Bewitching Edinburgh

image imageThere is a powerful flow in Edinburgh – magic, history, psychic energy? I am not sure what it is, but there is an undercurrent of inspiration that many have dipped into. There is something here in the grey stones, in the old town on the mound with its hidden closes (alleyways throughout the old town), its steep cobbled streets, all too strange little shops. Even in the madness of modern times, it seems that it would be so easy to walk through one of the old heavy doors off a little street, hear the hand forged hinges creak, smell the meat pies, wet dog fur and nose stinging reek of human sweat and enter a completely different time.

Barry and I were so very fortunate to travel here the first time over thirty years ago and have made a couple of short trips back since then. This trip we still feel it, though the city is doubled in size during the month of August due to the festivals: Royal Military Tattoo, The Fringe, The International Festival, Art Festival, book Festival. Yikes, the list goes on and on (see Though it’s crazy busy and crowded, we had a wonderful time. I’d go back in a heartbeat, but never again in August. I am too selfish to share this place with so many muggles.

We took a Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh, knowing that J.K. Rowling wrote the Potter books here and, actually still lives here. Barry loved reading all the books, and though I only read the first two, I loved, loved the films. As I still marvel at J.K. Rowling’s imagination, I now see where much of her inspiration came from. George Herriot boarding school ( was probably the inspiration for Hogwarts. It’s got his architecture, four houses, uniforms are the same as Harry Potter’s school. It is very near the neighborhood where Rowling did her writing. In fact she did much of her writing in the Elephant House Coffee, a place that capitalizes on that fact quite well. However, most interesting to me was Greyfriars Kirk and Kirkyard. This is where the author took walks and got the name of many of her characters. Within the graveyard, or Kirkyard, there is a Thomas Riddell, (Rowling took off the final “l”, the anagram had to spell the dark lord’s name), a McGonagall, even a Moodie. There are more that we didn’t see, but would make a fun search. Some think that Victoria Street was a model for Diagon Alley. More than names, she captured the magic here.

We also took a Scottish Literary Pub Tour that was great fun. Two actors performed writing from Burns, Scott, Stevenson and more as we walked from bar to pubs stopping at locations where authors lived, drank or got inspiration. The whole festival crowd did get in the way a it, but we still really enjoyed it.

Afterward, Barry was able to find a pub that we had gone to over thirty years ago, the Toll Booth Bar. At our first visit there we were at the end of the scariest ghost walk I have ever been on. My knees were literally knocking when we were finished with the tour! It reminds me of the horrible things that have happened in Edinburgh: thousands dead from plague, witch hunts with over 400 put on trial, many tortured with dunking or pilliwinks (cool word I had to use, means thumbscrews). Edinburgh is a darkly beautiful place.

Barry has some wonderful photos that I will download when I make room…..

2 thoughts on “Bewitching Edinburgh”

  1. Your posts are such a pleasure to read. I am almost ready to have an out of body experience and join you guys for a glass of single malt in your favorite pub ;-))

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