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In Edinburgh, where Harry Potter was written and history abounds


Victoria Street - inspiration for Diagon Alley

Victoria Street – inspiration for Diagon Alley

By Eileen Ogintz

EDINBURG, Scotland — Welcome to Daigon Alley. No, this is not at Universal Studios Orlando. It’s here in Edinburgh, where JK Rowling famously wrote the first book in a coffee shop.

Here in Edinburgh, it’s Victoria Street, explains veteran guide Sam Thomson who owns Edinburgh Tour Guides and is the mom of five kids. Along with Scotland’s top tourist attraction, Edinburgh Castle, and other historic sites, Harry Potter fans always ask to be taken where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration.

Greyfriars cemetery is where you will find graves of Thomas Riddle (Voldemore’s given name) and William McGonnigle (who can forget Proffessor)

Where J.K. Rowling is said to have written Harry Potter

Where J.K. Rowling is said to have written Harry Potter

Most fans think Rowling wrote the first book at Elephant House Café but locals think it was a place called Spoons… and that Hogwarts was modeled after the George Heriot’s School here.

Rowling famously wrote her last Harry Potter book in a suite of the Balmoral Hotel here where guests might be able to see a signed first edition.

Of course there is a lot more history here. We stayed at the Glass House Hotel in the city center within walking distance of most everything.  We started our tour with the Castle where you might find special activities for the kids. At the very least, come for the One O’Clock Gun, the cemetery where soldiers dogs are buried and the massive cannon Mons Meg that dates from the 1450s—the most famous medieval gun in the world.

The divinity stone is famous too—it goes under the throne of every British monarch when they are crowned and the Scottish Crown Jewels are here too. Kids will especially like walking through the creepy dungeons, some as they would have been when Colonist POWS were held here during the Revolutionary War…some of them speak as we walk through.

A tip from Thomson: Get a book like Horrible Histories of Edinburgh to get kids engaged. You can even take a hop-on hop-off bus tour with a Horrible Histories theme for kids.

At the Scotch Whisky Experience

At the Scotch Whisky Experience

Even the Scotch Whisky Experience, which tells you how Scotland’s most famous product is made, is kid friendly with an interactive ride in “barrel” cars with a ghostly apparition explaining the process. Kids can feel the peat used to favor the malt or the barley; and at the end, get a taste of the popular Scottish soft drink Irn Bru while parents get a taste of whisky.

There are a lot of free museums here—like the National Museum of Scotland—and others like the Museum of Edinburgh and the Museum of Childhood where kids can get a sense of what kids did for fun before there was internet, video games and TV.

Prison in Edinburgh Castle where American sailors were held during the Revolutionary War

Prison in Edinburgh Castle where American sailors were held during the Revolutionary War

Edinburgh has a huge reputation for ghosts and witches—King James was a real believer and witches were burned on the castle esplanade—but for kids who might be too scared for a ghost tour, check out Mary Kings Close which is a real hidden street under the “Royal Mile”– the mile between the Castle and the Palace which today is chockablock with souvenir shops.

Another good bet for kids: Gladstone’s Hand, which is a recreation of a 17th Century merchant’s house with some hands on activities. But just seeing the chamber pots is fun,’ says Tomson.

A tip—wait until the bottom of the Royal Mile to Shop—you’ll find more individually owned shops, like Heather Knots all made in Scotland.

I bought my trip souvenir there.

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