Edinburgh and the Writing of Harry Potter

When I immigrated to Canada with my parents 13 years ago, I did not know a lot of English. Among the first English novels I read in their original version was the Harry Potter series. Although I read the Chinese translation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets back in second grade, I did not enjoy reading it, since it was difficult for me to remember the many translated names, hence requiring a lot of effort to flip through the pages to cross-reference the names. However, soon after starting to read the first Harry Potter book in English in June 2007, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I instantly became soaked into the story and eagerly finished the entire series during the summer and fall of that year. One of the most memorable times of my youth was listening to the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows audiobook read by Jim Dale, after I turn off the lights at night, before sleeping, during those warm summer nights of 2007. The magical and mysterious soundtrack at the beginning along with his narration in his British accent together with the darkness of the night allowed me to create a rich, vivid imagination of the story in my head. Whenever I rode my bike down a slope, with the wind brushing against my face, I would imagine myself flying on broomstick. I even wrote about the Harry Potter for my grade 8 English final exam. In short, reading Harry Potter made me more happy tremendously during those times and enriched my imagination. This month, I visited the city where J. K. Rowling wrote most of the chapters of the Harry Potter series, Edinburgh.

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We start at King’s Cross Station in London and Platform 9 3/4.


Then heading north to Edinburgh by train, through some Scottish towns.

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First impressions of Edinburgh after I got off the train and during my afternoon hike to Calton Hill.


This is the entrance to Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, which inspired Little Hangleton and contains the grave of Tom Riddle. The grave where the tourists are standing belongs to John Gray, a nightwatchman. He had a dog named Bobby who sat at the grave guarding his owner’s grave for 14 years after he passed away. Some believe the name Bobby and his loyalty inspired Dobby, the loyal house-elf.


The gravestone of the real Tom Riddle can be found inside the graveyard. Inspiration for Professor McGonagall and Moody’s name can also be found in the grave.


This street apparently is the inspiration for Diagon Alley.


This is the entrance to George Heriot’s school, said to be an inspiration for the house system of Hogwarts, since students are also sorted into houses. It was originally a school for orphans but unfortunately nowadays it is an expensive private school.

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Here is the café where Rowling wrote the first book, which used to be occupied by Nicholson’s Café at the same place and was owned by her brother in-law. There is another café called the Elephant’s House overlooking the graveyard that specifically markets themselves as the “birthplace of Harry Potter”, but that isn’t true since Rowling herself said during an interview she thought of Harry Potter on a train, although she did spend time writing the later books in there.


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