Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
Just so you know, I LOVE the HP books. I started reading them when my friend Monique gave me the first one as a present, back in the summer of 1999. Our friend Heather was visiting me in Waco, so Monique had mailed both of us a copy to give us something to read by the pool. It was so good, I read it a second time as soon as I finished it. Then I went down to the bookstore to buy Chamber of Secrets, which I read immediately, and later Prisoner of Azkaban, which came out after school started. It was a long wait for Goblet of Fire to come out, but I busied myself with the new website Mugglenet, which was quite different in the early days than it is now. I got into fan fiction (reading it, not writing it) and really enjoyed the Red Hen website. I was sad when the series was concluded and, although I enjoy the movies, they are not nearly as good as the books, not many movies have that distinction. So, to finally be in the town where it happened (thanks LMM for that song), I was flushed with fangirl excitement! But before I can tell you about all the awesome Harry Potter related sites we saw, I have to tell you a story about a dog, Greyfriars Bobby.
Greyfriars Bobby was a dog who sat on his master's grave for 14 years until his own death on January 14, 1872. People in the town felt sorry for him and started feeding him and he became welcome at all the local establishments. A baroness had a monument established to Edinburgh's most faithful dog. It was originally atop a water fountain that served people as well as a ground level one for dogs. His collar is in the Museum of Edinburgh that we had visited the day before, along with a copy of the statue and a whole display on his history.
Greyfriars Bobby has been the subject of a 1912 book, a 1961 Disney movie, and a 2006 film starring Christopher Lee. For another pop culture appearance, watch Burke and Hare on Showtime. The dog is shown sitting on his master's grave at Greyfriars Kirkyard in the scene where our infamous protagonists are attempting to rob a grave. The pub right across from the statue is where Bobby would go for his luncheon upon hearing the 1:00 gun. There's a plaque on the outside of the pub commemorating that.
The Potter Trail
Harry Potter tours were free and left every day from the statue of Greyfriars Bobby at 3pm sharp. Our tour guide was Sam, a Slytherin. This was the best thing we did in Edinburgh and especially for the money we paid for it which was nothing. The tours are free but they pass the hat at the end because the guides don't get paid, they are doing it for the love of Potter, so cough up some galleons, sickles, and knuts! I think we gave him a couple of pounds, as did the other 20 or 30 people in our group. Not bad for a couple hours of work each day.
We started off at the Greyfriars Kirkyard. Kirk is Scottish for church (Did you know that, Trekkies? I didn't) so essentially a kirkyard is a graveyard. JK spent a lot of time there. We entered through the back fence behind Greyfriars Bobby. We went there to see the real life versions of three things: Tom Riddle's grave, Professor McGonagall, and Hogwarts. The tour was during the day, but we totally went back at night, for the atmosphere, and to see if we could see any ghosts. More about that later.
1. Tom Riddle's grave
The plaque on the left belongs to Tom Riddell Esq. and reads, (sic)
"Sacred to the Memory of Thomas Riddell Esq. of Befsborough in the County of Berwick who died in Edinburgh on the 24th of Novm. 1806, aged 72 years. ALSO of Thomas Riddell Esq. his Son, Captain of the 14th Regiment, who died at Trinidad in the West Indies on the 16th of Septm. 1802 aged 26 years. AND of Christian Riddell, his Daughter, who died in Edinburgh on the 29th Oct, 1808, aged 31 years, ALSO Maria Jane Riddell, his daughter died 5th Sept. 1819, aged 47," The plaque on the right belongs to more five more Riddell relatives who died later on.
2. William McGonagall's memorial/grave
This plaque is on the stone wall in the corner by a big gate that keeps the Kirkyard visitors out of the parking lot of the George Heriot School. William McGonagall was celebrated as Scotland's Worst Poet. His most famous poem is the "The Tay Bridge Disaster", an event we learned all about at the Museum of Edinburgh, the day before. These are the last few lines of that terrible poem,
"I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed."
JK borrowed his name for Minerva McGonagall, Head of Gryffindor House.
3. George Heriot's School
Hogwarts was inspired by this very expensive private school, which, ironically started out as a free school/hospital for orphaned boys in 1659. Although orphans still attend for free, everyone else pays through the nose. While JK was writing the first HP book, she couldn't afford to send her daughter there, but later, she totally sent her by then three kids there. It has four houses with four towers and their own colors. The four houses are Lauriston (Slytherin), Greyfriars (Hufflepuff), Raeburn (Gryffindor), and Castle (Ravenclaw). Also, it;s the only co-ed school in Edinburgh. The fees for Senior School for the 2018-19 school year are $12,522.00, that's pounds not dollars, but my keyboard doesn't do pounds. You get the idea. Very expensive prep school and they don't even keep your kids overnight, nor is there any magical education. Here's their website if you're interested in the history of the school or its architecture. I took this photo by sticking my phone through the fence.
This locked gate to the school was on a different street.
We left Greyfriars to go see The National Bank of Scotland building, which was the inspiration for Gringott's. It's a very tall building with a dome. It's at the end of Bank Street and you can see it from all over Edinburgh. The building no longer houses the National Bank of Scotland, instead it's a museum dedicated to money, banking, and commerce.
5. The Spoon Restaurant
This coffee shop used to be co-owned by JK's brother-in-law and was called Nicolson's Cafe. JK used to come here to warm up, get some coffee, and do some writing. She finished writing Philosopher's Stone here. It was later sold and turned into a Chinese Buffet, and then sold again and turned into Spoon. They still sell coffee. It's the upstairs shop, not the one on the ground floor. It's on the corner of Nicolson and Drummond Streets.
6. The Elephant House
Another coffee shop where JK wrote some of Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban.
Potterrow is what the the medieval suburbs outside of the city's walls were once called. Edinburgh grew outward and eventually encompassed that area which had become a bustling part of the city during Victoria's reign. A hundred years later, the entire neighborhood was demolished in the 1960's to expand the University of Edinburgh. This building, the Edinburgh University Student Association, was named Potterrow to commemorate its origins. Potterrow houses all kinds of shops and services for students, much like a mall. During the day it's a quiet study space, at night it's a club scene. Potterrow has nothing to do with Harry Potter, other than JK was a student at U of E in 1995 and would have been there. It didn't even inspire Harry's name. But there is a connection if you look across the street.
Here's the important bit. This culvert is directly across from the dome and goes underneath the street and was the inspiration for where Harry defends Dudley from the Dementor attack in Order of the Phoenix.
8. Diagon Alley
Victoria Street inspired Diagon Alley. The street curves up and away from you, or down depending on what end you start from. Victoria street has a pub, a book shop, several clothing shops, a magic shop, a joke shop, and a restaurant where they carve the pig up in the window so all the passersby can watch. We were told that if you go into the magic shop and ask about HP you'll get ugly looks and possibly thrown out. Since the HP mania, there is also a HP museum, called The Museum Context.
Also, Victoria Street has an upper level where there's a sidewalk to allow access to those shops.
Here's all the shops.
The Museum Context is free and is totally dedicated to all things HP!
They had a cupboard under the stairs, the warning about the chamber of secrets being open, and a basilisk on the second and third floors!
9. Knockturn Alley
Candlemaker Row is the inspiration for Knockturn Alley. It curves away too, just like Victoria Street does, but in the opposite direction. They both end in front of Greyfriars Kirkyard and become a street called Cowgate. This photo below is of the back window of The Elephant Room where JK used to sit and write on the corner of Candlemaker Row and Merchant Street. If you look up JK Rowling's Window on Google Maps, you can see that the marker is actually in the middle of street, but it's actually the old Harvey Furniture building which now houses on the ground floor a pub called The Oz Bar. There's another photo of that later on.
This is at the bottom of Candlemaker Row looking up the street.
Naturally we went back nocturnally. This is the Oz Bar on the ground floor that I was telling you about. JK's window is lit up on the second floor. The pub was jumping that night.
Here are some more night time views of Candlemaker Row. The Oz was the only thing open, which made the rest of the street look dark and forbidding, possibly full of dark magic. The photos below are of the Greyfriars Kirk (Church). This is the side that faces Candlemaker Row.
The is the corner of Cowgate and Candlemaker Row. Yes, there's cows sticking out of the walls. Scotland is weird, y'all.
Here's all the places our tour took us. The tour lasted about 90 minutes and was very easy walking with no ups once you got to Greyfriars Bobby.
Greyfriars Kirkyard Gallery
Here's the graveyard at night. We were there after the performance of Eugene Onegin, so it was really late when we finally got there on our way back to the hotel. It became midnight while we were there. We thought we'd be alone and it would be scary and maybe we'd see some ghosts, but no, there were a ton of HP fans there, many of them on an official Greyfriars at Night tour. So, we were not scared and didn't see any ghosts. Rob did some photoshopping to the night time photos.