A day in Potterland
Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Our day began with us driving to the outskirts of town, where we found free residential parking. Finding an unassuming spot, we parked our sweet little car hire for a few days and began our walk (jog) to the bus station. We were on a mission to find Loudon's Restaurant for a gluten-free breakfast feast before our Harry Potter tour!
After a brisk jog to the bus stop, we had a couple minutes to catch our breath before our bus arrived. It was a sleek, tall, very narrow, two-story purple bus. Already we were feeling close to the magic of Harry Potter. Here was obviously where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for the Knight bus. While the double-decker was packed with citizens on their way to work or school, two seats in the front row on top, just behind the big windows, opened up quickly. We quickly made our move and swooped them up. We gawked our way through the gorgeous serpentine roads with the best view from our little perch. We eventually hopped off downtown and enjoyed another short brisk walk to Loudon's.
Here we ordered some spectacular specialty eggs benedict, complete with homemade GF biscuits, perfectly poached eggs and delightful sauces. We had to try their GF plain scone, of course. Just to let you know, people of the States, UK scones are TOTALLY different. Kinda like a potato roll, they were dusted with flour along the outside. While being incredibly light in texture, they nonetheless had some substance to them. Almost like a spongecake meets an english muffin. They were extraordinarily plain, in the best way possible...perfect for salted butter and fruit jam to be added on top.
Turmeric lemon dill hollandaise sauce, Scottish smoked salmon, and a ton of freshly cooked spinach. Yes, please!!!
Cajun spiced crawfish, Scottish smoked salmon, perfectly poached eggs and a spicy hollandaise. Yummmm!!!!
Bellies full and happy, we made our way through boisterous downtown Edinburgh to meet our local wizard, Sam. After a few minutes, a lovely chap in a wizard's hat and robes showed up with his rucksack. After being sorted into our houses (which involved placing the sorting hat on our heads while performing a wide range of capricious deeds), we all had wristbands declaring our houses. [These would come in handy later]. Off we went!!!
Sam led us through J.K. Rowling's Edinburgh, weaving stories in about inspiration for the books, as well as her own triumphs and tribulations. We started at the close, beside the
Balmoral Hotel, where Rowling wrote the final pages of The Deathly Hallows. In a tower room on the top floor, minutes after completing the book, Rowling had such a gleeful moment that she grabbed a Sharpie, and scrawled her signature on the marble bust adorning her room. (Yes, the Balmoral is the kind of place that has decorative busts, apparently). Now, that permanently signed bust is a draw for fans, bumping up the cost of a stay in that suite to more than double the going rate. Wait for it...the room lets for 2150 pounds a night (?!!!!).
Overlooking the nearby Waverly Rail Station, Sam tells us that the station sits on what used to be a sewer sluice, where locals would call out a warning, before dumping their sewage below. A strange phenomenon would happen at night in this murky river, where glowing green orbs would dance along the surface. These glowing lights over murky bogs have been known in traditional folklore as will-o-the-wisps and were also featured in the Disney version, Brave. In Rowling's third book, they appear as hinkypunks. Modern science has revealed it is simply methane gas from the sluice that appears as a glowing light in foggy air, but we'll leave scientific explanation out of it for the sake of magic.
On we went to the National Museum of Scotland where we found loads of interesting history and more inspiration for Rowling. For example, this 16th century chess set bears striking resemblance to wizard's chess, a game beloved by the character Ron Weasley.
Also featured in the museum is a blue Ford Anglia, many will recognize from the second book, The Chamber of Secrets:
After the museum, we headed over to Edinburgh College where J.K. Rowling attended. Apparently, her chemistry instructor did bear a striking resemblance to a certain loathed-turned-hero Professor Snape.
We all began to glean perspective on her creative process from her true life stories. It was actually quite fascinating. Our guide knew much about Rowling: she is such an outspoken woman and has been very forth coming about her life experience.
From there, we moved onto Greyfriars Kirkyard, a cemetary containing many familiar names. Most notably, Tom Riddle's grave can be found there with his son of the same name.
Besides pouring out a ton of information, our guide also sprinkled in magic tricks here and there to keep us amused. He had a rucksack full of magic wands and made sure each wand found the correct witch or wizard. We all levitated feathers ("Wingardium Leviosa!"), lit a small fire together ("Incendio!"), and conjured up a gold coin out of thin air. Then he bought us all ice cream cones; fresh organic ice cream and gluten free cones (no upcharge, welcome to the UK). We went for the honey and pink peppercorn ice cream. So delicious! Sam certainly knew how to keep our spirits up.
From there, a walk up Veronica Street (the winding road that inspired Diagon Alley), and onto the Writers Museum where Rowling has her golden hands inlaid in the walk, along with other famous authors of Edinburgh.
Sam couldn't resist handing out cheeky props for a group photo. We loved it! In case these wigs don't reveal all, AJ was Ginny Weasley and Julie was Nymphadora Tonks.
The tour ended at this memorial stone, where we each received chocolate frogs and Julie won the house cup for most questions answered correctly!! Extra gold galleon chocolates for her :)