When I visited Edinburgh last month, one statement put The Elephant House right to the top of my bucket list – ‘The Birthplace of Harry Potter’.
It’s quite a bold claim don’t you think, and one not entirely based on fact because J.K. Rowling has said she came up with the Boy Who Lived on a train journey. Nevertheless, it is true that she spent a lot of time in that particular cafe writing her novels.
So, with a little help from a rather large window display, The Elephant House has become a mecca of sorts for Harry Potter fans, and as a Harry Potter fan myself, I decided to check it out.
THE ELEPHANT HOUSE REVIEW
The Elephant House is sat snuggly on the George IV Bridge, and with a bright red store front, it’s difficult to miss. It was warm and cosy and filled with the aroma of freshly ground coffee. Jess and I arrived just after it opened on a Saturday morning, and already, tourists had started to fill up the place.
First impressions? It wasn’t anywhere near what I envisioned. I pictured this treasure trove of Harry Potter memorabilia, with photos and manuscripts, maybe some magical breakfast items, and while the cafe holds a few references to Harry Potter – pictures of JK Rowling writing at one of their tables – it’s mainly dedicated to its namesake, the elephant.
I was a little dissapointed that there wasn’t – more – but the fact that this coffee house has remained authentic, given its very famous clientele, is definitely something to be commended. It also gives a true representation of how the café might have appeared when Rowling frequented the place – minus the hordes of tourists.
We opted for a seat at the front of house – as opposed to the busy back room – where the only other person near us was a lady tapping away at her laptop. I like to think she was a fellow author, finding inspiration in J.K. Rowlings footprints.
Since it was our first stop of the day, we ordered breakfast, but the food at The Elephant House wasn’t anything special. With a menu full of basic breakfast items, listed in English and Chinese, I went for the pancakes. Jess ordered a full breakfast, but unfortunately both meals were disappointing. We both instantly wondered how long we had to wait until it was acceptable to head somewhere else for second breakfast.
Ultimately, the novelty of being in one of the places J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter wore of pretty quickly, especially after paying a sizable sum for a breakfast we hardly ate – but it’s not every day you can say that you sat at the same table as one of your favourite Authors, so I’m still glad we went.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, therefore I have a few tips if you’re heading to The Elephant House, which will hopefully mean your trip goes a little bit smoother than ours. It’s a place every Potterhead should visit at least once, just make sure you don’t order any food.
FIVE TIPS FOR VISITING THE ELEPHANT HOUSE
1. Arrive Early – We managed to get to The Elephant House as it opened and walked straight in, but when we left an hour and a half later, every table was full of people and a queue had started to form at the door. If you don’t fancy waiting in line, try to get there early, or head there in the late afternoon.
2. Get a table with a view – Even though the back of the café can get quite busy, the view is stunning as the windows look out over Edinburgh. You can see the castle and the café itself overlooks Greyfriars Kirkyard – the cemetery where Rowling found inspiration for some of her characters.
3. You don’t have to order anything – If you’re pressed for time, and don’t want to wait in the queue, but still want to have a look around, you can give the café a small donation and enter without buying any of their pretty terrible food.
4. Visit the loo – You never know what you’ll find in the bathroom of a café or restaurant, that’s why I always check them out before I leave – just in case. This one is particularly amazing. The walls are covered with inscriptions left by Harry Potter fans from all over the world who have visited The Elephant House.
5. Bring a Pen – Make sure you leave your own inscription on the wall. There’s not much space left, but once you find a small area, grab that sharpie and add your own little love note to J.K. Rowling and the amazing world she’s created.
Are you a Harry Potter fan? Have you ever visited the Elephant House? If you have, what did you think? And if not, would you? Let me know below..
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