Harry Potter - and the Magic of Britain
Harry Potter has taken the world by storm. First it was the books by J. K. Rowling. Then it was the first magical film (to be followed by others). In the light of the wide interest in all aspects of Harry Potter, Vivien Devlin, an Edinburgh-based writer like J. K. Rowling, has written this feature about Harry and the places in Scotland and Britain where you can experience some of the magic.
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Harry Potter - Born in Scotland?
The Harry Potter stories by J. K. Rowling, about wizardry and witchcraft, owls and monsters are beloved by children (and many adults) across the world. To date the four books have sold 30 million copies, translated into 35 languages. Now the first Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (this is called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the USA), was released by Warner Bros. on 16th November, 2001
It's not surprising that the story of the young wizard apprentice was created in Britain, a land renowned for its legends, superstitions and tales of ghosts and giants. It is important to point out that J. K. Rowling moved to Scotland while she was just beginning to write the first book and therefore all the books were imagined and written in Edinburgh. Perhaps she was inspired by the ancient history of the city, with its Castle high up on the rock, the narrow rambling cobbled streets and alleyways and Arthur's Seat, the hill beside Holyrood Palace, believed to be associated with the legend of King Arthur. Rowling has lived in Edinburgh for many years but has very recently bought herself a Scottish Castle near Aberfeldy, Perthshire. A perfect retreat in which to write the next three books in the Harry Potter series.
The magical world which Harry inhabits, and now brought to life in the strange and wonderful film locations, offers the perfect introduction to the history and beauty of this country for visitors.
For the uninitiated - who is Harry Potter?
Harry Potter believes he is an ordinary little boy until he is rescued by a messenger owl called Hedwig. He is taken off to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, under the charge of the headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, (Order of Merlin, Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump). Harry and his two new school friends, Ron and Hermione, travel there by an old fashioned steam train from an invisible platform, Number 9¾, at King's Cross Station. The school is in fact an ancient castle, with turrets and towers, situated at the top of a cliff and reached by boat across a lake. It has thick stone walls and floors, a Great Hall with flaming torches and a labyrinth of hidden passageways and underground chambers, stairs that move around and nothing is as it seems. His school text books include, "The Standard book of Spells", " A History of Magic" and "Fantastic Beasts and where to find them". The pupils wear black robes, pointed hats and carry a wand. They are allowed to have the company of an owl, a cat or a toad at school. He learns to play the strange game of quidditch, and is soon involved in many adventures in pursuit of evil and black magic.
Do you want to enter the world of Harry Potter ?
Scotland's Magical World
Ghosts - The Witchery Tour
This takes a light-hearted look at the dark side of Edinburgh with your guide, Adam Lyall (deceased), who will regale you with stories of torture, plague, murder and witchcraft - but watch out for the ghosts and ghouls lurking in the shadows.
This runs all year round, seven days a week, starting outside the Witchery Restaurant, Castlehill, Royal Mile. Reservations essential.
Ghosts - Mercat Tours
Established in 1985, Mercat is the founder of the original Edinburgh ghost tour and it remains very popular. The medieval Old Town and the Castle is reputed to have countless ghosts and these night-time walks are informative, entertaining and occasionally terrifying.
"Smashing and sinfully scary" - E Brewer, USA
"Bloodcurdling excellence" S. Constable, Australia
Ghosts - Mary King's Close
This is literally a journey through Edinburgh's underworld. Mary King's Close is part of a now subterranean network of underground streets and tunnels walled off in the Middle Ages, during an outbreak of plague.
Other tours which can be booked with other companies include Warlocks and Witches, Burke and Hare, Crime and Punishment, and others based on real and historical events.
You can see illustrations of over 50 Scottish castles on this site in the Castle Photo Library. There is also an alphabetic list of Scottish Castle Web Sites containing around 600 URLs.
Steam Trains - Strathspey Steam Railway
Enjoy the thrill of travelling on a similar train to the Hogwarts Express.
Take a journey back in time through the beautiful Spey valley and experience the magic of steam. The train begins at Aviemore in the heart of the Highlands, where the scenery you pass through of heather moorland and the Cairngorm Mountains has almost unchanged for centuries. The locomotive then arrives at the tiny village of Boat of Garten, when there will be an opportunity to talk to the driver and the fireman. They may have to take water from the crane at the end of the platform and the fireman will then prepare to stoke the coal, ready for the next journey.
The Railway operates all year but with limited service during the winter months. The steam train can also be booked for private parties.
Steam Trains - Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway
This operates on weekends only from Bo'ness Station, Union Street, Bo'ness, West Lothian, from April to June, September and October, and from Tuesday-Sunday in July and August. This steam railway has often been used in films set during the 1930s and 40s.
Steam Trains - The Jacobite
The West Highland line from Fort William to Mallaig has a nostalgic steam-hauled train which operates a daily (except Saturdays), six hour return trip, including a two hour lunch break at Mallaig, during the summer months. It is operated by the West Coast Railway Company and reservations are extremely advisable for this popular service. It may be possible to purchase tickets on the day of travel at Fort William station or from the guard on the train.
Filming of the second Harry Potter book has now begun and it's rumoured that this West Highland railway line with scenes of the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct will be featured.
Dragons, Beasts and Birds Loch Ness Monster
Scotland's most famous giant beastie! The mysterious hump-backed Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as Nessie, is reputed to live in this deep, dark loch. There have been numerous reported sightings and professional scientific underwater investigations over many years. Come and find Nessie yourself by taking a cruise on the loch or visit the official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition centre at Drumnadrochit.
Dragons, Beasts and Birds - Edinburgh Zoo
Perched on the side of Corstorphine Hill, ten minutes from the city centre, Edinburgh Zoo is another of Scotland's top tourist attractions. The zoo is particularly noted for its large collection of penguins and when they parade, outside of their pens, in front of the visitors at feeding time the cameras click furiously to capture the moment. The penguin enclosure is the largest in the world and a suspension bridge gives visitors a great view of the pool (which has glass sides too). There are over 1,000 other animals there, including polar bears and monkeys and tigers. There is a "Magic Forest" with marmosets and tamarins and the lions are in a shady enclosure at the top of the zoo.
Dragons, Beasts and Birds - Edinburgh Bird of Prey Centre
Scotland's most diverse collection of birds of prey at the Edinburgh Bird of Prey Centre, Lasswade, Midlothian, has over 50 species including eagles, falcons, hawks and various types of owls. Handling some of the birds is allowed and flying displays offer the opportunity to witness the power and beauty of these amazing creatures.
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
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