Tom Riddle's Buried Bones

If you're a Harry Potter fan then Edinburgh is Mecca, there is an impressive list of spots that served as inspiration to J.K. Rowling's works. There is even a cafe called the Elephant House where she is reputed to have spent no small amount of time writing. As a result, you can get in on tours that take you to see the real life inspiration for sites like Diagon Alley and even Hogwarts itself. But if the secret passageway laden halls of Hogwarts energize your imagination then a tour might make it all too easy. Personally, I'm a bigger fan of exploration and discovery. Imagine then my delight when discovering the cemetery containing the final remains of Tom Riddle were a quick walk from my hotel. The spelling is a little different - Riddell - but with a little tweaking Rowling was supposed to have chosen this as the name for Voldemort in his slightly less demonic youth.

The cemetery is called Greyfriars Kirkyard and is well worth a visit in its own rights. From there one is treated to great views of the surrounding architecture of Edinburgh, including Edinburgh Castle. When stumbling upon this info I got a general idea of the placement of Riddell's headstone along with a warning that you'll really need to search to find it. As you can imagine there is a lot of centuries old stone marking burial sites, and a lot of engraving has worn away making the task all the more complicated. On the plus side though, the site is well cool enough to make having to look around a worthy pursuit. Here's what you need to know...

When entering Greyfriars from the front the church will be directly before you. If you're looking to fast track then follow the footpath to the left of the church, walking all the way back to the Flodden wall. You will see an archway leading to additional burial space, your objective is back there. Go through the Flodden wall arch, Riddell's headstone is mounted on the wall almost all the way to the end. Following the foot path turn right you go down this row of odd looking burial sites that look sort of like farmhouse wash basins. Anyway, go to the end and turn right when there is a wall in front of you. You'll then be facing the wall that you walked through when you entered via the arch. The right-most headstone mounted to the wall is a lot darker than the wall and about the size of a typical portrait. to the right of that are two much taller headstones also mounted to the wall. I was there in February, the ground there was churned up with frozen footprints. Clearly a popular tour stop. You have arrived.

By the way, whilst at Greyfriars there's an extra bonus. Going through photos of the expedition I saw this, which I realized from some of the details of the architecture was George Heriot's School. This site is also on the Potter tours as it is reputed to be the model for Hogwarts itself!

I read one thing describing this quest, that story pointed out that in front of this grave site is a large area where even grass refuses to grow. It’s true, the kirk is mostly grassy but none is in front of Riddell's grave. No doubt there is a simple landscaping explanation, probably tied to the endless flow of visitors hungry for Potter sites. The article played the Voldemort card here, suggesting the bleakness was due to a of zone of evil. To be fair, I know nothing about Riddell's real life, but he is buried on sacred ground. Out of respect for the dead I feel motivated to point out that he was most likely a decent enough guy, at least by early Edinburgh standards. The stories of the city's past can be pretty inhuman, including public execution for witchcraft by torcher serving as bring-the-family entertainment for the locals. There was a time in Edinburgh’s history where Voldemort would probably have fit right in. I'm sure the real Tom Riddell can, in fact, be named.

Tom Riddle's Buried Bones