Had J.K. Rowling never moved to Edinburgh, the Scottish capital in the 1990s, there may never have been a Harry Potter. Then, there might never have been a Potted Potter, the Edinburgh Festival favourite spoof spin-off from Dan Clarkson. Dan, a UK actor whose first-ever role was in our children film Mystical Christmas (small world) now spends a lot of time in the USA where he tours that show all around the world. So much has come from JK’s early writings in the very red Elephant Cafe. If you have Potter fans in the family, we have some present suggestions below, after you have done your homework.
Cafes – The city, with its narrow dark alleyways, endless stairs to climb the hill to the castle and the medieval turrets and dark stone architecture is unmistakable ‘Hogwartsian.’ The red Elephant Cafe stands out 21 George IV Bridge and announces itself as the birthplace of Potter. It is true that Rowling wrote The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban there in that cafe, and that makes it historic to any Potter fan and it features in our film of Potter’s Edinburgh, but, the humble beginning was not there.
The hardcore fans will tell you that Rowling actually started in another cafe in Nicolas Street. Then called Nicholson’s Cafe and owned by her brother-in-law, it is now called Spoon. Why write in a cafe? The story goes that she could not afford the heating bills to write at home, but maybe that is now folklore. The price of coffee v the price of heating is a debate. But, let us be arty and say that both were creative and you might just stay awhile in both and see if it rubs off. Take a look at our film on Harry Potter’s Edinburgh before we continue.
Greyfriars – Before we wander away from the Elephant café, we should take a look at Greyfriar’s Bobby and the graveyard. Rowling used the cemetery as inspiration for Tom Riddle’s graveyard, in The Goblet of Fire. The cemetery houses the graves of the real-life aristocrat Thomas Riddell Esq and his son, also Thomas Riddell. Each year at Halloween fans are said to act out a duel over the grave of the ‘real-life’ Voldemort.
Victoria Street – Don’t go too far, because you can see Rowling did not have to, to gain inspiration. The shops in the curved Victoria Street with their high buildings and pointed roofs are said to have been another inspiration. If they conjure up images of the magical shopping street, with AHA HA HA Jokes & Novelties then stop and take it all in. Look for the signs in the windows. There is one warning tourists to not mistake their shop for a real-life take on Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.
Castle & Schools – The Castle is a must-see for any Potter fan, along with the buildings you take in on the way up. The steps and narrow alleyways that tempt you each side can be a diversion, but from the castle, you can see George Heriot’s School. It is shown in our film. Again, whilst often thought to be the school that Hogwarts was imagined round, that is not the whole truth. It is our belief that it was only the headmaster’s office there which was taken as architectural literature for Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore’s Office. However, Sam takes you to Fettes College, Edinburgh which he claims was the real inspiration for Hogwarts and we show you the school. Make your own mind up. It is a little out of town, but an easy taxi ride. It is near the Botanical Gardens.
Balmoral Hotel – Findlay takes us to the Balmoral Hotel to end the story, and maybe, if you are a real fan you will save up (a lot) to stay in the J K Rowling Suite at this luxury hotel. In January 2007, J.K. Rowling checked into room 652 to finish writing the Harry Potter series. Maybe not so much to finish it as to celebrate its completion because by the 11th January it was claimed done. Rowling scribbled in black marker pen on a marble bust, believed to be the Greek god Hermes, not Emperor Hadrian as first thought, ‘JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11th Jan 2007.’ Whether to give the hotel some lasting memorabilia or as a publicity stunt, or as a result of the champagne, no one will know why she signed the bust.
GIVE THIS GREAT TOUR AS A GIFT. IT TAKES PLACE NEAR WATFORD AND IS SEVEN HOURS LONG. A GREAT DAY OUT. BOOK HERE.
Whilst you might have the standard books, for a real fan this Christmas you might like to get the Artefact Vault. After reading that, they might be able to play the Trivial Pursuits game of Harry Potter - good luck! When will we get a Harry Potter Monopoly?
Many thanks to Sam Cornish and Findlay Cornish with their help on making the three films we made in Edinburgh.