I never really thought much about Scotland’s connections to Harry Potter, one of my favourite things, before coming to this part of the world. The minute I touched down, that immediately changed. For the next few days I felt like I was a living, breathing character in one of the movies. Obviously, the most boring character to exist in Potterland, but if I had a script to go off of, this is how it would read…
INT. CAFÉ — MORNING
In the heart of Old Town, Edinburgh, sits a charming café called The Elephant House. It’s a non-trendy place, decorated in gold tones and elephants. The store front is small, but opens up to a larger room towards the back with an assortment of non-matching tables and chairs set up willy nilly. The large paned windows in the back let in the morning sunshine.
KIRSTEN, Canadian traveller, Harry Potter enthusiast — and way too old to be acting like a child — enters the café, looking around excitedly. She asks for a table and immediately orders a pot of tea. She pulls out a notebook and starts writing and doodling a lightning bolt, glasses and some circle/triangle/stick thing.
(looks up, eyes wide, excited)
Wow, is this really where J.K. wrote the first book?
A WAITER, 22, looks at this chick and rolls his eyes. He’s seen this type before and unfortunately all too often. He nods and quickly takes her order and leaves her be. He’s so over answering everyone’s silly questions about J.K. Rowling.
The food comes and Kirsten spends the next hour eating fancy toast and sipping tea while soaking in the morning sunshine and writing a few lines. She’s just arrived in Scotland, so she doesn’t have much to write about and she doesn’t have Dumbledore’s Pensieve handy to conjure up an old memory to build on. Nevertheless, she’s happy to have her very first Scottish experience at this COMFORTING place.
EXT. CEMETERY — EARLY EVENING
Along Candlemaker Way there is a small alcove that leads into Greyfriars Kirkyard, one of the most haunted graveyards in the world. Beyond the curved iron gate, is four centuries of doom, death and gloom. One look and you know it’s seen some seriously gruesome shit. Full of broken grave markers and stone skulls, this is a dank, disheveled and deeply disturbing place. It leaves one feeling unsettled.
On a gloomy evening in Edinburgh, Kirsten finds herself strolling through Greyfriars. Suddenly, a young woman whisks past her and jauntily walks down a path alongside an old stone full of creepy headstones. The girl stops in front of a particular marker, whips out her phone and quickly takes a selfie. The girl then leaves immediately.
What in the actual f**k was that?
Kirsten walks up to the headstone to see if she can figure out why someone would take a quick, random selfie with it. She stands in front of it and looks up at the name on the marker.
(eyes raise, mouth drops)
Dear lord, it’s Tom Fricking Riddell! Lord Voldemort himself is buried here!
Before finding herself turned into a horcrux or attacked by Nagini, Kirsten quickly snaps a photo and leaves the EERIE kirk as quickly as that other girl did. No one’s going to pull a Diggory on her.
INT. SHOP — MID-AFTERNOON
In the heart of Victoria Street’s colourful curve towards The Royal Mile, lies an old shop full of curious objects of magical properties. It’s called Diagon House, and it’s a mix between Ollivanders wand shop and Knockturn Alley’s infamous Borgin and Burkes. The shop is small and cluttered with tight aisles and a crooked staircase, which takes you to another floor of oddities.
Opening the door to a crush of people, Kirsten walks into the shop and starts rummaging through the objects for sale to discover the perfect piece of magic to take home. She walks up to a table stacked with wands and starts to size up what they’re made of — dragon heartstring, unicorn hair, phoenix feather — and then looks upon the prices.
£40 for a wand?! Nope.
After quickly leaving the wand table, Kirsten walks up the narrow, crooked staircase to see if there are any other WHIMSICAL objects to take home. She looks for a Vanishing cabinet in good working order, but alas, all are broken. Sadly, she leaves empty handed.
EXT. HIGHLANDS — MORNING
The Scottish Highlands, where the land is rough, the colours are dense and the light is flat. It is home to Glencoe, Scotland’s most historic and scenic glen. It was where Hagrid’s hut once resided and where Potter took Buckbeak for a spin. The colours are so dark here that they seem to absorb all available light and reflect none of it back. (Maybe a slight commentary on how unforgiving this terrain can be.) There’s nothing in this part of Scotland that is for the soft or weak of heart. It is a bold, in-your-face land that takes time to warm up to, just like a saucy hippogriff.
You need more than your wits to get you to the Highlands. This is where the Hairy Coo caravan steps in to take a group of Potterheads/Outlander-lovers from the Lowlands up into the rugged mountains, deep glens and black-watered lochs of the Highlands.
I can’t even with Glencoe.
It’s like all the exterior scenes from the Prisoner of Azkaban just fell out of the sky. Of course Potter was made here, this place is exactly how Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and the Forbidden Forest were described in the books. I could stay here all day. I want to stay here all day.
Time to go, get back on the bus! Wheeeeee (the guide says that A LOT).
(prominent stink-eye, kicking loose stones)
Dammit! *Unintelligible mumbling*
As the caravan moves down the winding road at the bottom of the glen, the travellers have their eyes glued to the windows, taking in the last gasps of this MYSTERIOUS looking place. Hoping the foggy mist rolling in is due to weather and not a soul-sucking Dementor.
EXT. GLENFINNAN — AFTERNOON
Standing tall behind Loch Shiel, lies the Glenfinnan Viaduct curving ever so slightly over the river Finnan. Every day, the Jacobite Steam Train journeys over the bridge at approximately 3:00 p.m. Not far from the bridge, there is a small hill where people pilgrimage to satisfy their nerdy Harry Potter fantasies. As the train rumbles over the viaduct, people begin to “ooh” and “ahh.” Once the train reaches the halfway point on the viaduct, it releases the horns and begins to blow steam until far after it’s out of sight.
Arriving to the see the train at Glenfinnan is tight. The Hairy Coo tour bus is trying to make up time after a few travellers took too long at lunch. This leaves the biggest Harry Potter fans wringing their hands nervously, praying they will not miss the train show.
(mutters under breath)
Seriously, get on the bus already. If you make me miss this I will positively lose it.
Ugh, tour buses are the worst.
Och, I hope we make it to the train on time! Wheeeeee.
The bus arrives just in time for its travellers to high-tail it up the hill and test their camera settings. There is already a crush of people, but not enough to make it impossible to get a great view. The wait is short but long enough to build anticipation. The train comes into sight and everyone begins to lose their Potter-loving minds. When the steam blows, the gasps of delight follow. Unfortunately, the train is not accompanied by a flying Ford Anglia carrying two boys, an owl and a stupid, traitorous rat.
(a tear of happiness falls)
This was so worth it. So, so worth it.
As the train chugs off into oblivion, the Potterheads chat with each other excitedly — as if they just broke from Charms Class — while strolling casually back down the hill. It’s been an ADVENTUROUS day and Harry Potter journey, to say the least.
FADE TO BLACK
> THE END <
Whimsical, adventurous, eerie, mysterious and comforting not only describes the Potter series, it also properly describes how to get your Harry Potter fix on in Scotland.