aka: The Best Darn Mom & Sis Trip: Part 2
London & Scotland!
To fully understand the importance of this trip we need to take it back a decade (omg) to 2007 when the final Harry Potter book was released. The epilogue was titled “19 Years Later” and given the age of the characters and the time of the book release the math worked out to be 2017.
Spoiler warning! …if for some crazy reason you’ve never read/watched/heard the end of the HP series.
On September 1, 2017 Harry Potter takes his son, Albus Severus Potter, to King’s Cross Station to send him off to Hogwarts for the first time.
Sis and I promised ourselves back in 2007 that ’19 years later’ we would be in London at King’s Cross Station lookin’ for our main man, Harry.
We kept that promise!
In the 10 years between then and now we’ve also developed a love – thanks to mom – for the historical fiction book series, Outlander, which is based in Scotland during the Jacobite rising of 1745. Therefore, our trip mostly centered around important Harry Potter and Outlander locations.
Isn’t that how everyone plans their vacations?
I’ll start with Harry Potter.
King’s Cross Station, Where: London, England
I’ve covered why King’s Cross is important above, but King’s Cross was a filming location as well. During the first movie the wall between platform 3 & 4 was used as the entrance to platform 9 3/4. In reality, platforms 9 & 10 aren’t next to each other inside the station.
Tour for Muggles, Where: London, England
If you’re a HP fan and in London then DO THIS TOUR! Our lovely tour guide, Greta Granger (below) was seriously THE BEST (I mean, she carries her wand with her to pubs. New bestie). We saw HP filming locations, and real life spots that inspired J.K. for places that appeared in the books, like Knockturn and Diagon Alley. We also got a bit of London history to top it off. You will not regret this tour.
The Millennium Bridge, Where: London, England
This bridge, known to locals as the ‘Wobbly Bridge’, was featured in the beginning of the 6th movie when it was destroyed by Death Eaters.
Doing a little scene reenactment, naturally.
Glenfinnan Viaduct, Where: Glenfinnan, Scotland
Which you might recognize as the Hogwarts Express!
…or the Jacobite Steam Train. Either one.
Initially, we planned to ride the Jacobite train which you can catch in nearby Fort William. It’s a full day trip from Fort William to Mallaig and back and the views can supposedly be spectacular. Overall though, the reviews online were hit or miss. Basically, if you were really into old trains it was great. If you wanted to see the viaduct, it was OK, since it passes over the viaduct fairly quickly and to get just the right view you needed to be on a particular side of the train. We opted to go to the Glenfinnan Visitors Center, which has not only a nice exhibit on the Jacobite Rebellion & Bonnie Prince Charlie, but a guide to walking trails taking you to the Glennfinnan Monument and various viewpoints of both the monument and viaduct.
You can walk right up to the viaduct and the views are fantastic, even on a day when it was literally pouring rain. Perhaps it’s also good to know that the visitors center sells umbrellas…
The Elephant House Cafe, Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
The “birthplace” of Harry Potter since J.K. Rowling spent a lot of time writing here. We intended just to walk by, but we went in the evening and there was seating available so we channeled our inner J.K. and stopped for a coffee.
And, I was amazed to find that the bathroom was covered in HP graffiti! Fans over the years have come and written notes on the bathroom walls. Apparently, the cafe used to paint over it and discourage people from writing on the walls, but eventually they realized it was never going to stop and just embraced it. So if you happen to find yourself here, go check out the bathrooms. It’s quite overwhelming – all the HP love!
Greyfriars Graveyard, Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
Ok, ok, not really. But Thomas Riddell was the real life inspiration for the name Tom Marvolo Riddle – aka: Voldemort.
now, on to Outlander!
Oh Claire! Oh Jamie! ….seriously if you haven’t read these books you NEED to. It’s also a show now on Starz (which is surprisingly close to the books) but let’s be real. You can’t replace the books. First up…
Glencoe, Where: Glencoe, Scotland
The opening scene of Season 1, and other great shots throughout the series.
This view is of the “Three Sisters” mountains. We were staying in a B&B about 15 min. away, and had nowhere near enough time here. Some of Scotland’s best walking/hiking is in this area, including the highest peak in the UK – Ben Nevis. We were able to do one short hike in Glen Nevis, but if you’re into the outdoors you could easily spend a week or more and not be bored.
“Craigh na Dun”, Where: Kinloch Rannoch, Scotland
So, unfortunately for us Craigh na Dun, the stone circle where Claire is transported back in time, is only fictional. Fortunately for us, where the filmed the scenes for fictional Craigh na Dun is real! With a little email help from blogger Susanne from Adventures Around Scotland, we headed down some windy-two-lane-but-really-only-big-enough-for-one-car roads we found THE spot! (clearly the top image is not mine)
We also saw TONS of darn cute sheep on the way. It never got old.
Blackness Castle, Where: Linlithgow, Scotland
Blackness Castle acted as the Fort William headquarters during the 1st season of Outlander.
Linlithgow Palace, Where: Linlithgow, Scotland
Real life residence of the Stewarts, and the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Wentworth Prison in Outlander.
Doune Castle, Where: Doune, Scotland
This one was a triple whammy! Not only was it used as Castle Leoch in Outlander, but most of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed here as well as the interior scenes for Winterfell during season 1 of Game of Thrones. The audio guide here was quite entertaining, as it was narrated by Terry Jones (Monty Python actor/director) & certain areas by Sam Hueghan (Jamie in Outlander).
Glenfinnan Monument, Where: Glenfinnan, Scotland
As one might expect, the monument is not part of the Outlander books or a filming location as it was built after the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Regardless, this place marks an important piece of history because it was here where Prince Charles Edward Stewart, the Bonnie Prince who lead the ’45 rising, first landed in Scotland. Essentially, this location marks the beginning of the rebellion that eventually lead to the Battle of Culloden and the end of the Scottish clans.
Inverness, Where: Inverness, Scotland
Modern day Inverness also wasn’t a filming location, but it was a prominent setting in the books. Quite a charming city, and well worth the visit.
Culloden Battlefield, Where: Inverness, Scotland
If you’re an Outlander fan, then you know that this is the location where sh*t goes down. In real life, this was the location of the final battle of the Jacobite rising which resulted in the slaughter of the Scottish, and the end of Galic culture and clan system.
Today, you can walk the battlefield. Blue flags indicate the position of the Scottish troops, red flags for the English. Stones mark the location of mass graves for each of the clans who fought in the battle.
And that was about all the time we had! And don’t worry. We WERE able to fit in other things not related to Harry Potter or Outlander. (hah) We saw Kinky Boots in London, stumbled upon some Kelpies, looked for Nessie from Urquhart Castle, toured Fort George in Inverness, admired the views over Edinburgh, and took it upon ourselves to learn the ins and outs of Scottish whiskey. 😛
Take home message?
- Read Outlander (& Harry Potter if you really haven’t!).
- Go to Scotland.