20 Harry Potter Edinburgh facts on anniversary of first publication

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THEY’VE captured the hearts and minds of readers all over the world, selling millions upon millions of copies as well as being transformed into a hugely popular blockbuster franchise.

And how time has flown for today marks no less than the 20th anniversary of the publication of J K Rowling’s landmark first novel – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Harry Potter turns 20 today.

Harry Potter turns 20 today.

From Little Whinging all the way to Hogsmeade, the books whisk readers away to a host of varied and exciting destinations but let’s not forget where it all came to life – here in Edinburgh.

So in honour of this 
special occasion, we’ve taken a look at some of the close ties between the boy wizard, his creator and the Capital...

1. Nicolson’s Cafe (now Spoon)

While Nicolson’s Cafe no longer exists, its first floor space on Nicolson Street is now occupied by the cafe Spoon. Rowling wrote part of the first novel at Nicolson’s Cafe, which she visited on a number of occasions with her then baby daughter Jessica.

Richard Duffy takes a Harry Potter Tour outside Grey Friars Bobby, Edinburgh. Picture; Toby WIlliams

Richard Duffy takes a Harry Potter Tour outside Grey Friars Bobby, Edinburgh. Picture; Toby WIlliams

2. Greyfriars Kirkyard

Just a stone’s throw from The Elephant House cafe, it is thought names on some of the graveyard’s stones – which include Thomas Riddell, William McGonagall and Elizabeth Moodie – could have provided inspiration for some of the characters in the books.

3. The City Chambers quadrangle

Not one which might immediately spring to mind, but the home of Edinburgh’s city council also plays host to a cast of Rowling’s handprints. It comes after the author was awarded the Edinburgh Award in 2008.

Greyfriars Kirkyard, it is thought some character names were inspired here.

Greyfriars Kirkyard, it is thought some character names were inspired here.

4. South Lorne Place

Rowling has lived at a number of locations in Edinburgh over the years. Streets in which she lived are reported to include Gardner’s Crescent, South Lorne Place and Hazelbank Terrace. Having moved to a mansion in the Merchiston area with her family in 2009, she now lives in Barnton.

5. Edinburgh Zoo

You won’t find any nifflers or erumpents here, but magizoology did find its way in last year as the popular attraction laid on special screenings of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

6. Elephant House cafe

While its claim of being the ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter is a bit of stretch – Rowling actually thought up the series on a train – she did visit the cafe to write on occasion. Regardless, it’s now a popular stop-off for Potter fans on their visits to the Capital – and let’s just say, don’t forget to visit the loos.

7. Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row

Both popular on the tourist trail, visitors flock to both these streets to take a peek in their unique array of shops and to enjoy their cobbled charms. It is thought – although it has never been confirmed – that they served as inspiration for the wizarding equivalent of Diagon Alley.

8. Edinburgh College of Art

A link to the films rather than the books, Edinburgh College of Art was the training ground of prosthetics designer Rachel MacLean. As well as her work for the film franchise, MacLean also represented Scotland at the 57th Venice Biennale.

George Heriots School is thought to be the inspiration behind Hogwarts.

George Heriots School is thought to be the inspiration behind Hogwarts.

9. Edinburgh International Book Festival

Frequented both by top authors as well as up-and-comers, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is one of the first ever places that Rowling gave a reading from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997. She also attended in 2004 and 2014.

10. The Dog House

A newer association with the novels, this Clerk Street venue has become known for selling its own version of butterbeer, sold at many a wizarding pub, not least The Three Broomsticks. We’ve not tried it yet, but there’s only one way to find out...

11. George Heriot’s School

Everyone has their own idea of how Hogwarts is supposed to look, but this private school off Lauriston Place is thought to have provided a degree of inspiration. It’s a claim Rowling has never confirmed but one look at its architecture and it’s easy to see why people might make the link.

12. Harry Potter tours

Of course these have only been going since the arrival of the books, but there are fewer better ways to enjoy Edinburgh’s Harry Potter sights for yourself then by pounding the city on foot. Head online to find a tour which suits you.

13. The Lewis chessmen

Carved out of walrus tusks and dating back to the 12th century, these intricately carved figures served as inspiration for the wizarding chess pieces seen in the films. Some of the originals are on display at the National Museum of Scotland.

14. The Writers’ Museum

A key destination for anyone literary-minded, a rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated by J K Rowling previously went on display at the museum.

15. The Meadows

Jogging and dog walking aren’t the only activities which eagle-eyed residents might spot on this grassy expanse – it also plays host to the odd Quidditch match, courtesy of Edinburgh University’s Harry Potter Society.

16. Edinburgh Central Library

It’s reported Rowling visited the library in 1996 to look up the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book when trying to find a literary agent for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

17. Edinburgh Castle

This popular tourist venue was transformed into Hogwarts back in 2005 for the publication of the series’ sixth book, Harry Potter and the 
Half-Blood Prince. Seventy lucky children from all round the world were able to attend and hear Rowling read from the book.

18. Waverley Station

Before you start wracking your brains, this wasn’t in any of the films. In fact it’s where Potter actress Miriam Margoyles – who plays Herbology teacher Professor Sprout in the films – admitted to having poured water over a man’s head after he refused to offer up his seat.

19. Potterrow

Rowling has explained in past interviews where she got the name Harry Potter from and sadly it has no connection to the street in question. But it’s a fun coincidence nonetheless and a good photo opp for fans.

20. The Balmoral Hotel

This iconic venue takes us to the end of the Potter series as it was where Rowling finished the very last book – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. She famously wrote on a bust of Greek god Hermes: “J K Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007”.