Arrivals & Departures On the Harry Potter trail in Scotland

Photo of Gemma Nisbet

Immerse yourself in the wizarding world at the birthplace of the Harry Potter stories with a self-guided itinerary taking in book and film locations. 

How did you celebrate the recent 20th anniversary of the publication of J.K. Rowling's first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone? 

Perhaps with a reading marathon, or maybe a weekend watching all of the Harry Potter films? Either way, you might now be looking for a new way to celebrate your favourite boy wizard, and the team at Visit Scotland have come to the party with a four-day themed itinerary departing from Edinburgh.

Scotland is, of course, the birthplace of the Harry Potter story. Rowling famously began writing the books in the Edinburgh cafe now known as The Elephant House, and the country is home to a number of filming locations from the movie series. 

The Harry Potter Film and Book Locations itinerary includes that very cafe, along with spots such as Rannoch Moor, featured in the movie Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 when the Death Eaters board the train, and Steall Falls, as seen in a Triwizard Tournament sequence in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Some of Scotland's other Harry Potter highlights include:

1. Harry Potter walking tour, Edinburgh

This walking tour lays claim to being the only one in the Scottish capital designed specially for Harry Potter fans. Taking in locations that inspired various characters and scenes, it includes the chance to learn about the witches and wizards of medieval Edinburgh. Best of all, it's free (although you're welcome to provide a contribution at the end of the tour). 

2. The Jacobite Steam Train, Scottish Highlands 

Known as the real-life Hogwarts Express, this steam train travels along the West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig through rugged scenery, including the dramatic Glenfinnan Viaduct. It's widely regarded as one of the world's most beautiful rail journeys. 

3. Bo-ness Motor Museum, Falkirk

Opened in 2004, this museum displays cars ranging from classic Aston Martins and family cars from the 50s, 60s and 70s to the Lotus Esprit from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me — and Ron Weasley's flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 

4. Dalhousie Owl Experience, Dalhousie 

Pay tribute to Harry's brave avian companion Hedwig at the historic Dalhousie Castle, which is said to be Scotland's oldest inhabited castle. It offers falconry packages including an Owl Encounter, along with archery, accommodation (including themed castle rooms), restaurants and a day spa. Alternately, there are owls aplenty at the Scottish Owl Centre at Whitburn, halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

5. The J.K. Rowling Suite at The Balmoral, Edinburgh

This five-star hotel is an Edinburgh landmark, and it's also the place where J.K. Rowling finished writing the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The suite where she wrote has been renamed in her honour and incorporates a brass owl door knocker, her writing desk and a signed marble bust of the Greek god Hermes. It doesn't come cheap, but for a more affordable option, stop into the hotel for a drink or afternoon tea. 

(At top: Edinburgh Castle and the Balmoral hotel clocktower. Picture: Kenny Lam Photography)

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