The Elephant House: Birthplace of Harry Potter

As Harry Potter fans both N and I had decided that ‘The Elephant House’ would be our first stop once we land at Edinburgh. I remembered a bit about the café from the interview Jo Rowling did there after Harry Potter became famous and was looking forward to experiencing it myself.

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Picture by: Debdatta Sahay

The café is within the walking distance from the railway station. So, we decide to walk to the café for our morning cup of tea and breakfast. The first thing that you notice about the café is its bright red appearance. The sign proclaiming ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter that the café has put up on is also quite attention grabbing. The café is very proud of the fact that it has served a number of authors. From ‘Writers & Reviews’ board in their café to the mention of these authors on their website, the café boasts of not only having served J. K. Rowling but also authors like Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith. Therefore, this café is not only hallowed ground for Potterheads, it is a great place for any bookworm and aspiring authors.Once you enter the café, at the first glance, it feels small and very underwhelming.

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Picture Courtesy: Debdatta Sahay

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Picture Courtesy: Debdatta Sahay

But it is soon apparent that there is more to the place. Once you have placed your order and move towards finding a table, the ‘Writers & Reviews’ board becomes visible.

That is also when you notice the framed autograph of the lady herself and it is a ‘Limited Edition certification’. There is also a big frame with a number of pictures of Jo Rowling on it. But they all seem to be like from the day she did the interview there rather than of her writing days there. Apart from the café’s own wall of fame, a lot of Potterheads seem to have visited the café and left their mark. There were a lot of graffiti and scrawls from fans all over the world. They have left comments and words of appreciation for both the series and its author.

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Picture Courtesy: Debdatta Sahay

Sitting there was a wonderful feeling. To be where the magic was created and to see what the Rowling had seen. The best part of our experience there was the fact that we found a lady sitting alone at a table with a cup of coffee. She was furiously scribbling in her diary and I couldn’t help but smile at the scene! It was probably very similar to the scene that the patrons of the café witnessed decades back. I was also really tempted to go and ask the lady her name, so that if and when she becomes famous and is added to the café’s wall of fame I could reflect back on my visit to the café. But no, I did not disturb her from plotting.

The nearby landmark of George Heriot’s School building with four towers is said to have served as an inspiration for Hogwarts School. The Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery may have served not only as the inspiration for quite a few names in the series but also may have served as the inspiration for the graveyard where Voldemort’s father was buried.

If you are not a bookworm or a Potterhead, even then you should pay this place a visit. The café has a terrific view of the Edinburgh Castle from its sitting room at the back. They have great food at really reasonable prices (irrespective of their demand) and friendly staff.

 

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