“We do not need magic to transform our world.
We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.”
― J.K. Rowling
I have made no secret of the fact that I absolutely love Harry Potter. I’ve read the books greedily, eagerly awaiting the publication date of the next one. I’ve read and re-read them. I have seen all the films, cried at all the sad bits, laughed at all the happy bits, and generally made a big deal about each one.
I broke down when Dobby died; it was the worst thing that has ever happened in literary history. It’s even worse than when Beth died in Little Women and that is saying something (remember that episode of Friends where Joey had to put Rachel’s copy of Little Women in the freezer?)
Big Harry Potter fan. Huge. I’m a complete and utter Potter nerd.
So – in keeping with my plan to spend more time visiting places in the UK before I leave for New Zealand in 29 days (gulp!) – my parents booked tickets to go to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour as part of my 29th birthday present. I’ve been excited about it for months but, with the business that is Christmas, it seemed to creep up on us.
My parents have never seen a Harry Potter film before, or even picked up one of the books, so I wasn’t sure what they’d think of it. We left the house early, with our packed lunch in hand (this is a must as the food is both limited and really expensive) and headed towards Watford. It was only a couple of hours drive from The Midlands and pretty easy to find. Based in an old aircraft hangar, it’s a great big monster of a building, embossed with huge pictures from the films which are a bit of a giveaway.
When you book your tickets online (again, this is a must as you can’t book tickets at the studio, and I’d suggest booking quite far in advance if you want a certain time and day) you choose a particular time slot, however, if you get there early enough, you might be able to get in to an earlier tour if the queues aren’t too long.
I really don’t want to ruin the tour for anyone, as I believe these things should come with an element of surprise, and I actually avoided people who wanted to tell me all about the tour before I went, so I will keep some of the surprised to myself.
The tour started in the Great Hall and, as its Christmas, it was all dressed up for the occasion – Christmas trees complete with magical flying witches around the top, self lighting Christmas puddings, and roast turkey with all the trimmings. The food is completely fake which is good for health and safety purposes, but it was so well put together it looked completely real and was making me feel really hungry.
Next up was the “props” room which was amazing. And absolutely huge, you really don’t think about all those intricate details that go in to the making of films. There were all sorts of items dotted around: wigs, clothes, full sets from the films such as the Gryffindor Common Room and the boys dormitory, Dumbledore’s office, owls, tiles from The Ministry of Magic entrance, and my favourite, Dolores Umbridge’s office room full of creepy cat plates.
Then it was on to the a real life mock-up of Privet Drive which looked like a row of houses on any street in the UK plus the Knight Bus and Ford Anglia complete with photo opportunities. And nothing says Christmas better than a snow machine pumping out fake snow as you walk across the Hogwarts bridge!
The “creature” room was both terrifying and a little disappointing. All through the tour I was hoping to catch a glimpse of my favourite character, Dobby the House-elf, but the only real sighting of him was a creepy toy in the gift ship and an equally creepy plastic severed Dobby head impaled on a stick. Not the way you’d like to remember your favourite character! There was also an animatronic Buckbeak, a basilisk head and a horrific looking acromantula stuffed in a corner!
“If you must know, when I was three, Fred turned my – my teddy bear into a great big filthy spider because I broke his toy broomstick… You wouldn’t like it either if you’d been holding your bear and suddenly it had too many legs and… “
But passing this fanged monster was worth it because next up was a truly awe-inspiring representation of Diagon Alley. Now, I’ve been to Universal Studios in Florida which boasts a “Harry Potter World” as part of its attractions. It truly is amazing, with a life-action Olivander’s and sweet shop where you can buy all then fictional sweets (albeit for a huge price!). But there is something wonderful about the slightly dingy, magical version at the London Studio. I can’t explain it and I don’t think my photos do the feeling justice – you just have to pay a visit yourself.
Completely in awe, we followed up Diagon Alley with a walk through the illustrations room. Walls were adorned with wonderful artist’s representations of various scenes from the novels, as well as white card models of different sets – including one of Hogwarts castle itself – which were created by very talented people as a way to mark where all the cameras should be placed when it came to filming.
I then though we’d come to the end of the tour but it seems they decided to leave the best to last. A large scale model of Hogwarts Castle in the snow! I really don’t think I can describe how utterly beautiful this really was, or how talented the designers and builders of the model are. Take a look at the pictures below and see what you think!
The tour is really worth the visit and, at £31 per ticket (adult price) it really is worth the visit. The tour lasts around 3 hours on average (we did it in 2 but we didn’t really stop for lunch or refreshments in the café halfway round like most people) although the guide did tell us that one family stayed for 12 hours!
The best thing about the tour – other than the amazing sets – is the fact that is a self-led tour. It begins with a tour guide, and there are very helpful members of staff dotted around the tour space if you’ve got any questions or need someone to snap a picture of you.
Have you been to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Tour recently? How did it differ to the “special” Hogwarts at Christmas exhibition? Are you a crazy Potter fan like me? What other UK attractions would you recommend?