Glenfinnan Viaduct, Lochaber

Arts and Culture

It's hard to believe that back in June, it was 20 years since JK Rowling published her debut novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Back then, no one could have predicted the wildly successful book sales and box office smashing blockbusters that would follow. Here in Scotland, you can see where the Edinburgh-dweller found her inspiration, and where the magic all began. 

Still waiting for your letter to arrive by owl?  

Don't worry. You can still immerse yourself in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, just by following this spellbinding four-day itinerary.

Transport

Car Walk

Days

4

Miles

225

Route

Edinburgh to the Highlands

Highlights

The Elephant House, Glenfinnan Viaduct, Jacobite Steam Train & Glen Coe

Areas Covered

Edinburgh & the Highlands

see full route

Day 1

overview

Edinburgh

It was in Scotland's capital city that JK Rowling started to plot the adventures of Harry and his pals. With cobbled streets, winding alleys and medieval architecture, the city certainly has a few things in common with the settings from the books and films. She wrote the early chapters in various cafés around the city's Old Town, before coming back to finish off the series from a peaceful suite in The Balmoral Hotel, away from all disruptions. 
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Edinburgh skyline

Old Town hideouts

Both of these cafés love to claim that JK Rowling spent endless afternoons in the 1990s gazing out of their windows and dreaming up her magical characters. In any case, The Elephant House, with its beautiful views of Edinburgh Castle, has become known as the 'Birthplace of Harry Potter' whilst Spoon, in those days known as the Nicholson Café, is a lovely spacious eatery and a great place to collect your creative thoughts. You can also see JK Rowling's handprints set in stone at the Edinburgh City Chambers on the Royal Mile.   

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Only a short walk away from The Elephant House you'll find this infamous, spine-tingling graveyard, and burial place of several notable Edinburgh academics and writers of the past. However, also buried here are a few other notable residents: Thomas Riddell, William McGonagall and Elizabeth Moodie. A coincidence? We think not.

The Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes Street

After a day wandering the streets of the Old Town, treat yourself to a stay in The Balmoral Hotel, one of Princes Street's finest landmarks with its tall clock defining the city skyline. JK Rowling found some peace and quiet in this luxurious hotel, as she penned the final chapter of the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. You can also pop into the hotel for a cocktail or perhaps some afternoon tea if you don't fancy splashing out on a night's stay. 

Day 2

overview

Travel to Fort William

If 'apparating' isn't an option for you, it's possible to travel by train from Edinburgh to Glasgow and from there, take the West Highland Line to Fort William. This is a great way to see some famous spots from the window, including the mystical Rannoch Moor, the place where Death Eaters board the train in the movie Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1. 

If you'd prefer to drive, you could also hire a car in Edinburgh. Drive to the Bo'Ness Motor Museum, where you can see Ron Weasley's Ford Anglia or drop in to the Scottish Owl Centre in West Lothian to say hello to some of Hedwig's friends and other exotic owl species.

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Rannoch Moor, Highlands

Glasgow

If you're taking the train and you have time to kill, admire some of Glasgow's gorgeous gothic architecture in the West End which might remind you a little of Hogwarts. Fancy a challenge? See if you can find some chocolate frogs for the journey ahead. The train to Fort William should take just under four hours.

Stay the night in Fort William

Once you arrive, there is a variety of accommodation options in the lovely Fort William, an outdoorsy town lying in the shadow of the lofty Ben Nevis, our highest mountain. If you're looking for an unusual place to stay, why not channel your inner half-giant, and stay the night in a Hagrid-style cabin? Use the accommodation search to find something to suit you. Tomorrow, you'll take the train to Hogwarts!

Day 3

overview

All aboard the Hogwarts Express

Witness the sweeping cinematic scenery straight out of the eight blockbuster films by booking a seat on the Jacobite Steam Train, which travels from Fort William to Mallaig along the West Highland Line. Stop for lunch in Mallaig and then make the return journey to Fort William. Please be sure to book the steam train in advance, as it is a very popular experience. It opens for the season in April.
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Glenfinnan Viaduct, Highlands

Fort William to Mallaig on the Jacobite Steam Train

Some say that the West Highland Line is the greatest rail journey in the world. In the summer, the Jacobite Steam train travels along the route in addition to the regular trains. The steam train had a starring role as the Hogwarts Express taking Harry from platform 9 ¾ all the way to Hogwarts. Take the journey over the magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct, whilst enjoying views of Loch Shiel from your window, another key location in the films. 

Lunch in Mallaig

When you arrive at Mallaig, explore the small but bustling harbour village, which was once the busiest herring port in Europe. Watch boats and ferries come and go, or learn more about the village's fishing community at the Mallaig Heritage Centre. What's for lunch? You have the choice of a few cafés, pubs and restaurants - try to find the local favourite, Mallaig kippers! Then, hop back on the train and retrace your steps to Fort William. 

Day 4

overview

Lochs and glens

In the films, mysterious, misty landscapes frame the backdrop of Harry's tale, so it's no surprise that the producers chose the Highlands for many scenes. Spend a day wandering through some of these beautiful spots and feel the magical atmosphere.

Browse our Hidden Highlands eBook for more undiscovered places in the Highlands.

If you haven't already, a great option is to hire a car from Fort William, so you can get to some of these more far-flung filming spots.

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The Three Sisters, Glencoe

Steall Falls

This idyllic short walking route should take around an hour and a half, leading you through the dramatic Nevis Gorge and towards the striking Steall Falls. This cascading waterfall is featured in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Harry faces down a Hungarian Horntail dragon in the Triwizard Tournament.

Clachaig Inn, near Glencoe

Glen Coe is one of the most impressive landscapes in Scotland; even if you're not a Potter fan it is bound to be on your Scottish bucket list. For generations, the Clachaig Inn has been a handy stop for weary walkers traversing the glen, but it also happens to be a filming location for Hagrid's Hut in the third movie installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Although the hut is no longer there, hardcore fans might still recognise it. Either way, it is the perfect spot for a cosy lunch and a pint! 

Glen Etive

After fleeing from Gringott's Bank with the help of a kind dragon in the final movie, Harry and the gang are dropped into Loch Etive, a beautiful, icy loch further south from Glencoe. If you don't fancy a dip yourself, explore this area on foot and take some photos of the surrounding glen, with tall peaks looming from all directions.

What happens next?

Your time in Scotland doesn't have to be over. If you've hired a car, why not explore more of the west coast? Or, simply head back to Fort William and hop on the train back to Glasgow and experience more city attractions. It's up to you - see more of our itineraries for inspiration!

Summary

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