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Scotland capital features several landmarks that inspired characters and settings in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.
EDINBURGH—We wandered the same cobblestone streets, dark winding passages and graveyard paths here as J.K. Rowling did in the company of professional guide Ross Tillbrook to find links to the magical world of a boy wizard. Here are five.
Victoria Street: Slip down the narrow Fisher’s Close off the Royal Mile to a second-floor terrace for the best view of the colourful, curved 19th-century street. It’s easy to see how it could have inspired Rowling to create the jumble of wizarding shops of Diagon Alley. There are plenty of independent retailers and pubs and restaurants to entertain Muggles and a history lesson at the bottom in the Grassmarket, once a spot for public executions.
Edinburgh Castle: The historic hilltop castle that was both fortress and royal residence for centuries has a rounded battery at the front that, from below, might just look like a Quidditch stadium. Tillbrook told us to look up and imagine it with flags and banners flying from the surrounding towers and we soon got the feel. It may have inspired Hogwarts, too, he observed, which has elements of an imposing castle high on a on a hill.
Loyal canine: Greyfriars Bobby is Edinburgh’s most famous dog, a Skye Terrier so heartbroken at his owner’s death, he spent 14 years sleeping on his grave in Greyfriar’s Kirk (church) cemetery. There’s a statue of the beloved dog nearby. He’s buried in front of the church, where people leave sticks in tribute at his headstone for the pooch who never left his post. “Loyal Bobby,” says Tillbrook. “Bobby. Dobby. Could there be a connection?”
Grave inspiration: Greyfriars Kirkyard, where Rowling is said to have often strolled, is a who’s who of Potter characters. Tillbrook pointed out memorials for William McGonagall (Prof. Minerva McGonagall?), Elizabeth Moodie (Alastor “Mad–Eye” Moody?) and Thomas Riddell Esq. (Tom Marvolo Riddle was the real name of you-know-who: Lord Voldemort). Through an arch in the cemetery wall, the four towers of George Heriot’s School are visible, where students wear long black robes and belong to one of four houses.
Writing rooms: The Elephant House, which now asks for a one-pound charity donation to enter without a purchase, claims the café is the book’s “birthplace.” Rowling did write there, but Tillbrook says Nicholson’s, now called Spoon, is actually where the first chapters were penned. A plaque out front confirms it. Owned by Rowling’s brother-in-law, we had a delicious lunch in the second-floor restaurant, which is filled with mid-century modern furniture and collectibles.
Linda Barnard was hosted by Visit Britain and Visit Scotland, which didn’t review or approve this story.