13 places in Scotland every Harry Potter fan should visit

With mythical mountains, bewitching lakes, and the real-life Hogwarts Express, Scotland is one of the best places for Muggles to discover the world of Harry Potter. It’s not only where J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, but it’s also home to scores of Harry Potter filming locations. So hop on your broomstick and head to these 13 places to feel the magic of Harry Potter in Scotland.

1. The Elephant House Cafe

 
 
 
 
 
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Known as ‘the birthplace of Harry Potter’, the Elephant House Café was one of J. K. Rowling’s favourite places to get creative. She would sit in the cosy back room and write the story of the orphaned wizard named Harry.

Although much of The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban was written here, she actually wrote the first chapters of The Philosopher’s Stone at Spoon Café (then known as Nicholas Café). You can visit both in Edinburgh and enjoy a coffee while soaking up the surroundings of where it all began…

2. The Balmoral Hotel

 
 
 
 
 
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An elegant building on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, the Balmoral Hotel is an Edinburgh institution. It’s also where J. K. Rowling escaped to write The Deathly Hallows. She stayed at the hotel to avoid any distractions as she wrote the final book of the Harry Potter series.

Fans can even sleep in the same room she occupied, now called the J. K. Rowling Suite. You’ll find the signed marble Hermes bust and the brass owl door knocker. You can even sit at Rowling’s writing desk, where all the magic flowed from her pen (or quill!)

3. Victoria Street

 
 
 
 
 
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J. K. Rowling lived in Edinburgh the entire time she wrote the Harry Potter series. It’s easy to see why she sought inspiration from this city and the rest of Scotland. You can find the real Diagon Alley at Victoria Street, with a charming mix of colourful shops winding down the curved street. You’ll even spot a Diagon Alley plaque in an alley just off Victoria Street called Candlemaker’s Row.

For more Harry Potter inspiration, head to the grand George Heriot’s School (a short walk from Victoria Street). You’ll find ancient buildings that bear an uncanny resemblance to Hogwarts and a sense of magic that even Muggles can feel.

GET INSPIRED: Trafalgar trips to Scotland

4. Greyfriars Kirkyard

greyfriars kirkyard harry potter scotland

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Greyfriars Kirkyard is a hauntingly beautiful cemetery in Edinburgh and was a place of great inspiration for J. K. Rowling. It’s said that Rowling wandered the gravestones to get her creative juices flowing, and it was here she came up with the name of her greatest villain, Tom Riddle.

You can see the real-life grave of Thomas Riddell Esquire and also the resting places of William McGonagall (Professor McGonagall) and Elizabeth Moodie (Mad-Eye Moody).

5. Jacobite Steam Train and Glenfinnan Viaduct, Lochaber

 
 
 
 
 
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If you’ve ever dreamed of boarding the Hogwarts Express, you can relive the magical on the real-life Jacobite Steam Train. It’s one of the world’s greatest railway journeys and will take you on a 135 km round trip from Ben Nevis, crossing the magnificent 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct.

The bridge is instantly recognisable from the iconic scene in The Chamber of Secrets where Ron and Harry flew in the Weasley’s magical Ford Anglia car. You’ll get to watch the spectacular scenery roll by and imagine Harry dangling precariously from the flying car!

6. Rannoch Moor, Lochaber

 
 
 
 
 
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Rannoch Moor, or the Great Moor of Rannoch, is one of the largest wilderness areas in Scotland. It’s also the location where the Death Eaters stop the train while en route to Hogwarts and conduct a raid to capture Harry Potter in The Deathly Hallows Part 1.

You can see this breathtaking wilderness on the Jacobite Steam Train journey. While you likely won’t see any Death Eaters, you will get to enjoy the scenic views of the rugged mountains, lakes and rocky plains.

7. Loch Shiel

 
 
 
 
 
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This gorgeous loch near Glenfinnan features in the films as Hogwarts Lake. It’s where Buckbeak dips a toe in the water in The Prisoner of Azkaban. It can also be seen in the beautiful end shot of The Half-Blood Prince when Harry and Hermione look out from the Astronomy Tower.

The head of Loch Shiel is where the Hogwarts Express stops on the bridge and Harry encounters a Dementor for the first time in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Loch Morar was also used as Hogwarts Lake in the films and can be seen in many of the aerial shots in the films from The Prisoner of Azkaban onward. This loch is said to be home to the mythical monster Morag and is the deepest body of freshwater in the British Isles.

8. Eilean na Moine and Loch Eilt, Lochaber

 
 
 
 
 
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Eilean na Moine is an enchanting island set in the freshwaters of Loch Eilt. This wee pocket of beauty served in some of the darkest Harry Potter scenes in Scotland. The island is Dumbledore’s final resting place and where Voldemort stole the Elder wand in the foreboding final scene of The Deathly Hallows Part 1.

The scenic Loch Arkaig was digitally added to Eilean na Moine and Loch Eilt, adding to the magnificence of Dumbledore’s grave in the opening scene of The Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Loch Eilt is also the place where Harry, Ron and Hermione find Hagrid sadly skipping stones after learning that his beloved Buckbeak is condemned to death in The Prisoner of Azkaban. The loch also features in some atmospheric shots of the ground at Hogwarts.

9. Torren Lochan and Clachaig Gully, Glencoe

 
 
 
 
 
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Glencoe is a stunning highland range and the location of many Harry Potter scenes in Scotland. It can be seen in the background of the iconic shot where Hermione punches Malfoy in The Prisoner of Azkaban – one of the most satisfying scenes for Harry Potter fans.

It’s also the setting for Hagrid’s Hut. The film crew built a replica hut beside Torren Lochan in Clachaig Gully during The Prisoner of Azkaban. Although you won’t find the hut (or Hagrid) there anymore, you can still soak up the gorgeous scenery. You may also recognise Glencoe from scenes featuring the bridge leading to the entrance of Hogwarts.

RELATED CONTENT: A Muggle’s Guide to Harry Potter’s World

10. Loch Etive, Argyll and Bute

 

Loch Etive features in one of the most thrilling scenes in the Harry Potter series when Harry, Ron and Hermione break into Gringotts Bank and escape on a Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon in The Deathly Hallows Part 2. After flying into the Scottish Highlands, the trio dive into the spectacular Loch Etive.

Glen Etive is also the site for the gang’s camping trip in The Deathly Hallows Part 1. It’s where Hermione ties her scarf to a tree after the fight between Ron and Harry.

11. Steall Falls, Glen Nevis

 
 
 
 
 
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The stunning Steall Falls is the second-highest waterfall in Britain and is also the location of several iconic Harry Potter scenes in Scotland. You’ll recognise the waterfall and the scenery of Glen Nevis as the backdrop for many Quidditch matches. It’s also seen in the background of Harry’s perilous Triwizard Tournament battle against the Hungarian Horntail dragon in The Goblet of Fire.

12. Black Rock Gorge, Ross and Cromarty

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When Harry battles the Hungarian Horntail in The Goblet of Fire, he first hides in the 120-foot Black Rock Gorge before heading to Steall Falls. You can see the deep, narrow gorge on a hike through the region but be warned – the gorge is said to be haunted by a noblewoman named Lady Balconie. Although there have been no sightings of the ghost, locals claim to hear her cries from the gorge. Or maybe it’s Moaning Myrtle?

13. Scottish Owl Centre

 
 
 
 
 
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If you want to study at Hogwarts, you’ll likely need a loyal sidekick like Hedwig. While you’re waiting on your Hogwarts letter, swing by the Scottish Owl Centre in Polkemmet Country Park. You’ll get to meet Oulu, a 15-year-old Great Grey Owl who is the real sister of Errol, Ron’s famous clumsy owl.

The Scottish Owl Centre is home to over 100 owls from 40 species, and you can watch the owl’s handling sessions and incredible flying displays. You’ll also learn about how the centre breeds owls to increase their vulnerable population and how to help their conservation efforts.

Have you visited any of these magical Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland? Let us know in the comments below…

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