Do you want to take a London and Scotland Harry Potter Tour? Well then, hire Dobby as your guide. Dobby’s that mischievous house elf and friend of Harry Potter. He’s loyal, he’s a snappy dresser, his magic skills are deceptively powerful and, as it turns out, he’s a great traveling companion. On Dobby’s tour of Harry Potter site in Scotland and London, you will visit his favorite literary sites and magical places.
Dobby’s guide will give you advice on a self-guided walking tour of Harry Potter’s Edinburgh, suggestions for guided tours in Edinburgh, tips for doing the Warner Brothers Studio tour, and both self-directed and guided ways for finding Harry Potter in London.
Dobby’s Harry Potter Edinburgh Walking Tour
The Elephant House Cafe
According to legend, the Elephant House Cafe is where it all began. Although, according to Dobby, J.K. Rowling already had a few chapters of rough draft going when she resettled from Portugal to Edinburgh. But, with her daughter in tow, she did go to the Elephant House and other Edinburgh cafes to work on the book. I can imagine her there, bent over a cup of coffee, bringing Dobby, Harry Potter and the other characters to life. For this, Dobby is very grateful to Mistress Rowling.
Just west of the Elephant House is Greyfriar’s Cemetery. They say that the cemetery is haunted by George MacKenzie, the former prosecutor of the Scottish Convanters. The Convanters were 1,200 unfortunate souls imprisoned in the graveyard after the failed revolution of 1679. Strolling through the cemetery, I certainly picked up on the creepy and ghostly. The graves are very old, many are broken and the old prison cells give off an air of desperation. And, as we know from Nearly Headless Nick, ghosts do indeed exist in the world of Harry Potter.
Most notable in the cemetery is the the grave of one Tom Riddle. Now, does the precursor to He Who Shall Not Be Named actually reside there? Or was the name just an inspiration for the character? Dobby knows but he’s not telling. And I’m not going to tell you how to find Tom Riddle’s grave either. Part of the creepy fun is strolling the churchyard and exploring it on your own. Or better yet, take Dobby with you, he makes a great tour guide.
Hogwarts School in Edinburgh
Dobby and I peeked out the western gate of Greyfriars and saw what could easily be a stand-in for Hogwarts. The Herriot School is a K-12 private day school dedicated to “produce(ing) articulate and personable young men and women who are confident without being arrogant.” So, um, not Slytherins then.
The renaissance architecture, castle turrets and hefty bulk give the school a perfect Hogwartian appearance. I could easily visualize students in black robes hurrying to get to potions class.
Lower Grassmarket Street (north of Herriots school) looks like school shopping day in Diagon Alley. There is even the “Aha Ha Ha” joke shop which resembles Jonks joke shop from the books. Take a stroll down the curving street past the brightly painted storefronts.
Keep strolling all the way to the bottom until you find Grassmarket square. It’s stuffed with restaurants and pubs, making it a perfect place to sip a beer and do some people watching.
Speaking of Beer
Dobby gets tired when he walks around Edinburgh all day. He has short legs after all. So complete your Scotland Harry Potter tour by retiring to Dobby’s favorite watering hole, Sandy Bell’s Folk Bar.
Like many Edinburgh bars, Sandy Bell’s offers live music. But unlike many bars, they also have a selection of musical instruments laying around and if you ask politely, they will let you play. My husband did just that and Dobby and I were treated to a nice concert.
Do some more walking in Edinburgh with this self-guided walking tour of New Town and the Water of Leith.
Planning for Harry Potter in Scotland
Other Potter Tours and Activities
Edinburgh is a great walking city an you can easily manage the above as a self-guided tour of Harry Potter in Edinburgh. But if you prefer a guided experience, check out the following:
- If you want to do a formal walking tour try this Literary Tour from Context Travel.
- Trip Advisor reviews for the Potter Trail.
- If you have an extra 1-1/2 days, you could take a ride on the Jacobite steam train. The Hogwarts express is modeled on it. You can find information from West Coast Railways.
Other Activities in Edinburgh
- Here is a 36-hour itinerary in Edinburgh.
- And here’s a perfect weekend in Edinburgh.
- If you want to do the full book nerd itinerary in Scotland, then use this guide for hunky Outlander locations.
Where to Stay
Dobby’s Harry Potter Tour of London
Dobby from Harry Potter may have been created in Edinburgh but he lives in London. I asked Dobby to show me a few of his favorite magical spots in London and he happily obliged.
Kings Cross Station
The train from Edinburgh to London terminates at King’s Cross station. Our train came into Platform 7, but while we were there, I had Dobby take us over to Platform 9-3/4.
It was kind of crazy over there. There were all of these Muggles standing in line trying to get onto the platform. Don’t they know that to get onto platform you need to go with someone magical??
The British Library
J.K. Rowling is in my literary pantheon because her books magically turned a generation of middle schoolers into readers. Hook ’em while they are young and you make a reader for life. And as any book-lover knows, a literary tour would not be complete without a visit to the library, or rather…The Library.
The British Library has a collection of 150 million works including Da Vinci’s notebooks, the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg bible, Beatles manuscripts and 1,377 catalog items related to Harry Potter. Many of these treasures are on public display and they will be hosting an exhibition for the 2017 20th anniversary of Harry Potter.
Warner Brothers Studio London Tours
Magic got made when Rowling first published the Harry Potter series. And then it got made again when the books were turned into movies. In the movies, Harry Potter’s world was faithfully realized in rich visual detail. And Dobby was also transfigured from the books onto the big screen. Dobby is a big time movie star now but he was kind enough to go slumming with us on the Warner Studio tour. Good thing too, as he had some great stories to tell about his time spent on set with Ron and Hermoine.
We started in the Great Hall. And what a great hall it is. Vast enough to hold all of the students, teachers, ghosts, the odd giant and all of the delicious food that Dobby and the other house elves prepared.
Here we see the movie version of Tom Riddle’s gravestone. It’s replete with an imposing angel of death headstone. How befitting.
In the character studio, Dobby showed us how puppets, masks, and mechanical contraptions were used to breathe life into the magical creatures.
And here we are again at Platform 9-3/4.
You can see here how much Diagon Alley resembles Grassmarket Street in Edinburgh. Although on the set, everything is just a bit off kilter. The paint is peeling and the buildings lean into and loom over the street. Magic is, at times, disorienting and so is Diagon Alley.
In both the books and the movies, the first big dose of magic flies in with the persistent profusion of Harry’s Hogwarts acceptance letter. Those silly Dursley’s, they should have known that they couldn’t keep magic out of the house.
Throughout the Warner studio tour, Dobby had been hopping here and there, showing us his favorite parts of the set. He had a lot of fun bouncing on the chair in the Gryffindor common room, mixing up noxious gas in the potions classroom and stealing a Nimbus 2000. But it was with a hushed reverence that he steered us into the final room of the tour. As we walked into the room, we audibly gasped at the beautiful scale model of Hogwarts.
This 360′ model was featured in scenes like the kids’ first arrive at school as they floated across the lake in their skiffs. It’s featured when Harry is flooded with joy while flying Buckbeak the Hippogriff. And again as the Dementors cast their morbid pall while searching for Sirius Black. Its a pile of plaster and clay that, with the help of lighting, music and the magic of special effects becomes a primary character in the movies.
I have written about geeking out as a Ravenclaw at Universal Studios Orlando and how real the rides seemed at Universal Studios Los Angeles. But they are theme parks after all, and you don’t have to be a fan of Harry Potter to enjoy the experience. But the Warner Brother Studios Tour is another matter. You need to at least have seen some of the movies in order to appreciate what is on offer there. And it’s even better if you are a rabid fan. The attention to detail invested into these sets is truly extraordinary.
In the potions classroom, no two bottles are alike. The chairs in the Gryffindor common room are worn out from the butts of slouching teenagers. The leather-bound books in Dumbledoor’s office are real. As are Buckbeak’s feathers. Everything…little….thing, painstaking handmade. It is no wonder then, why the movies were so successful at bringing Rowling’s vision to life.
“Dobby is Free!”
——–Dobby, The Chamber of Secrets
Dobby is a free elf and he was not obligated to show me around the UK but I am grateful that he did. He was a whimsical traveling companion and he gave me a Harry Potter tour that helped me further appreciate the origins of this fantastical world. Thanks Dobby!
Planning for Harry Potter in London
Two Ways to do the Warner Studios Tour
- Do It Yourself. DIY is a more flexible and less expensive option as long as you are comfortable navigating around a train station. The Warner Brothers studio tour costs £35 per person. I also purchased the audio tour but don’t recommend it as the exhibits have excellent signage. The train leaves from London Euston station to Watford Junction. Try to take the Virgin train rather than the Overground, it’s much faster. Once in Watford Junction, WB runs a shuttle bus every 15 minutes that will take you to the studio. Buy your tickets directly from the studio here.
- Guided. This is a good option for people who want an easy luxury bus ride. Most tours are ~$92.
For an alternative view of the Warner Brother tour, check out this review from Where is Tara.
Other Potter Tours in London
- Private black cab Harry Potter tour of London.
- A Muggles Guide walking tour.
- London Walks tour of filming locations.
While in London, you could also consider taking a walking tour of the East End. Dobby loves the street art on Brick Lane.
Hotels in London
- Budget: Kings Cross neighborhood. It’s a good option for budget travelers and it’s near platform 9-3/4. Check out reviews and book at Hotels.com or Booking.com.
- Mid-range: Covent Garden. London has a slew of mid-range hotels, particularly in the tourist areas around Covent Garden. Check out reviews and book at Hotels.com or Booking.com.
- Luxury: Hyde Park. Go 5-star and get green views of Hyde Park. Check out reviews and book at Hotels.com or Booking.com.
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