu, a delightful 15-year-old Great Grey Owl who happens to be the real sister of Errol, Ron’s famous bird. Witnessing the owls partake in handling sessions and flying displays is almost simple magical!