EDINBURGH has long basked in the reflected glory of being the adopted home of J K Rowling and the place that helped inspire the Harry Potter books.
Now a dedicated walking tour of the city’s Old Town promises fans of Rowling’s work the opportunity to take in the locations that sparked the author’s imagination as she worked on the money-spinning series.
The Potter Trail, which is to be launched during this year’s Fringe, follows in the footsteps of tours inspired by Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Ian Rankin’s Rebus tales.
It is intended to raise awareness of Edinburgh’s “world city of literature” status, which has already triggered a spin-off industry in literary tourism since the honour was conferred by Unesco in 2004, but it has not been endorsed by Rowling, her publishers or Warner Bros., makers of the Harry Potter films.
Nevertheless, Potter Trail tour guide Stuart Young has pledged to wear a wizardly cape and hand out toy wands to visitors of any age, including stag and hen parties, for his 90-minute venture around key sites linked with Rowling and the schoolboy wizard.
These include an exploration of Greyfriars Kirkyard, where the tombstone said to have inspired the creation of Lord Voldemort’s character lies –where father and son Thomas Riddell are buried – as well as poet William McGonagall, who inspired another character, Professor Minerva McGonagall.
The tour visits George Heriot’s School, said to be the inspiration for Hogwarts Castle, and Victoria Street, which is said to have inspired Diagon Alley, the magical promenade from the books and films.
The also tour takes in the two cafes, the Elephant House and the former Nicholson’s Cafe, where Rowling famously wrote the first novel, as well as the spot where her handprints are immortalised on the Royal Mile.
Also included are insights into Edinburgh’s real-life witches and wizards over the centuries.
Young, who has previously led ghost tours around the Old Town, said: “I’ve always thought there was a gap in the market for Harry Potter fans. Although Harry Potter is often mentioned in other tours, there’s never been a tour dedicated to the books.
“Despite Rowling writing many of the books in Edinburgh, Potter devotees are not especially well catered for, with only a couple of cafes espousing their connection.
“I hope to change that with a comprehensive tour covering all the important sites, with an entertaining and interactive style.”
Rowling moved to Edinburgh with her baby daughter Jessica in 1993, following a split from her Portuguese husband. She famously wrote the book while sitting for hours in cafes as Jessica slept in her pram.
The first book was published in 2007 and more than 400 million Harry Potter books have now been sold around the world.
Peggy Hughes, spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature Trust, said: “Edinburgh boasts some of the best, liveliest and most informative tours you’re ever likely to come across, led by some of the most charismatic characters, and it’s brilliant to see these tours grow in popularity and variety.
“We feel there’s real potential to build on and develop literary tourism activity in Edinburgh.”
Rebus Tours guide Colin Brown said: “There has been a huge growth in literary tours in Edinburgh, particularly since the Unesco designation, although there were quite a few on the go before then.
“Although there are actually not that many sites connected with JK Rowling in the city centre, this new tour can only generate more interest in Edinburgh’s literary connections.”
Lucy Bird, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said “Edinburgh’s dramatic cityscape, architecture and cobbled streets continually inspires new ideas and initiatives.
“This tour looks set to provide a new snapshot of Scotland’s capital focussed on the city’s relationship with these stories that have won the hearts of so many people”.