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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stroll

Without JK Rowling, there wouldn’t have been a sensational series of films and books about one boy who was destined to be the chosen one. Her time in Edinburgh writing the books has earned her everlasting fame across the planet, and this city will help you discover her journey to that fame. This assistance comes in the form of a tour dedicated to Harry Potter, known simply as 'The Potter Trail'.

A free tour, this experience brings to light the history of JK Rowling herself, as well as how she came to idealize the names of many of the characters and places that feature in the ever-popular books. It begins outside Greyfriars Bobby, where a statue is situated to commend the dedication of a dog who rested on his owner’s grave for the rest of his days.

The tour guides introduce themselves in their velvet cloaks at this statue and then whisk us away to Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. This venue is where Rowling herself visited to get her inspiration for writing the Harry Potter books, including Tom Riddle.

The George Heriot Private School can also be briefly observed next to the Kirkyard, where The four famous Hogwarts Houses originated in Rowling’s mind. The house names in this school of course do not resemble any likeliness of the houses in the books themselves. Sorry to disappoint the true Harry Potter fans. The house names instead are known as Lauriston, Greyfriars, Raeburn, and Castle.

The George Heriot Private School, an inspiration for JK Rowling

To make the tour very entertaining, questions are asked and house points are awarded to those who answer the tour guide’s question correctly as the tour progresses through the Kirkyard as we pass the grave of Tom Riddell. An innocent man in his day, it is learned that Rowling used this name as an inspiration to Tom Riddle, who (spoiler alert) is found out to be Lord Voldemort.

The grave of Tom Riddell, another part of Rowling's character ideas

The exit out of Greyfriar's Kirkyard then proceeds along the NCR75 Road, heading along Lothian Street and stopping at South College Street. Black Medicine Coffee Co is in sight a few metres away from where the next stop is situated. This marked another pit-stop for Rowling, in other words, she would flock to this place to continue her writing of the books. It is learned on this tour that from the release of her books, her fame was increasing at a dramatic rate. This meant that writing in a public place proved very challenging for someone so talented.

The Black Medicine Coffee Co, a café used frequently by Rowling

The tour then continues around a bend to the right, and then comes out onto Chambers Street. A halt occurs outside of the National Museum of Scotland. Here it is explained how Rowling had to flee on one occasion to the nearby Balmoral Hotel as it was revealed as her main place of residence. It goes to show that fame can sometimes be a blessing, but also a curse where looking for privacy becomes more difficult.

The Elephant House Café is then spotted on this tour, a café that can be described as filled with Rowling and Harry Potter fanatics as they strive to put themselves in her shoes. 2021 saw this café ravaged by a colossal fire, however, it was rather a miracle that Rowling's old writing table survived the flames. A sign from God himself that Rowling's successes cannot be bought down.

The Elephant House Café, located right next to George IV Bridge

The tour comes to its end as it reaches its conclusion on Victoria Street, an area where the shop known as 'Museum Context' is located. This is truly a haven for all Harry Potter fans, where you can purchase anything from a chocolate frog to your house scarf. This street is also an inspiration to the ever-delightful shopping street Diagon Alley, the place where Harry potter first received his wand.

Victoria Street, Edinburgh's version of Diagon Alley

It is here where the tour meets its conclusion, however after an hour and a half, you can feel as if you have done your Hogwarts House proud after answering at least one of the tour guide's questions about the history of Harry Potter, and JK Rowling herself. You can also feel proud of the fact you have learned a surprising fact or two about the writer and her journey to become the inspiring woman that she is today.

Potter Points to Bear in Mind

  • Even though The potter Trail consists of a free tour, the tour guides will kindly request a donation as they put in a lot for these enchanting tours to continue running.

  • As well as public tours, private group tours are also available should you be arriving with a more expanded group of people.

  • Click Here to read more details about the tours on offer.

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