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8 famous Harry Potter Locations to Visit in Scotland

Harry Potter.  There won’t be many people not aware of ‘the boy wizard’.   The magical world of witchcraft and wizardry created by J.K Rowling has been massively influenced and inspired by the country she wrote the books in: Scotland.  Whilst there are various Harry Potter attractions across the globe Scotland offers Harry Potter fans a real, authentic experience. You can seek out Rowling’s inspiration for the books and the spellbinding locations used for so many of the cinematic scenes.

So grab your Nimbus 2000, look out your floo powder or find an old portkey and come with us as we visit 8 Scottish locations that should be on every Harry Potter fan’s bucket list.

1. THE ELEPHANT HOUSE, Edinburgh

The Elephant House Coffee Shop in Edinburgh

The Elephant House in Edinburgh is rumoured to be where it all began.  J.K Rowling had a favourite table here, the one by the window, overlooking Edinburgh Castle.  There was a space heater to the left of the window where she would park the stroller so her baby could keep warm during the winter months.  When visiting Scotland, this is a must for Harry Potter fans.

Rowling said in an interview “the best place to write in my opinion, is in a cafe”. You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement and if you have writers block, you can get up and walk to the next cafe while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think”.

2. VICTORIA STREET, Edinburgh

Victoria Street
Illustration of Harry Potter with Hagrid in Diagon Alley

J.K Rowling lived in Edinburgh the entire time she was writing the Harry Potter books. Spending time in the city it’s easy to see where her inspiration for some of the locations came from.  

Victoria Street in Edinburgh is often thought to have inspired Diagon Alley. It is a wondrous, eclectic and colourful curved street.  The street is home to lots of higglety-pigglety old buildings and shops selling wonderful wares.  And just like the wizarding version, Victoria Street used to have a Royal Bank of Scotland and a stationery shop in approximately the same position as their magical counterparts – Gringotts and Flourish & Blott’s.  A real place for all ‘things’ Harry Potter…..

3. GEORGE HERIOT'S SCHOOL, Edinburgh

Picture of George Heriot’s School
Hogwarts

This imposing Romanesque building, with architectural similarities to Hogwarts, is the charming George Heriot’s school.  Heriot’s is a private school for Scotland’s elite.  The school has been dividing pupils into four houses since it was founded.  

The houses are; Lauriston, Greyfriars, Raeburn and Castle.  Did they inspire Hogwarts Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw? The students even have a points competition which they can win for their houses during the academic year.

4. GREYFRIARS KIRKYARD, Edinburgh

Greyfriars Kirkyard Cementery, Edinburgh

Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Edinburgh appears to be the place where Rowling found inspiration for some of our favourite Harry Potter characters.  Amongst the graves you’ll find “William McGonagall” (Minerva McGonagall) and “Elizabeth Moodie” (Mad-eye Moodie).  One grave bears the title “Margaret Louisa Scrymgeour Wedderburn”, perhaps inspiration for Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic in the final Harry Potter book?

It’s here you’ll also find a grave belonging to the greatest villain of the story “Thomas Riddell Esquire”, Lord Voldemort’s childhood name.   

5. JACOBITE STEAM TRAIN & GLENFINNAN VIADUCT, Inverness-shire

Hogwarts express, Scotland
Harry arriving to the Hogwarts express in the movie

As any Harry Potter fan will know, the only way for pupils to arrive (legally!) at Hogwarts is by taking the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 at London’s Kings Cross Station.  

The Hogwarts Express is a real train, called the Jacobite Steam Train and takes passengers north, to the west coast of Scotland.  This famous and much loved steam train was used in all the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express.  They filmed the exterior and interiors of the train, as well as the dauntingly beautiful scenery along the route.

One of the more famous spots of the West Highland Line is the Glenfinnan Viaduct (seen above).  You might recognise it from The Chamber of Secrets when a couple of 2nd year Hogwarts students had to fly to school in the Weasley’s magical Ford Anglia car…

The train is extremely popular so booking your trip early is a must.  The 85 mile trip to Arasaig on the West Coast of Scotland is often thought to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.

6.LOCH SHIEL, Lochaber

Picture of Harry Potter scenary on the Loch Shield
Picture of Loch Shield
Harry Potter Scene filmed on the Loch Etive

Loch Shiel is a freshwater lake and the fourth longest loch in Scotland. This loch can be seen briefly in all the movies but it is most recognized for being the scene of the underwater stage of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  It’s also recognisable from the scene where Harry rides Buckbeak the hippogriff in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  A tour around this area of Scotland is like being in the movie, and is akin to one big Harry Potter film set!

7. GLENCOE VALLEY, Scottish Highlands

Glencoe Valley

Remember Hagrid’s Hut? Or that magnificient scene where Hermione confronts and punches Draco at the sundial stone circle?

The destination chosen to film these scenes was Glencoe.  Glencoe is infamous for a bloody massacre that happened between the Scottish Clans back in 1692.  Today it is a popular hiking and tourist destination due to it’s precipitous mountains, reflecting pools and waterfalls.  The video shows Hermione being filmed in a Harry Potter scene during the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Harry Potter isn’t the only film to use the breathtaking Scottish valley.  Glencoe Valley has been featured in many other films, including Braveheart, Rob Roy and James Bond’s Skyfall.

8. HARRY POTTER THEMED TOURS, Edinburgh

I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter-Beer in the themed bus
Themed Harry Potter Bus interior

Enjoying afternoon tea is a must when visiting the UK.  So why not enjoy this British past-time on a bus, touring the streets of Edinburgh at many of the spots that inspired JK Rowling.

As well as enjoying drinks and desserts from the Harry Potter films, including Butter Bear, chocolate frogs, and other afternoon tea trappings you’ll have a brilliant host and hopefully learn a couple of spells for use later on in your adventure!

There are so many reasons to visit Scotland.  Scotland is a country full of myths, magic and majesty that fits perfectly with Rowling’s witchcraft and wizardry tales.  We’ve put together an itinerary worthy of the most die hard Harry Potter fan.  As with all our itineraries, we’ll handcraft it to include exactly what your family want to include on their magical journey.  Contact us by owl post, or by clicking our link here.

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