Twenty-six years ago, when I was just about to start high school, the first Harry Potter book was released. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerers Stone for my fellow Americans) was the perfect escape from the reality of my early teenage years.
Back then, JK Rowling wasn’t a problematic billionaire. Instead, quite the opposite. She had graduated from university in Edinburgh and was working as a teacher, the salary barely enough to provide as a single mother.
After 12 rejection letters (I bet those publishers regret that) she finally published the first in the Harry Potter series. Once revered as literary trailblazer, she is rarely even mentioned anymore, unless it’s related to her abhorrent and utterly offensive LGBTQ+ views.
As they say, you can love the art and hate the artist. The Harry Potter tours, independent stores, and others have greatly benefited from the popularity of Harry Potter. Our guide was a college student who loved Harry Potter and very clearly loved her job.
So we booked a walking tour that would show us areas of Edinburgh that inspired the Harry Potter series. As soon as you arrive in Edinburgh you can see why it inspired the books, and so many other things. It is absolutely enchanting.
Our first stop was Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, the cemetery that inspired many scenes and characters. It’s open to the public and was fairly full of Harry Potter fans. There is confetti and glitter around the obvious locations, as fans apparently have parties, photo shoots, even gender reveals in front of the graves. Thankfully, this cemetery is quite old and the guide said that most of the people don’t have living relatives, so no one is visiting their uncle and finding a surprise gender reveal.
At the edge of the kirkyard is a gate to George Heriot’s school, believed but not confirmed to inspire Hogwarts. It looks sort of similar and has four houses, just like Hogwarts.
We walked past the cafe where she wrote a lot of the books, but it’s currently closed. There was a fire there two years ago and it’s been closed since. Rumor is the owner is working on it and it may reopen in the next few months.
We made a quick stop at University of Edinburgh, where JK Rowling graduated. We didn’t go inside, but instead took a short rest break.
Our last stop was Victoria Street, thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley, but never confirmed. Looking at it, it sure feels like the inspiration. There even used to be a joke shop, which is now a tailor but still has the joke glasses on the storefront.
At £37.70 for both of us, it was a good deal and a great way to see Harry Potter locations around Edinburgh. The tour is designed to accommodate all ages, so it was a tad bit slow for us at some points, but overall enjoyable.
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