I can quite understand why this might seem like an odd choice of activity when exploring Edinburgh but equally, a group of around 40 people waited patiently at 3.00pm on a brisk March morning to begin The Potter Trail, a free walking tour of Edinburgh which took us round the sights associated, one way or another, with the phenomenon that is Harry Potter. Being a shameless Harry Potter fan, this was the perfect way to spend an afternoon and a great opportunity to perhaps see parts of the city slightly off the beaten track.
I can’t lie, I was slightly nervous that perhaps nobody else would turn up for this tour but as we loitered near the designated meeting place and more and more people congregated it soon became clear that no matter where you go, bubbling underneath the surface of the most unlikely people is a Potter fan just waiting to get out. Will, an enthusiastic guide who had donned a pair of Slytherin gloves and a blue cloak, met us all, introduced himself to us individually and began the tour. His enthusiasm was infectious and no matter how silly we felt (we were all given a ‘wand’ or, “definitely not chopsticks I have crudely painted” as Will said) there was a fascination and sense of humour about the entire tour.
Most interesting to me were the first stops, which showed us the Greyfriars Graveyard, which sits under the imposing shadow of Edinburgh Castle and George Herriot School, and is quite clearly the inspiration for the location of Tom Riddle Senior’s grave. It seems bizarre, really bizarre, to be traipsing through an ancient grave yard to stare at the grave of someone whose name inspired a fictional character and yet so we were told, hundreds of Potter fans make the pilgrimage here every year, hence the grass has been worn away around the graves. Is it odd? Yes. Is it disrespectful? A thorny issue – but mostly these fans are there to pay their respects, in a bizarre way, to a man who in a roundabout way was a huge part of the Harry Potter world.
As any Potter fan will know, a large amount of J.K. Rowling’s early writing took place in cafes around Edinburgh. Urban legend has it that this was due to not wanting to face high central heating bills but a more likely explanation is that as a new mother, her young daughter found the gentle hum of a coffee shop a soothing place, whilst her Mum could have hot tea and coffee as she pleased! The two iconic spots in Edinburgh, complete with plaques on their walls, are Spoon (was The Nicholson Cafe during Rowling’s time) and The Elephant House. Both are top spots to check out, Spoon for breakfast and The Elephant House for delicious tea and cake! I’ll post a more detailed blog on them both soon.
So, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then The Potter Trail should definitely be on your list when in Edinburgh. Will, our guide, was an absolute treasure trove of Potter knowledge and full of infectious enthusiasm for the tour. It’s completely free, but they do ask for tips at the end, so make sure you pop something in the wizarding hat as it comes round because you will have had a brilliant afternoon! Check the website for the days the tour is running, it leaves at 3.00pm at the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh and you will love it!