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Edinburgh on Film

Edinburgh on Film

Edinburgh Film | The Edinburgh Collection


Where Hollywood meets Holyrood.

Edinburgh is known for its festivals. Most notably, the Fringe Festival. Every year millions of people come to the city throughout the month of August to experience the 70-year-old event. However, the fringe is not the only festival that draws a crowd to the city. Also taking place is the Book Festival and Military Tattoo in August, The Jazz and Blues Festival in July and the International Film Festival in June.

Edinburgh has always been a city that can captivate the tourists who walk down its cobbled streets or peer up at the century-old architecture. The city has a feeling of magic, an air that makes you wonder about the past and gets you curious about the future. So, it does not come as a surprise to know that Edinburgh has been the inspiration for many stories both on the page and on the screen.

To get you ready for the Edinburgh Internation Film Festival, here is a list of the films that use Edinburgh’s unique landscape, buildings and streets.

Trainspotting and T2

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Perhaps the most famous film ‘series’ based and filmed in Edinburgh. The film holds a special place in the hearts of Edinburgh residents as an almost claim to fame. When watching the iconic original film and the recent sequel, look out for the following places; Arthurs Seat, Regent Bridge, Old Town, Scottish Parliment, Forth Bridge and St Stephens Stockbridge.

The DaVinci Code

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Based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown. Robert Howard directs Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in this page-to-screen adaptions. The film does not heavily feature Edinburgh. However, it does feature the often overlooked Rosslyn Chapel. The Chapel has its mysteries outside of the movie. Beneath the floor of Rosslyn is a massive underground vault, of which was sealed in 1690 and has remained that way ever since. Of course, as you would expect, there has been a lot of speculation as to what, or who lies within the vault.

Cloud Atlas

Tom Hanks returns to Edinburgh in this mind-bending sci-fi film. This film is an ambitious one in which the story spans five centuries. It is a complicated film to explain, even after viewing you will find yourself confused, yet satisfied. However, if you watch it for just one reason and one reason only. Make said reason Edinburgh. The city is used as a beautiful backdrop to the 19th century period where one of the characters climbs the Scott Monument daily to clear his mind.

(Old Waverley Hotel is the building on the left on the image above)

Sunshine on Leith

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Known as ‘McMamma’ Mia, Sunshine on Leith is a musical comedy that uses the songs of The Proclaimers, of ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ fame. This film is perhaps the most Scottish on this list. Scottish actors, accents, music, setting, clothing and spirit. It is about the characters Davy and Ally, who must relearn how to live in Edinburgh after serving in Afghanistan. It is a ‘Feel-Fabulous Film’ to which Edinburgh is the perfect location.

One Day

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Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star in this love story about two people from different strokes of life. It is based on the famous novel of the same name, written by David Nicholls. Edinburgh provides a lovely backdrop for the film, and you could argue that it even acts as a supporting character to the characters of Hathaway and Sturgess.

The 39 Steps

Hitchcocks ‘The 39 Steps’ being filmed by Arthurs Seat

A few adaptions of John Buchan’s novel have been made and set in Edinburgh. Most famously, however, is the film ‘The 39 Steps’ by the great Alfred Hitchcock. It is a universally praised film and has been named the 21st greatest British movie ever made, and in 2011 ranked it the second-best book-to-film adaptation of all time.

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire | Film Edinburgh | The Edinburgh Collection
Eric Liddel (Ian Charleson) talks to Sybil Gordon (Alice Krige) at the foot of famous Edinburgh landmark, Arthurs Seat

This Oscar-winning historical drama about Scottish Olympic athlete, Eric Liddel. The film was released in 1981, but Edinburgh looks almost identical today as it does in the movie. The film follows Eric Liddel, a devout Christian who runs for God and thus refuses to compete on a Sunday and  Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.

The Railway Man

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View from Calton Hill in the film ‘The Railway Man.’

Colin Firth stars in this dramatic war film depicting the life of an Edinburgh-born Railway enthusiast turned POW. Edinburgh isn’t the movie’s main backdrop, no, that honour goes to Thailand, and it’s Burma Railway Line, also known as ‘Bridge of Death’. When Edinburgh is shown, you see the gorgeous views from Calton Hill (as pictured above) and of course, Waverley Railway Station.

Avengers: Infinity War

Marvel Studios | Avengers Infinity War | The Edinburgh CollectionSet Phots! (Left: Royal Mile, Centre Top: Spiderman on the castle, Centre Bottom: Green screen in Waverley Station. Right: Canongate stunt tests)

Anyone who was in Edinburgh throughout March/April 2017. You may have noticed Edinburgh become a huge film set. This was of course for the new film production of Marvel Studios billion dollar blockbuster film Avengers: Infinity War. Eagle-eyed fans may have spotted stars, Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlett Witch) around the city.

One photo that seemed to catch the attention of a lot was that of Tom Hollands Spider-Man atop the Castle. Perhaps preparing for an epic web-sling over the historic Old Town.

Better yet, the film is not just being filmed in Edinburgh. It is going to be set there. The sets were littered with Scottish props and odes to Edinburgh. So, once the movie is released, it should see a huge boom in tourism to the city.

Honourable Mention

Harry Potter Franchise.

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While JK Rowling’s globally recognised stories about the young wizard Harry Potter were no set in Edinburgh and the films were not shot in the city. You can see when walking through the city, where she got the inspiration for her Wizarding World.

Harry Potter Tour – J.K. Rowling’s Edinburgh Inspiration.

Harry Potter Tour – J.K. Rowling’s Edinburgh Inspiration.

The Edinburgh Collection | Harry Potter



Harry Potter may live between the spellbinding pages of J.K. Rowlings best-selling book series. However, walk around Edinburgh and you will soon feel like you too are walking in the same magical world. With all the unusual streets, wonderful buildings and other wizz-poppingly fantastic attributes. It is no wonder ‘Jo’ drew so much inspiration from the city.

Here is a list of a few places that inspired the famous books.


Harry Potter Edinburgh | Elephant House

J.K. Rowling used to come to The Elephant House cafe to pen her books, she would sit at the book where she was treated to a spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle which as you can probably imagine is a great view if you want to draw inspiration of a magical world.

Now, The Elephant Cafe is packed full of tourists wanting to soak in even just a drop of J.K. Rowlings life. To all you die hard fans. Yes, you can still sit in her table. If you want an idea of how many Harry Potter fans are drawn to this cafe – just look at the toilets.

Harry Potter Edinburgh | Toilet

Fans have graffiti-ed the toilets with all sorts of Harry Potter related scribbles. (images credit:


Harry Potter Edinburgh | George Heriots School

You probably already guessed which particular building J.K. Rowling used this magnificant building as inspiration. That’s right, Hogwarts was based on Sir George Heriot’s School (not of witchcraft and wizardry).

In addition to taking inspiration from the schools grand architechture. J.K. Rowling also modelled the famous Hogwart’s house system on the one in place at George Heriot’s. The schools houses are Castle, Lauriston, Raeburn and Greyfriars which aren’t too dissimilar to Rowling’s own Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. It’s borderline theft. However, I don’t believe that George Heriot’s school has a sorting hat.


Harry Potter Edinburgh | Tom Riddell Grave

No Harry Potter Tour would be complete without a visit to ‘He who shall not be named’. Just behind Hogwarts George Herriot’s School there is a famous graveyard called Greyfriars which houses many notable people including the famous dog who showed heartbreaking loyalty to it’s owner and also it houses the world most recorded poltergeist.

However, some people who stroll through the site (as J.K. Rowling herself used to do) you will find the grave of none-other than Thomas Riddell. The dark lord himself. J.K. Rowling used to take walks around the site to perhaps clear her head or maybe she went with the purpose to find great names from deceased people. What is know for sure is that she drew direct inspiration from this mans grave.


Harry Potter Tour | Victoria Street

There’s a street just below the Elephant Cafe and Greyfriars Kirkyard called Victoria Street in Grassmarket. Which when you see it, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture the bizarre Diagon alley. With it’s cobbled windy street and tall ornate buildings it’s no wonder J.K. Rowling decided to create a magical version of this street in her novels.

Harry Potter Edinburgh | Aha Ha Ha

AHA HA HA Jokes & Novelties lays at the foot of the street which perhaps played muse to the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. The shops actually used to have a sign in it’s window telling tourists that it wasn’t a real life version of the shop.


Harry Potter Edinburgh | Balmoral

Now as a hotel company ourselves, we don’t like to advertise other hotels. However, on this occassion it seems too crucial not to as it is the end of our Harry Potter Tour, and the end of Harry Potter itself.

In January 2007, J.K. Rowling checked herself into the Balmoral Hotel room 552 to be exact. It was in that room that she finished writing the famed Harry Potter series. Rumor has it that upon completion. She popped open a fizz-wizz bottle of champagne and enjoyed it (as you would) and finally she picked up a black marker pen and wrote ‘J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.’ on a marble bust.

As a token of honor to the author and her time spent in their suite.  The Balmoral Hotel renamed the room the ‘J.K. Rowling suite.’ If you happen to be a particularly wealthy fan. You can stay in the room which has been kept in exactly the same condition as she left it, they have also added a brass owl door knocker. However, I think the bust is enclosed within a glass case now.

It will cost you £1,415 per night if you want to stay here.

If you want a view just as nice as the one J.K. Rowling enjoyed and also cheaper then stay at the Old Waverly Hotel where you can stay in a viewtiful room. Perhaps you can capture some of the same magic she did from this lovely city. book now.


If you have spare time and want to add a little extra magic to your Harry Potter Tour then here are some bonus thing to see.


Harry Potter Edinburgh | JK Hands

J.K. Rowling has been immortalised in Edinburgh’s City Chambers. Her name will obviously never be forgotten as it is written on the cover of billions of books. But now she has some golden hand prints too. J.K. Rowling became the second recipient of the Edinburgh Award in 2008. The award is given to Edinburghers and the winners have their hand prints installed in the City Chambers quadrangle.


While writing her famed series, J.K. Rowling attended the prestigious Edinburgh University. Right next to the university campus is a street named Potterrow during the 16th/17th century it was used for pottery stalls in the old town of Edinburgh. As a student, J.K. Rowling would have been well acquainted with the street, which no doubt served as an inspiration for the naming of her famous protagonist.