As everyone gets older it can get more and more difficult to find xmas presents for people. The family decided to do arts and crafts a few years back and that’s been a lot of fun. But for people like my brother and parents, finding presents has been a bit of a pain.
When stuck for something I usually go with the “day out” choice. It gives them a memorable day and something to look forward to. A few years back I got my brother an Aston Martin experience and he had a lot of fun.
So when I heard that they were doing a Harry Potter studio tour, I thought it would be a great idea for a present. My brother and father had made it a tradition to take my father to see the movies since the books made him start reading, so it seemed a good fit.

But in all honesty at that time, I had no idea of what to expect. The attraction hadn’t even been built and I wasn’t clear exactly what to expect. However the chance to do a Xmas present that consisted of a letter saying they had each been invited to Hogwart’s was too good to pass up and so I got them the present.

Roll forward to last Saturday and the day of our visit. A few friends had already gone and spoken highly of it, so I was pretty excited (even though I was still buzzing from seeing The Avengers the night before). The attraction had implemented an entry time, presumably to help control crowd-flow and I’m really glad that we’d booked to enter early.
They said the whole tour would take around 3 hours but we spent 5 hours and could have spent at least another 90 minutes there.

The attraction collects some of the sets and props from all eight movies, showcasing the costumes, props, sets and animatronics. You start in the Great Hall and my only downside to the whole event was that you were rushed through to make way for the next group. It’s the only place that is really guided (the rest you walk around at your leisure) and I wanted to spend much more time there.
And yes, I know it’s just a set, and a set that has been recreated, but still, there’s such a sense of being there. You’ve seen the Great Hall in the movies and in your mind from the books and here you are… standing in it. There’s something a little overwhelming about it.
Other sets are behind guard rails but are set up so that you do step into the edge of them. There is the Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore’s office, potions classroom, the Burrow, parts of the Ministry of Magic and much more.

What surprised me was the level of detail you never get to see in the books. One section showed Dumbledore’s will from Deathly Hallows and I was surprised when standing up close and reading it that, yes, the text is actually that of Dumbledore’s will, not just some Lorem Ipsum.
There was a great bit on the SFX where you can go and stand in front of a green screen and it be turned into the flying car scene, or climb on a broomstick and fly to Hogwarts. There was the option to buy photos of your green screen experience and I was worried when I couldn’t see the prices listed nar the entrance. My brother’s Aston Martin experience photos were £20 each and I was prepared for something like that. But whilst it was £12 for 1 picture, it was £15 for 2, £18 for 3 and £20 for 4. At £5 an A3 photo I didn’t think it bad value at all.
Half way round there’s an open area with some of the vehicles from the movie, Privet Drive and Godric’s Hollow. There’s a covered café for parents to have a rest while kids can have a bit of a run around before the second half of the tour. By now my camera battery was flat but I posed with everything and made my family take pictures (“It’s for the website,” was my excuse).

The SFX section was interesting, and the lifesize Dumbledore model was scarily real. I expected him to open his eyes at any moment. There was even a ‘baby voldemort’ from the last movie that people could animate by pressing a button on a case.
Then it was Diagon Alley. You weren’t able to go into any of the shops but could look through the windows of Olivanders and the Weasley’s joke shop. By now we were starting to tire and I think both here and in the adjacent concept art section we could have spent a lot more time.

Finally there was a model of Hogwart’s that was so large it wouldn’t fit in most people’s gardens. It was used for all the flyby shots of Hogwart’s except for the last few movies and was incredibly detailed. I could have spent hours looking at it.
As you exit there’s a room filled with wand boxes. Each one has a name on it, and together they represent the cast and crew of all the movies. I thought this was a nice touch.
We entered at 10am and left a little after 3pm after spending more money than sane adults should in the gift shop. I highly recommend a visit whether you like Harry Potter or are just interested in movie making. I definitely came away with a new found appreciation of the amount of work that goes into making a movie like one of the Harry Potters, and now have a better understanding of just how movies get to have such huge budgets.