This summer, my family and I took a long-awaited vacation to Europe. Our main reason for going, of course, was to see and do as many Harry Potter sites/activities as we could. We spent most of our time in London soaking up a ton of wizarding magic but had decided early on in the planning stages to make an overnight jaunt to Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh is home to a free Harry Potter walking tour called “The Potter Trail” (and tons of fantastic general sightseeing as well).
If I had the vacation planning to do again, I would certainly have given us more time in Edinburgh (well, Scotland in general). We absolutely fell IN LOVE with the city. The vibe and the architecture of Edinburgh is amazing. It was one of the few locations where we felt completely comfortable just walking around without a specific plan or destination.
On our first day, we arrived from London by a quick RyanAir flight and took the tram from the airport to as close as we could get to our hotel, the Travelodge Central Waterloo Place. This was the only destination where we decided to stay in a hotel instead of an AirBnB. We were only there overnight and it was just more convenient. Anyway, we were early and our room wasn’t ready, so we dropped off our overnight bag, grabbed a free city map from the check-in desk and went on our merry way. I was simply awed at everything we saw. Nearly every time we turned a corner, there was something beautiful to look at.
We went on five guided tours during our vacation and the Potter Trail was my favorite one overall. Our tour guide, Richard, was engaging, entertaining, and very well-informed on all things Potter, J.K. Rowling, and Edinburgh in general. Richard showed us inspiration sites around the city (Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, Victoria Street – possible inspiration for Diagon Alley, George Heriot’s School, etc) as well as locations where Rowling actually wrote some of the books (The Elephant House, the Balmoral hotel, etc). I wish the tour had been longer!
Afterwards, we shopped around Victoria Street and stopped in the Elephant House to have beverages in honor of Harry and Jo. My drink was called Fleur’s Fantasy, basically hot chocolate and Bailey’s Irish Cream. So yummy!
The rest of our day in Edinburgh was largely unplanned, so we decided to do a bit of shopping along the Royal Mile and jump in on a free Ghost Tour of Edinburgh that evening. City Explorers Tours gives these free tours every evening at 7pm and 9:30pm. We arrived in time for the 7pm tour and are so glad we did! Our guide, Matt, was fantastic – entertaining, full of stories, and very good at managing a large tour group. The great thing about this tour is that we were able to see a lot of things we had considered visiting but weren’t sure we would have enough time. We learned about the most haunted graveyard in Scotland, the story of the real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, witch trials, and tons more. Part of our tour included a hike up Calton Hill which has breathtaking views of the entire city.
The first day was perfect. Though a little chilly, the weather was great and we were able to do so much in such a short time! We didn’t, however, luck out with good weather the following day. We woke to rain. And more rain. And more rain. Though we had all bought waterproof raincoats prior to heading out on our European journey, we certainly weren’t prepared for this type of heavy rain. Our very wet day began with breakfast at the Snax Café. It was super cheap and also one of the few places I noted that offered a full vegetarian English/Scottish breakfast! For less than £4 each, we had veggie sausages, hash browns, tattie scones, beans, eggs, tomatoes… just writing about it now is making me hungry!
We had purchased vouchers through Viator for “skip the line” entrance to Edinburgh Castle later that morning so we sloshed our way up the hilly streets to our destination. A note to anyone who may purchase vouchers: Typically they require you to exchange the voucher for your actual entrance ticket and do not accept the voucher as it is. We weren’t prepared for that so it was a little frustrating getting in. Regardless, the castle itself was fun to see. I’m pretty sure we only saw about half of it because of our discomfort in being soaked to the bone, but I’m happy we did at least that much.
Fun fact: I have an odd affection for historical monarchs and had recently finished watching Reign on Netflix. In the last season, Queen Mary gives birth to the future King James in a large, lavish room. The actual room where he was born is itty bitty! Gotta love Hollywood.
We didn’t have a whole lot of time left in Edinburgh once we were done with the castle, so we did a bit more shopping before collecting our bag from the Travelodge and hopping back on the tram to get to the airport. This was definitely much too quick of a trip for my tastes and Scotland is high on my list of places to visit (again). I’m hoping for an Ireland – Scotland trip next. Having also read and watched Outlander recently makes me want to visit the Highlands (and see some of the Harry Potter attractions that are out there).
Beginning November 2017: