The inspiration and magic of Edinburgh
by rick olivares
While in the middle of my Beatles Taxi Tour of Liverpool, the line from “Penny Lane” resonated with me, “Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes.”
If much of the early songs of the Beatles were about life in the Merseyside then how much of Edinburgh was an inspiration to JK Rowling?
The celebrated author of the Harry Potter novels used to spend hours writing from the back of The Elephant House along George IV Street with a terrific view of Edinburgh Castle. Just a stone’s throw away is Candlemaker Row, with its “wizarding-sounding name,” a street that aside from the popular eatery and pub Greyfriars Bobby is home to book and comic book shops.
Edinburgh castle has obviously influenced Hogwarts School of Wizardry. And the row of coffee shops and pubs like The Elephant House, comprise Hogsmeade. Its winding and cobblestoned streets with its curio shops are Diagon Alley. Down south towards London’s King’s Cross, the East Coast line that runs all the way to Edinburgh could be the Hogwarts Express running out of platform 9 3/4. When I enter Transreal, a shop dedicated to fantasy books, I am almost surprised that the man behind the desk isn't in wizard garb.
Sipping coffee in one of Edinburgh’s many coffee shops and walking its streets, it is easy to see and feel how Edinburgh has influenced Rowling’s world of wizards and witches.
Outside the bustling Princes Street, the city features a slower and laid back life. Perfect for writers like Rowling and Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Walter Scott (The Lady of the Lake), and David Nicholls (One Day that was adapted into film starring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway) to name a few who are looking for the ambiance to commit words to pen, paper and now, laptop.
The city has a romantic feel to it as it is a confluence of the worlds old (the castles, medieval cemeteries, old streets) and new (the posh shops along Princes Street and beyond). As the city is home to 12 different colleges and universities, it is a perfect cauldron for inspiration for the idealistic and the intellectual.
While coffee shops like The Elephant House are drawing tourists because of its Harry Potter connection, I wondered if the budding writers who have yet to pen their own line of books that will capture the imagination of a generation. Where have they gone? What shop do they retreat to now?
As a writer who thrives on writing about people, places, and events while embedding myself in stories as an observer, I can totally relate and appreciate how places like Edinburgh can shape one’s stories. And I suspect that in places like this, magic is always being concocted. We should consider ourselves lucky.