Travelling to the UK has definitely had highlights, not the least being able to see Jimmy Carr perform in person…amazing!!! That being said, the other highlight was definitely being able to do some Harry Potter sightseeing and experiences (as well as educating the ignorant 🙂 ).
These aren’t necessarily in chronological order as that would mean repeat explanations, but these are all the Potterverse related locations, and have definitely satisfied this fan girl for now.
So first we have The Elephant House cafe and Spoon cafe (known previously as Nicholson Cafe).
These are the two locations where J.K. Rowling spent most of her time while writing the first few Harry Potter books. This was due to the fact that she was, at the time, a single parent and unable to afford the heating bill so these cafes afforded her, and sometimes her infant daughter, a warm place to sit and write with inspirational scenery. Said scenery including Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh Castle and Victoria Street.
Another highlight of The Elephant Cafe is the graffiti!!! Who’d have thought regular graffiti could be a tourist attraction, well here it is. You open the door to the bath room and you are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of it. It seems to have been a feature of The Elephant House well before J.K.s time but the volume and genre in the last 10ish years has definitely changed.
We went to look at the exterior of the Balmoral Hotel, which is where J.K. stayed whilst completing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, due to the constant distractions of homelife during that period of time. When she completed the final chapter, J.K. signed a marble bust of the Greek god Hermes, that was part of the room decoration, with permanent marker. “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007”. Well off fans can elect to stay in room 552, since renamed the JK Rowling Suite, for a mere £965 or $1665 aud.
We had a brief walk around Greyfriars Kirkyard, well known among Potter Fans as the inspiration and true resting place of Thomas Riddell, but probably better known in general as the location of Greyfriars Bobby and his masters’ grave.
Bobby was the dog of John Gray, they had a very close relationship, spending every moment together. When John Gray passed away in 1848 he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby found his masters grave and faithfully sat there everyday for the next 14 years. Bobby passed away in 1872 aged 16 and was finally reunited with his master, his collar has pride of place in Edinburgh Museum. But I digress, walking around the Kirkyard there were some familiar names McGonagal and Riddell to name a few. It’s said that when J.K. was having trouble writing she’d walk around the Kirkyard, maybe for a little extra inspiration.
Edinburgh Castle is rumoured to have provided J.K. with much descriptive scenery for Hogwarts, and as it can be seen in all it’s wonderful glory from The Elephant Cafe it’s no surprise. However another source for the imagery surrounding Hogwarts is said to be George Herroits School, and seeing it in person I can understand why. It is a magnificent building, with beautiful architecture. The turreted roof and stone façade matches the description of the Hogwarts in the novel. Rowling didn’t just only take inspiration from the school’s architecture, however. She modelled the Hogwarts house system on the one in place at George Heriot’s.
We had an early start one morning as we drove to Fort William to catch the Jacobite Steam Train, a coal fuelled engine. This trip features many highlights of the natural world of Britain. Described as the greatest railway journey in the world, this 84 mile round trip starts near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis. The terrain that is covered by this train also stars in a few of the Harry Potter movies. The scenery was just stunning and was a great realisation to how beautiful our natural world can be. But back to the Harry Potter. We went over the Glenfinnan Viaduct which features most prominently in Chamber of Secrets, but also makes an appearance in Prisoner of Azkaban. It was pretty cool to see, not just for the film references but also just the beauty of engineering. But I cannot fail to mention Loch Eilt. Loch Eilt features in Prisoner of Azkaban and Deathly Hallows Pt. 1, although I believe that it is best remembered for its role in Half Blood Prince, as on Loch Eilt there is a small island called Eilean na Moine. It is used as Dumbledore’s final resting place in the films. This small island was briefly visible from the train as we chuffed past, along with the emotional turmoil associated with it.
We also had a wander around Edinburgh itself and came across Victoria Street, said to be the ideas and inspiration for Diagon Alley. Walking along Victoria Street you can just picture some of those shops… Madame Malkin’s, Flourish and Blotts, Olivanders, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Eyelops Owl Emporium and maybe even Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. One of the great finds along there was Museum Context, a shop pretty much dedicated to Harry Potter, with a few all Scottish bits and bobs thrown in.
Another very early morning as we made our way to Edinburgh Airport for our 7am flight to Heathrow. We planned to spend our 7ish hour stopover going into London seeing a few things then heading back to the airport. As the flight was a little delayed it meant missing the changing of the horse guards, but it is London, so many more things to see.
We did visit Leadenhall Market, very familiar from Philosophers Stone, although completely devoid of human life. Which did seem strange. Of course Big Ben, iconic in its own right as a London landmark, but also a very significant landmark in the Chamber of Secrets movie. We briefly saw Australia House, the Australian Embassy in London, which I think was used as the filming location for Gingotts (I think). But of course what visit to London as a Potter Fan would be complete without a visit to Kings Cross Station? This station features quite significantly in all the books. Kings Cross is, to Harry, a portal to a better place, a world where he has a chance at happiness. But of course you can’t just go to Kings Cross, you HAVE to visit Platform 9 3/4. I wasn’t really willing to wait in line for 45mins to have a photo (which I would hate anyway) taken with the trolley, so I satisfied myself with taking photos of the trolley, then immersing myself in the Harry Potter Shop (at this stage Ben left and said he’d meet me back in half an hour). So I perused to my hearts content, then, souvenirs purchased we headed back to the airport to catch our flight.
So at this point I can say that, although I’ll always be eager for more, at this stage, this Harry Potter fan girl is satisfied.