Bohemian students, artists, writers and business people sitting on the one coffee and leaching the free Wi-Fi are the bane of a cafe owner’s existence. But what if one of those patrons actually became the best in the world in what they do? Lets just say the free Wi-Fi and coffee has been more than paid off by one prominent writer at this Edinburgh establishment.
The Elephant House Tea Room is a mecca for fans of one particular kid’s book – Harry Potter. The lightning bolt-scarred hunter of Horcruxes and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Grainger, chiefly because they were born here.
Back in 1995, while studying teaching at the Moray House School of Education at Edinburgh University, an impoverished single mother with her baby daughter would sit and write at Elephant House and Nicolson’s Café in between breaks. The warm café was perfect to get the infant to sleep and to give her time to write for hours. That single mother was none other than JK Rowling, a little known writer who is now the most famous author of our generation.
As far as rags to riches stories go, none can touch it. The love and obsession fans have for JK Rowling and her creations can really be felt at the Elephant House. It’s still a warm, pace, full of hodge-podge of second hand furniture, but this humble café is always packed with families and tourists and Edinburgh University students sipping coffee and tapping away on laptops.
In a glass display case opposite the front counter are a few pieces of Harry Potter memorabilia. A rare signed first issue of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is open at the autograph. These books now fetch up to $30,000!
Beyond the JK Rowling connection, elephants are celebrated on every other wall or mantelpiece. Cabinets are stacked with elephant related trinkets. Books about elephants from around the globe fill the shelves.
Highlights abound at the Elephant House – even if you don’t like the Harry Potter series. Firstly, the view from the back room windows is astounding. You’re overlooking the Greyfriars’ graveyard and up to the castle perched on its bedrock throne.
For a tea room, they offer a quality menu of tasty breakfast options including a full Scottish breakfast or pancakes with maple syrup. Then there’s the coffee – which is on point. Finally, for a little comic relief, spend a little time in the toilets. From floor to ceiling, every inch is covered in fan graffiti. Some is crass, but most is good humored and sharp as a tack.
Who knows if among those Edinburgh University students sitting for hours on the one coffee, typing away on their Macs is the next literary great.
The Elephant House is a cafe/tea room that was also where Harry Potter author, JK Rowling used to write.
21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN, UK
For those seeking out the Elephant House, it is conveniently located around three other major landmarks – the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh University and Greyfriar’s Bobby.