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George Heriot's School

An outstanding example of Scots Renaissance architecture, now known worldwide as a mecca for Harry Potter fans.

TravelCurious Tip

Want to go inside? George Heriot’s School opens to the public on Doors Open Day in September

George Heriot’s School is renowned as an outstanding example of Scots Renaissance architecture. Its main building is a turreted edifice surrounding a large quadrangle, all built out of sandstone, and the intricate stonework above each window is unique, much of it carved by William Wallace, the then King’s master mason.


The school was built in 17th century with funds bequeathed by George Heriot, who served as goldsmith and banker to King James VI and was commonly known as Jinglin’ Geordie. On his death, he left roughly 25,000 Pound Scots to found an institution to care for the “puir, faitherless bairns” of Edinburgh.


His wish was carried out: originally known as George Heriot’s Hospital, his building served as a home and school for orphaned children until 1886, when it changed to become a fee-paying school. However, to this day it still serves its charitable purpose of providing free education to fatherless children. In recent years it has been among Edinburgh’s best performing schools.


A flash of inspiration

Pupils at George Heriot’s School belong to one of four houses: Lauriston, Greyfriars, Raeburn or Castle. If that seems a little familiar, there’s good reason: this school served as inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books. JK Rowling has lived in Edinburgh for years, and wrote the first Harry Potter book while staying warm in The Elephant House cafe. Get a coffee and see where the magic happened.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile
The picturesque historic thoroughfare of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Castle
For nearly 1000 years Edinburgh Castle has shaped Scottish history as both a royal residence and a military stronghold.
Princes Street Gardens
The lovely Princes Street Gardens lie in a valley previously occupied by the North Loch, drained during the construction of the New Town of Edinburgh.
St Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral has been at the spiritual heart of Edinburgh for over 900 years.
Parliament Square
The historic hub of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
Royal Mile Closes
The Closes of the Royal Mile are historic narrow alleyways named after their owners.

Related Tours

Wizarding World: Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, Private Tour
On this fantastical walking tour, you will visit some of the haunts where Rowling would sip coffee, and put pen to paper. Learn about this extraordinary author, see the places she herself drew inspiration from, and purchase novelties from Potter-themed shops.

  • Commence at Nicolson's Cafe, now Spoon, where Rowling would write 
  • Visit her favourite place to draw inspiration: Elephant House 
  • Walk through Greyfriars House , spotting as many familiar names as possible 
  • Compare the architecture of George Heriot's School to that of Hogwarts 
  • Explore Victoria St and Candlemaker Row, which inspired Diagon Alley 
  • Buy novelty gifts along the way 
In December 1993, J.K. Rowling moved to Edinburgh with her daughter and a notepad full of ideas. During her time in Scotland, she wrote seven books following the journey of a wizard, Harry Potter, and his life in this magical world. Fast-forward a decade or two, and over 500 million copies have been sold, 8 films made, and an enormous fanbase developed.

Begin your tour at Spoon, which was once Nicolson's Cafe, and the apparent birthplace of J. K. Rowling's books. More well-known is your next stop, The Elephant House, where Rowling would sit for hours writing and sipping coffee. Here, you can see Greyfriars House and George Heriot's School , both of which she used for inspiration for her magical world. Greyfriars House inspired the numerous graveyards scene in Harry Potter, and you can spot familiar character names on the gravestones. George Heriot's School was used as a basis for which Rowling developed Hogwarts. Conclude your tour at Diagon Alley (Victoria St and Candlemaker Row), where travellers flock to purchase novelties and perhaps to buy an owl or repair a wand.
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