I recently had the absolute pleasure of being in Edinburgh for the closing weekend of the fringe. You can read about my trip here, but after quite literally stumbling across The Elephant House, I knew I had to give it a post of its own.
I have Harry Potter suffused within my soul. I cannot reflect on my childhood without including the stories, the fandom, and all the precious memories it in turn inspired. I truly owe so much to J.K Rowling's wonderful imagination and the have spent many happy hours as a child within the walls of Hogwarts.
After attending a performance in the Udderbelly venue down the road we happened upon the cafe quite by chance, as I noticed it only when inching around a crowd of people eager to get inside. Excitement, slightly tempered by the migraine brewing in my brow, filled me and I knew I had to experience the place that J.K had herself sat and written in.
Technically it was the afternoon so of course that meant tea and cake, which was only a bonus feature to the surroundings. If you're popping along for a visit, make sure you get a seat in the back. You'll soon realise why (take a look at the picture below). Understandably, the cafe is different today to what it was when J.K no doubt took relief from Edinburgh's busy city streets. I imagine it was cheap and quiet back than, and it certainly isn't now! This got me thinking about the value we put on the places inhabited by the people we admire. We invest so much in a tangible connection to something that is so essentially, imaginary. A real, lived experience adds substance to what many condemn as fancy, and unites our singular experience within a collective whole. The Elephant House is a church, and I was there on pilgrimage.
Just look at that view. Squint and it could be Hogwarts, minus a few spiralled towers. Overhanging a craggy cliff-face, Edinburgh castle's inspirational silhouette is in clear view from one of the sunny tables in the cafe, and is pretty much imprinted onto the pages of J.K's famous novels.
Migraine reaching a peak and a cup of gunpowder green tea not helping much, I had to make a dash to the toilet. The decor of The Elephant Cafe is understated and doesn't have much 'boastiness' about it. The toilets however, all but shook me out of my ever-gripping migraine. Every inch, and I mean EVERY inch of the walls, ceiling, mirror, door were covered in messages and murals to J.K Rowling.
This quote particularly stood out to me, as I had slept in Trafalgar Square during the run up to the last premiere (such is the extent of my devotion), and heard this speech first hand. Hogwarts does welcome you home, when home isn't a place but a feeling of warmth, happiness and expectation. As Herman Melville most eloquently puts it, 'it is not down on any map, true places never are', and J.K Rowling's novels are, most decidedly, one of these 'true places'.
Although hot, busy and a little over-priced, The Elephant House is at once a cafe and a link to something far more special.
Saying that, the cake was rather scrummy too...