This afternoon we took part in a virtual tour round parts of Scotland to show us some of the inspiration and filming locations of the Harry Potter books and films run by Eventbrite. It was really good and especially interesting for us, having been to Edinburgh last September and seen a couple of the locations.
The guy who ran the tour was really entertaining. He really played to the kids that were on the tour, asking them which house they were in and awarding them points for their houses.
He even sorted a couple of them into their houses. As you can see from his picture bottom right, he was dressed like Olivander and even had the background of Olivander’s wand shop in Diagon Alley.
We started off in Edinburgh by visiting the Elephant House cafe where J K Rowling wrote the Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Apparently there are lots of references to elephants in the Prisoner of Azkaban as a nod to the hours J K spent here. I’ve never noticed any, so obviously I’m now going to have to re-read it for the umpteenth time! We ate a couple of times at the Elephant House when we visited in September, which was lovely, but what they don’t tell you is that the Philosopher’s Stone was actually written in another cafe round the corner. I didn’t know that till today either!
Next we visited Edinburgh Castle.
Many people think that the castle could have been the inspiration for Hogwarts as J K said she always imagined that the school was on a hill with a lake nearby. Edinburgh Castle, as you can see, does overlook the city and hundreds of years ago it also overlooked a Loch which was drained many years ago and is now the picturesque Princes Street Gardens.
Next we saw the Elephant Castle from the rear where J K apparently sat in the window (we sat there too), and she may have looked out and imagined Knockturn Alley, which is the dark magic street where you can find Borgin and Burkes. Harry ends up here when he accidentally gives the instruction ‘diagonally’ instead of Diagon Alley when travelling by Floo Powder from the Weasley’s burrow.
Our tour guide then asked us to work out which deatheater (follower of ‘he who shall not be named’) could have been roaming around Knockturn Alley. It was Lucius Malfoy and we all had to point our wands (or wand finger) at the screen and banish him with the spell ‘expelliarmus’.
From here we moved on to Greyfriars Churchyard. We were encouraged to open the gates by casting the spell ‘alohomora’.
The graves here may have provided inspiration for many of the characters, including Alastor Moody, Professor McGonagal and even Harry’s arch enemy, Lord Voldemort!
We moved on to George Herriot school next.
This has also been sited as possible inspiration for Hogwarts. It was a school built for Edinburgh’s poor and orphans, it had four houses (although, disappointingly, they weren’t Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin!) and it has four towers.
I have my own theory on where J K found her inspiration for Hogwarts, at least the appearance of it. For me, it’s got to be Holyroodhouse Palace. In particular, the ruin of the abbey next to the main building. I bet, in reality, it was probably a mix of all of these along with a dash of fairy-like imagination on the part of the author.
After this we used floo powder to travel to Diagon Alley! For those of you not familiar with this mode of travel, it involves throwing some floo powder in a magical fire and saying out loud where you want to travel through the floo network.
We arrived in Victoria Street which, I can concur having been there recently, does indeed look like it could’ve led to the creation of Diagon Alley.
We used magic to review the real Diagon Alley for comparison purposes.
Now we had to head to the station to catch the Hogwarts Express up into the Highlands to see some of the delights up there. Ordinarily, you’d obviously catch the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross or Hogwarts itself but catching it from Waverley Station gave the perfect excuse to show us the nearby Balmoral Hotel where J K, having long made her fortune, wrote the Deathly Hallows.
You can stay here hoping to emulate that winning formula if you like. It’ll set you back the princely sum of £2500 per night!
This is Glenfinnan Viaduct that you see the Hogwarts Express travel over in the films. I learnt today that you can actually take this journey, on a steam train from Fort William, and you can buy chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans on the Train! Guess what’s just been added to the top of my bucket list?! Finally a positive to come out of not being able to easily go abroad because of Covid-19 – hopefully we’ll be able to get to Scotland instead and do this!!
Our tour guide suddenly stopped at this point and announced that one of the tour members had missed the train and was joining us by an alternative method.
They arrived in the Ford Anglia that was bewitched by Arthur Weasley to fly.
We chugged our way past Loch Eilt which was the inspiration for the lake used in the second Triwizard tournament task when Harry and his fellow contestants had to find ways to breath under water in order to save their nearest of dearest.
Then we gazed at Dumbledore island, where Lord Voldemort goes at the beginning of the Deathly Hallows looking for the elder wand.
Finally we saw a beautiful waterfall at Glen Nevis which was used quite a lot in the films, particularly as the background in Quidditch matches.
Just before we all said goodbye, our host invited us to help him make a potion to cure Coronavirus using a mixture of veritas serum, unicorn blood and felix felicis.
In the end, he decided a spell would work best so we all aimed our wands and shouted ‘Riddivirus!’
Wouldn’t it be good if that worked? Probably won’t, but in the meantime, this was very very pleasant way to pass an hour, and a perfect diversion from less magical events in the real world.