Seen here from the roof of Ediburgh’s Camera Obscura on the Royal Mile, it’s easy to understand how this 400 year old school inspired JK Rowling to create a magical school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Most of us know that Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book while staying warm in the Elephant Cafe in Edinburgh, and has lived in the city for years. She had a rich and beautiful city from which she pulled so many great details for the story. Principal among them was Hogwarts itself. You can read about the history and architecture of the school here on the school’s website. There is so much information, it’s really worth a look.
George Heriot was a very wealthy goldsmith for Anne of Denmark and her husband King James VI of Scotland. Upon his death he bequeathed a trust to establish the school for “puir, fatherless bairns” (orphaned* children) as a gift to the city of his birth.
Even though the school today has many students who pay tuition, it is still a charitable organization which provides a free education to orphans.
The school is not normally open to the public, but there are occasional open days. Next time we’re in Edinburgh and have a bit of free time I’m going to try our luck and see if we can take a look inside.
*Thanks to a comment from an insider, I was corrected on this. “fatherless bairns” means just that, children without fathers. I’m quite sure single mothers were very grateful for the opportunity for their children.