A Kind of Magic (Harry Potter/Edinburgh)

"Special bloody delivery, Harry."

Footsteps clink on cobbled streets as tourists, students and Scotsmen heave themselves up a gothic Mound.

The Mound is a dense nest of pillars and arches and cafes, plus pokey little shops selling kilts and overpriced shortbread. Age drips thick from every building--except for the glitzy glass apartments in the city's pea-green Meadows, new constructions proudly clashing with their antique backdrop .

This place has the feel of an ancient city; a den of magic, built between the ocean and a mountain named (King) Arthur's Seat. It isn't magic, of course--not much is, these days.

But it looks it, nonetheless.


Edinburgh's famous castle.

Along one of Edinburgh's main streets, there is one cafe a little different from the others. Its exterior is bright red, incongruous against its stony surroundings.

It's called The Elephant House.

Once upon a time a woman sat and typed here. She wrote stories about a little wizard boy and his friends; about enchanted wands and terrible monsters and flying broomsticks. These stories made the writer as rich as any fairy tale queen, pulling her out of poverty. 

(I've never read them, you understand. But any book that makes children whoop for joy of reading must be made of miracles).  

In the bathroom of this cafe, graffiti covers the walls, thick with fictional references. I SAW MOANING MYRTLE HERE and I LOVE HERMIONE, and--from one especially off-base fan--STAR WARS RULES (SIGNED R2D2). 

This cafe is where the first Harry Potter book was written.

Now it's always crowded with people panhandling for magic. 


The Elephant House. (Picture via wikipeida. Look, it was dark when I got there.)

Funny creatures, writers.

Roald Dahl had a garden shed he liked to write in. George R.R. Martin insists on channelling his fantasies through a creaky old DOS computer. It can be hard to wrestle a blank page to the ground, and an ally can be helpful; a familiar place, a familiar tool, a familiar number of teacups to start the writing day.

Writing is a kind of magic--it brings words to life. It can twist a few stray syllables into castles and dragons and mind-blowing battles. It can make a banker from New York understand life as a midwife in Darfur. It can let you into someone else's head, and let someone else's into yours.  

Writing is a special kind of magic: one that only works on other people.

Edinburgh architecture. 

In the case of J.K. Rowling's favourite cafe, a mighty spell was wrought here. Now others come from miles around with their magic implements (their laptops and their tablets and their old-fashioned paper notebooks), to sit in the spot where lightning struck, and hope it might strike again. 

Even I sat in the cafe, soaking up the ambience. The food was nice (though the shortbread overpriced) and they knew how to make a decent cup of tea. After months in the Americas, there is little better to soothe a Britain's wits than a well-made cup of tea.

One of Edinburgh's many other castle-y looking things.

I didn't notice any magic strike, but then, that's okay.

Edinburgh is a city that feels full of old enchantments.

But enchantments work in unpredictable ways.


>Edinburgh is lovely. There is little better to recommend a city than the ability to walk across it in a day.