Harry Potter locations: JK Rowling just debunked some major myths – and we are stupefied

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Hollie Richardson
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JK Rowling just delivered some truths about Harry Potter landmarks in Edinburgh.

Isn’t it incredible how, more than twenty years after first being introduced to the world, Harry Potter still fills us with child-like excitement? During lockdown alone, fans have been treated to Daniel Radcliffe narrating The Philosopher’s Stone audiobook, and muggles have gone into meltdown over the Hogwarts virtual escape room. It’s testament to just how special JK Rowling’s magical story is to so many people. And now, the author has shared some more news with fans.

Earlier this week, Rowling decided to debunk a few Harry Potter myths – specifically those about supposed HP landmarks. 

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“I was thinking of putting a section on my website about all the alleged inspirations and birthplaces of Potter,” Rowling wrote on Twitter, before giving a few (quite frankly, shocking) examples.

She started with The Elephant House cafe in Edinburgh, which is well-known for being the supposed birthplace of the wizarding world. But hold onto your sorting hats…

“I’d been writing Potter for several years before I ever set foot in this cafe,” Rowling revealed, “so it’s not the birthplace, but I *did* write in there so we’ll let them off!”

She then showed fans the real birthplace: a flat on top of a sports shop in Clapham Junction. As you can see, it doesn’t exactly have those Diagon Alley vibes.

She said: “This is the true birthplace of Harry Potter, if you define ‘birthplace’ as the spot where I put pen to paper for the first time*. I was renting a room in a flat over what was then a sports shop. The first bricks of Hogwarts were laid in a flat in Clapham Junction.

“*If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train. But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

She then showed us the building she stayed in while inventing Quidditch…

“This building is in Manchester and used to be the Bourneville Hotel (pretty sure it’s this building. It might be the one along). Anyway, I spent a single night there in 1991, and when I left next morning, I’d invented Quidditch,” she wrote.

But wait, surely the rumours about Hogwarts being based on one of Edinburgh’s very fancy schools is true? 


She tweeted: “I sometimes hear Hogwarts was based on one or other of Edinburgh’s schools, but that’s 100% false, too. Hogwarts was created long before I clapped eyes on any of them! I did finish Hallows in the Balmoral, though, and I can’t lie, I’d rate it a smidge higher than the Bournville.”

But there is, at least, one Harry Potter writing landmark fans have got right over the years (hurrah!).

When a fan asked about Nicolson’s cafe in Edinburgh, Rowling replied: “That one’s true! I used to write in Nicolson’s all the time. I once wrote an entire chapter in there in one sitting and barely changed a word afterwards. Those are the days you remember. I think Nicolson’s is now a Chinese restaurant.”

You can see the full thread on JK Rowling’s Twitter.

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Images: Warner Bros