The Elephant House and Spoon
The Elephant House proudly brands itself as ‘The Birthplace of Harry Potter.’ While Rowling did indeed write The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban in the cosy café overlooking the castle, it was at another nearby café, Spoon (then known as Nicholson’s Café), that she wrote the first book in the series. Regardless, both are worth a visit for anyone wishing to soak up Rowling’s creative energy. The two venues provided warm refuge for the (initially) penniless writer when she couldn’t afford the heating bill.
The Elephant House overlooks Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, a Franciscan graveyard in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It was from this cemetery that Rowling drew direct inspiration for Tom Riddle’s graveyard, featured in The Goblet of Fire. The parallel between the two cemeteries is uncanny considering it also houses the graves of the real life aristocrat Thomas Riddell esq and his son, also Thomas Riddell. Die-hard fans come to the graveyard every Halloween as an act of homage, to duel over the grave of the ‘real life’ Voldemort.
George Heriot’s School
Directly behind Greyfriar’s Graveyard stands George Heriot’s School. It barely takes a stretch of the imagination to see Hogwarts in the school’s architecture. The turreted roof and stone façade exactly matches the description of the magical school in the novel. Rowling didn’t just only take inspiration from the school’s architecture, however. She modelled the Hogwart’s house system on the one in place at George Heriot’s. Heriot’s houses Castle, Lauriston, Raeburn and Greyfriars correspond to Rowling’s own Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff.
Just below The Elephant House lies Victoria Street. The narrow curved street with stony high-rise buildings and pointed roofs makes Diagon Alley spring immediately to mind. Indeed, it was here that Rowling was inspired to create the magical shopping street. AHA HA HA Jokes & Novelties, at the bottom of the street, have a sign in their window warning tourists to not mistake their shop for a real life take on Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Meanwhile, during the 1990s, an RBS bank and stationary store were located in the same positions on Victoria Street as Gringotts and Flourish and Blotts are on Diagon Alley.
The Balmoral Hotel
The Balmoral Hotel is one of the most luxurious places of pilgrimage for Harry Potter fans worldwide. In January 2007, J.K. Rowling checked into room 552 at Edinburgh’s prestigious Balmoral Hotel, and it was there that she finished writing the Harry Potter series. On completion, so the story goes, she cracked open a bottle of champagne, finished its contents and scribbled in black marker pen on a marble bust, ‘JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.’ In honor of the author and the series, the Balmoral Hotel have renamed the room the ‘J.K. Rowling suite.’ Wealthy fans can pay to stay in the room, kept in exactly the same condition as she left it (marble bust included.).
J.K. Rowling attended Edinburgh University while writing the Harry Potter series. Potterow, once a 16th and 17th century location for pottery stalls in the old town of Edinburgh, lies right next to the university campus. Like any Edinburgh student, Rowling would have been well acquainted with the street, which functioned as an inspiration for the naming of her eponymous hero.