I am a huge Harry Potter nerd. Like, have a Harry Potter tattoo, left a party in high school to buy the last book, own an embarrassing-to-anyone-else amount of apparel, Harry Potter nerd. In third grade, my teacher read the first chapter of a book to the class every week. One week, that book was Harry Potter. Because of that one chapter, I got hooked. Since then, I have basically grown up with Harry Potter. I devoured the books as soon as they came out and never missed a midnight movie premiere. As soon as I started planning my trip, I knew I had to visit as many Harry Potter sites in Scotland as possible!
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J.K. Rowling lived in Scotland when she wrote most of the Harry Potter series. You will find inspirations for characters and places in Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh. Hogwarts itself is in Scotland! While on your Scottish roadtrip, you can visit places where the books were written and also ride the Hogwarts Express! Below I’ve listed some of the must see Harry Potter sites in Scotland.
Easy additions to any itinerary
Although you could spend a whole vacation just searching out Harry Potter sites in Scotland, you don’t need to. Most of the locations are quick stops and can fit into any itinerary. I think the exception is really riding the Jacobite Train/Hogwarts Express – that takes all day!
I love Harry Potter, but…
I have maybe mentioned it, but I love Harry Potter. It has been difficult for me to reconcile J.K. Rowling’s anti-transgender views/statements with my love for the series. I grew up with it, literally grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Separating the art from the artist isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do and I struggle a bit there. It is completely valid for anyone to no longer support or associate with the world of Harry Potter.
Must see Harry Potter sites in Scotland!
Dream of riding the Hogwarts Express into the Scottish countryside? Then purchase a ticket for this historic steam train from Fort William to Mallaig. For the full Harry Potter experience, book a first class compartment carriage ticket! These sell out well in advance, so as soon as you know you’re traveling – buy your seats! Unfortunately, I could not get a compartment because they were sold out.
A compartment is £349 ($460) so definitely not cheap, but doable if you split it with some friends. Each compartment can hold 6 people and you’re guaranteed it to be only your group (hence the standard price). First class seats are £79.50 and standard are £52 for return tickets. I found the standard carriage to be quite comfortable. There was a table shared between me and the other two riders (who had a dog!). Yes, dogs are allowed! I’m not sure the exact rules but I saw a few on the train.
Plan for the train ride to be your main (or only) activity for the day, as it takes several hours. The trip is nearly two hours each way with about an hour and a half break in Mallaig. There are morning and afternoon departures in the summer, but only morning departures in the shoulder seasons. The Jacobite does not run in the winter.
Another iconic must-see Harry Potter site in the Fort William area is the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The Jacobite actually runs over the viaduct, and timing your visit around the itinerary is a perfect photo opportunity. You can find the times the train comes through on The Jacobite’s website. Finished in 1901, the viaduct allows trains to travel across the deep valley above Loch Shiel.
The viaduct is about 17 miles west of Fort William on A830. There is ample parking (paid – a few pounds for a few hours), restrooms, and a little cafe! To actually get to the viewpoints you will have to walk about 15 minutes from the parking area. It can get a bit muddy in the rain, so be prepared! Walk under the viaduct and up the hill for the best view. I recommend getting there early for a good seat/view point. It fills up very quickly!
Eilean na Moine & Loch Eilt
The small island where they filmed the scenes with Dumbledore’s grave is Eliean na Moine and is found in Loch Eilt. It is about 30 miles west of Fort William on A830, but parking is limited. When I drove past there was only one tiny pull off with a car already there. However, if you ride the Jacobite, you will pass right by it on your journey. I suggest using Google Maps to keep track of where you are and to look out the window at the correct time to see the island.
Loch Eilt can be seen in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In The Prisoner of Azkaban, Hagrid is found skipping rocks on the water after Buckbeak’s sentencing. It can also be seen in Hogwarts grounds establishing shots throughout the other movies!
Candlemaker Row & Victoria Street
These colorful shops are said to have served as Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. Just south of and steps off the Royal Mile, these streets are home to some adorable stores and restaurants. On Victoria Street you can even find a few Harry Potter themed shops! Also, not HP related, but Armstrong’s Vintage is a fun place to stop in for some retail therapy!
The Elephant House
Although it has now been disputed, it was long thought that J.K. Rowling first started writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone here. The Elephant House is undergoing renovations and was boarded up when I visited Edinburgh.
The Balmoral is a luxury hotel right on Princes Street in Edinburgh. Famously, J.K. Rowling stayed in a suite here as she finished up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. If you’ve got some money to burn you can stay in the same suite! It runs upwards of £2300 per night though. A classic room starts around £550 a night, so it’s definitely not budget accommodation. Regardless, it is a beautiful Victorian building and worth stopping by!
Right around the corner from The Elephant House is Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. Mary Queen of Scots granted the land as a burial ground in the late 1500s and the church was built slowly. It opened on Christmas Day in 1620. Possibly the most famous cemetery in the world, it is truly a beautiful place to walk and explore. Many of the characters in Harry Potter got their names from graves in Greyfriar’s! Although Tom Riddell and McGonagall are quite well known, you can also find Moodie, Scrymgeor, Cruikshanks, and Potter in the cemetery!
Unrelated to Harry Potter, but interesting, Greyfriars Bobby was a dog who guarded his dad’s (John Gray) grave for fourteen years! After Gray’s passing, Lord Provost William Chambers took on the care of the little dog. He brought him food and make sure that he was not taken away as a stray. Bobby is buried just outside the wall and he also has a statue dedicated to his memory! Apparently Disney made a movie about Greyfriar’s Bobby in 1961, but I have never heard of it.
BONUS: McGonagall’s Gin & Whisky Emporium
OK this isn’t really Harry Potter related, but let’s say it’s HP-adjacent. I stumbled upon this bar just as I was looking for lunch. It’s right across from The Elephant House and has a very dreamy aesthetic. The vibe is totally Harry Potter and the food was excellent! I had a craft gin cocktail that was fun and delicious.
Most of the eight Harry Potter movies were filmed at the Warner Brothers Studios just outside London. However, as you can see by this list, there are several Harry Potter sites in Scotland! Although Edinburgh wasn’t a filming location, it’s ties to Harry Potter are undeniable. Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, you can read about my other recommendations for what to see in Edinburgh here.
If you plan to visit the filming locations listed above in the western Highlands, I highly recommend renting a car. It’s easy to drive in Scotland and definitely the best way to see the countryside. I wrote a whole blog post about driving in Scotland as an American!
Scotland is hands down my favorite country that I’ve traveled to. I’m still synthesizing a lot of information and will have more content coming up, but you can read about my recommendations for Inverness and the Isle of Skye if you’re planning a trip.
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