JK Rowling wrote her early books in the Elephant House in Edinburgh
JK Rowling wrote her early books in the Elephant House in Edinburgh

10 fantastic Scottish facts about Harry Potter

From polyjuice potion to gillyweed, transfiguration to parseltongue, most of us are familiar with the weird and wonderful creations of JK Rowling’s imagination.

Aside from being written by one of Scotland’s most successful authors to date, here are ten Scottish facts about the famous Harry Potter series.

1. It has been translated into Scots

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been translated into scores of different languages, selling in more than 200 countries across the globe. However, Itchy Coo publishers felt there was one translation missing from this repertoire: Scots.

Over 20 years after Rowling’s first book was published in 1997, Scottish writer, Matthew Fitt, transformed it into a celebration of Scottish dialect. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane, detailing the life of The Laddie Wha Lived, became an instant hit.

Here are a few of our favourite Scottish quotes:

-Turnin the envelope ower, his haun tremmlin, Harry saw a purpie wax seal wi a coat o airms; a lion, an earn, a brock, and a snake surroondin a muckle letter ‘H’.

-Dumbledore tried a Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Bean: “He smiled and papped the gowden-broon bean intae his mooth. Then he cowked and said, ‘Waesucks! Lug wax!’

-Description of Ron Weasley: He wis a lang-leggit skinnymalink wi fernietickles, muckle hauns and feet, and a lang neb.

JK Rowling wrote her early books in the Elephant House in Edinburgh

2. It was written in Edinburgh’s cafes

Although it’s said that Rowling scribbled her initial ideas for Harry Potter on a napkin while sitting on a train, much of the magical series was written in Edinburgh’s very own cafes.

Rowling whiled away much of her time in the Elephant House, which now claims to be the true “birthplace” of the Scottish author’s early novels. With windows looking out onto the city’s striking Edinburgh Castle, it’s easy to see where Rowling drew her inspiration from.

Other notable writers like Ian Rankin, author of Rebus, and Alexander McCall-Smith, who wrote The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, are also said to have frequented the cafe.

So, if you’re an aspiring author in need of a little inspiration, you know where to go!

3. The final chapters were written at The Balmoral Hotel

Right in the heart of Edinburgh City, the Harry Potter series was brought to a close…
Rowling stayed in Room 552 at The Balmoral Hotel, which is now aptly named “The Rowling Suite”, while finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The room features an owl-shaped door knocker, and a marble bust that Rowling has signed. They’ve even left her writing desk in situ.
Staying there for just one night will set you back around £1,000, but it’s likely an enchanting experience you’ll never forget!

4. Voldemort’s grave is in Scotland

There’s no doubt that Edinburgh City is brimming with history and fantastic tales, but in this instance, it truly is where fact meets fiction!

If you go for a stroll through Greyfriars Kirkyard, a couple of gravestones bear familiar names… While Rowling is yet to confirm the speculations, fans have been leaving notes beside the headstone of a man who shares the name of Lord Voldemort: ‘Thomas Riddle’.

Harry Potter enthusiasts believe it to be the inspiration for the villain’s name.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is also the resting place of a man called William McGonagall… Could this have influenced the name of a certain Transfiguration Professor?

The Glenfinnan Viaduct has become an international tourist attraction after appearing in the Harry Potter films

5. You can catch the Hogwarts Express from Fort William.

Dedicated Harry Potter fans no longer need to wait for an owl to drop a sealed letter though their letterboxes – they can now transport themselves away from the Muggle world by hopping onto the real Hogwarts Express.
Setting off from Fort William, the Jacobite Steam Train that featured in the Harry Potter movies runs right through to the west coast, ending in Mallaig. The train journey takes you across what is perhaps one of the most iconic backdrops of the series, the beautiful Glenfinnan Viaduct. Set in the rugged hills of the Highlands, this is one thing you can easily tick off the bucket list.

6.Dumbledore’s resting place is in Lochaber.

A small island in Lochaber, Eilean na Moine, was where some of Harry Potter’s scenes were filmed. As well as being the setting of hippogriff, Buckbeak’s death, it is the place where Dumbledore was laid to rest.
Scotland’s beautiful, craggy hills served as the backdrop for many other scenes in Rowling’s movies, including Loch Etive, Glencoe, and the Steall Falls, where Harry faces the Hungarian Horntail dragon in the Triwizard Tournament.

Glaswegian Sean Biggerstaff played Oliver Wood, and later starred in Whisky Galore (Photo: Angus Blackburn)

7. The movies are brimming with Scottish actors.
Among the first of the Scottish actors that we encounter is, of course, Robbie Coltrane who plays Hagrid. The gentle-giant whisks Harry away in the very first movie to embark upon his wizard adventures. Robbie Coltrane, known for many other roles, including playing Fitz in the drama series, Cracker, is from Rutherglen.

Arguably one of the most recognisable Scottish faces is that of David Tennant, who plays Barty Crouch Junior. A former Doctor Who, Tennant was born in West Lothian, and grew up in Paisley.

Sean Biggerstaff, who’s perhaps better known as the distinguished Quidditch captain and Keeper for Gryffindor, Oliver Wood, is originally from Glasgow. After starring in the Potter movies, he went on to win BAFTA Scotland’s Best Actor Award for his role in the film, Consenting Adults.

Another Glaswegian, Kelly MacDonald – best known for Trainspotting – plays Helena Ravenclaw. Known previously for her role in Nanny McPhee, MacDonald later featured in the Pixar movie, Brave, voicing the feisty redheaded character, Merida.

Katie Leung, from Motherwell, played Cho Chang, who gave Harry his first kiss.

8. Professor McGonagall has Scottish roots.

Transfiguration professor and Head of Gryffindor House, Minerva McGonagall, is said to come from a Caithness family.

Her parents, the Reverend Robert McGonagall and Isobel Ross, had three children, Minerva, Malcolm and Robert Junior, all of whom were born in the Scottish Highlands.

9. Platform 9 and ¾ exists

Next time you’re taking a trip to London, pop in past King’s Cross Station, if you’ve taken the East Coast mainline from Edinburgh Waverley. In amongst the bustling crowds of London’s shoppers and commuters, you’ll find a luggage trolley embedded in the wall. Here, at Platform 9 and ¾, people can have their picture taken with a House scarf and step across the threshold of the Wizarding World!

10. Butterbeer is real

At the end of a long week, you may find yourself looking for a refreshing drink.

In the heart of Scotland’s capital city, you can now go for a pint of Butterbeer. The Dog House pub, situated on Clerk Street, Edinburgh, serves up Harry Potter’s favourite tipple. Though Rowling wasn’t involved in the making of the Butterbeer, it’s certainly a quirky way to end the day…particularly in the city that inspired the Harry Potter series.