The release this month of the final film in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, is awaited eagerly by fans around the world. Scotland is making the most of it, too since many Scottish spots may have been the inspiration for locations featured in J.K. Rowling’s world famous wizardry books, and the blockbuster films. These are some of the must visit “Potter hot spots” in Scotland — all of them steeped in history and intrique. And even if you are not a “Potty”, these are must see spots for anybody visiting Scotland.
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The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh — One of Edinburgh’s most prestigious five-star hotels, The Balmoral is where J. K. Rowling made the finishing touches to her final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The author commemorated this moment by inscribing a note on one of the sculptures in the room, complete with a signature and date.
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh — The impressive Edinburgh Castle dominates the city’s skyline. Sitting atop an extinct volcano, the similarities with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are striking. Wizards and muggles alike can gaze in wonder at the city below and on to the Kingdom of Fife beyond. The castle was used for the launch of the sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Princes Street, Edinburgh — This is Edinburgh’s main shopping street, and not just for capes and magic wants. Princes Street is Scotland’s version of Fifth Avenue and the Champs Elysees, where it’s easy to succumb to Scottish wools and cashmeres. I did, and so will you.
Spoon Cafe Bistro and The Elephant House, Edinburgh — These two cosy cafes in Edinburgh that were frequented by J. K. Rowling while she wrote the first Potter novels of wizardry and childhood wonder. The Spoon Cafe Bistro was known as Nicholson’s Cafe when J.K. Rowling was visiting.
Dalhousie Castle, Midlothian –This castle does double-duty as a bed-and-breakfast. Stay overnight, and spend some time during the day to watch the falconry displays, and see some of the owls actually trained for the Harry Potter movies. Their aerobatic displays will remind devoted Harry Potter fans of of the despair at being delivered that dreaded ‘howler’.
Hagrid’s Hut, Highlands — Filming for the third Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, took place on location in Glencoe in May and June 2003. The sets havebeen removed and the hillsides returned to their natural state. Even without the sets, visitors to Clachaig Gully will see the familiar looking backdrop in the film which takes in the fantastic scenery overlooking the Torren Lochan and Signal Rock forest to the rugged hills of the Glen.
Jacobite Steam Train, Highlands — Described as one of the great railway journeys of the world, The Jacobite Steam Train runs through the majestic Highlands from Fort William to Mallaig. The train provided the steam engine and carriages for the ‘Hogwarts Express’, as seen in The Philosopher’s Stone. Part of the route was also featured in Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets. The scene of “Hogwarts Express” travelling across a viaduct with a blue Ford Anglia flying around the train was filmed on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, west of Fort William. The Jacobite Steam Train is an 84-mile round trip through scenic extremes. It starts near the highest mountain in Britain (Ben Nevis), visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station (Arisaig), then passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain (Loch Morar), and the shortest river in Britain (River Morar) and finally arrives next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis.
Find out more about Harry Potter Scotland sites from Visit Scotland, the official tourist board.