A spontaneous and spiritual journey to Scotland

Last weekend I took an impromptu but incredible trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.

It was incredible because Edinburgh is such a beautiful city with the coolest architecture, including a castle on a massive hill in the middle of the city. Also, it was incredible because of the bus tour through the breathtaking Highlands to the magnificent Loch Ness. But, it was mostly incredible because Edinburgh is the “birthplace” of Harry Potter.

Scotland has a quite a few unknown Harry Potter gems; it was amazing to stumble upon them as we explored the country. My weekend became a spiritual journey – a Harry Potter Mecca.

Now, if you know anything about HP, you know that Harry takes a train from Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross in London to the magical and fantastical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which is somewhere in Scotland.

I very symbolically took the same journey as Harry as we departed by train from King’s Cross station in London to Edinburgh, Scotland–the place where the magic began.

Thanks to other nerds like me, Platform 9 3/4 actually does exist in King’s Cross, so I was in a much better mood when I found it after waking up at 5:30 a.m. Unfortunately, Virgin Trains did not accept my Hogwarts Express ticket.

Upon arriving in Edinburgh, the first things I saw exiting the train station were stunning dark Gothic architecture and a castle casually sitting on a huge hill in the middle of the city. It was a spectacular first exposure to the city. Though I’m not certain what the castle of Hogwarts is based off, but it sure looked similar to the buildings in Edinburgh.

It makes sense that Hogwarts would look like Edinburgh because JK Rowling was inspired by the city for the settings of Harry Potter. According to a sign which was in a street labeled Diagon Alley, “No setting could be more perfect for a magical School of Witchcraft & Wizardry than the majestic gothic grandeur of this old toon, so it is no surprise that J.K. Rowling selected Scotland as the home of Hogwarts, or that several sites lie nearby this Diagon Alley.”

We walked through this Diagon Alley and found a graveyard called Grayfriars Kirkyard where a Tom Riddle is supposedly buried. After a long search (it was getting dark and sort of creepy being among hundreds of year-old graves), we finally found the gravestones of a Thomas Riddell and even a William McGonagall. Whether or not Rowling was inspired by these names, they were still cool to see.

Eventually we made it to a little cafe called The Elephant House. It looks like your average coffee shop except that in the window was a sign that labeled the place as the “Birthplace” of Harry Potter. JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in this cafe.

I was so happy to be there.

Though I didn’t have the chance to read in The Elephant House, I stepped inside with my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for a while. The book is very special to me now that it has been to its “birthplace” in Edinburgh.

The next day we took a bus tour through the Scottish Highlands. It was incredible. I was in awe of Scotland’s nature during the entire 12 hours of the tour. My jaw dropped the first time I saw mountains in the skyline and didn’t close until I got off the bus. The views were indescribable as we drove through the Highlands and Glen Coe and to Loch Ness (no monster sighting that day). It was the best £37 I’ve ever spent.

We even passed the filming location of Hagrid’s hut on the tour. Can’t you just imagine Harry, Ron and Hermione running down the hill to the hut in the third movie? The hut was removed from the woods in an effort to preserve the area from potential destruction that would come from visiting tourists.

I ended my magical weekend in Scotland with breakfast at another famous cafe, Starbucks, overlooking the Edinburgh Castle. I had such an amazing time experiencing Harry Potter in a special way and seeing the beauty of Scotland. After this trip, I can happily say I am a reformed Potterhead.