On the 17th of September, I received a very special letter in the post. It was addressed to me in green writing, with a waxed seal on the outside. I opened it immediately, thinking that surely this must be the letter that had been lost in the post for 14 long years… Opening the piece of parchment that was enveloped inside I was met with the words ‘Dear Miss Dovaston, I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted for a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’, signed by none other than Minerva McGonagal herself. Just as I was going to run downstairs to announce to the family that I was indeed a witch, and would be the next Hermione Granger, a text from my boyfriend came through asking if I had received anything nice in the post – in particular an exciting letter. Whilst my dream of going to Hogwarts was ruined, I soon discovered that it was in fact inviting me to the next best thing; The Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour! My boyfriend had booked us a surprise trip there in November, complete with a stay at a rather swanky hotel.
Before the trip, there was something very important which had to be done; finding out what Hogwarts House we belonged to. Deep down I knew that I would be a Gryffindor, and would join the ranks of Harry and Ron, and guess what the Pottermore quiz agreed! Next up was my boyfriend. As a bit of inner geek we were both expecting the result to be Ravenclaw. The result however certainly entertained me; Slytherin. His reaction to the news that he was placed into Slytherin was also priceless, and he requested another try at the quiz. Unfortunately, that’s not how the Sorting Hat works…
Mid-November, and the day arrived. Draco Malfoy, I mean Jack, picked me up in the Hogwarts Express (his red car) and we began our journey. Naturally, we had our trolley of snacks consisting of Tesco’s Limited-Flavour Jelly Beans, and lots of chocolate frogs (which weren’t in the shape of frogs…). Along the way, we thought it would be only right to listen to Harry Potter songs, to really get us in the mood for our outing. Eventually, 2 hours later, we arrived at our destination.
We were greeted with giant faces of the heroes; Harry, Ron, Hermione, Snape… Everybody you can think of! We then joined the queue and were taken inside to a giant cinema. This cinema was how all cinemas should be, with super comfy seats and plenty of legroom. We then began to watch a video on how the films were made and of course, how much effort and work went into them. As the film ended, something magical happened. The screen lifted, and there in front of us were the great doors of Hogwarts. A man who worked there suddenly appeared welcomed us all to Hogwarts. He brought us all round the front, and asked if it was anybody’s birthday as he wanted volunteers to open the doors. Obviously, it was definitely my birthday that day, and so we managed to grab a front-row seat in opening the doors of Hogwarts School. I began to push, and the doors slowly creaked open, and there it was; the Great Hall. It was wonderfully decorated with Pumpkins and floating candles, as well as multiple costumes from the films. In front of us, at the far end of the hall, was the big man himself; Albus Dumbledore. It was pretty amazing to be stood somewhere so iconic, and the hall was exactly how I’d imagined it to be. Interestingly, the floor was made of real stone, and so you really got a feel as to what it could have been like within Hogwarts.
Once we left the hall, we were free to look around all the other exhibits. There was Gryffindor common room, the potions lab, Dumbledore’s office… You name it, we saw it! As I was walking around it began to dawn on me as to just how much work and time must have gone into creating all of this. A particular highlight however was The Burrow (the Weasley’s house) – the exhibit showed us how a number of the domestic chores were managed by magic, such as the ironing, knitting and stirring pots on the stove. I wouldn’t mind a few of those things magically done for me at home!
We also couldn’t resist a ride on a broomstick – another definite highlight of the studio tour. Following our windswept flying experience, we made for one of the studio’s newest additions – the Forbidden Forest. As we made our way through the set, surrounded in mist and darkness, we came across a whole horde of huge spiders as well as Buckbeak the hippogriff.
Emerging at the other end, and safely away from the creepy crawlies, we spotted a gift shop and thought we’d get into the spirit by treating ourselves to a wand and a house scarf. We would probably have bought some robes too, but at £80 each, we thought perhaps not (even chocolate frogs were £10!). I bought Luna Lovegood’s wand along with a Gryffindor scarf. Jack on the other hand had to buy a Slytherin wand, and thought he’d set a theme and go for Malfoy’s wand too. Leaving the gift shop, we came across Hogwarts Express, and took the classic tourist shot of pushing our trolleys through the platform 93/4. We then climbed aboard the train and walked through, peering into the little compartments as we went, each of which was decorated with props from a number of different scenes.
We then stopped for a spot of lunch, and of course, a Butterbeer. I had heard about these drinks before, and wasn’t sure what I would make of them. Personally, it was far too sweet and sickly for my taste buds, but Jack on the other hand drank 2 cups worth, and loved the stuff! We left the canteen and explored the Knightbus and of course, Harry’s house on Privet drive which was far smaller than I imagined. Following this we then saw all of the magical creatures and props for the films, as well as Diagon Alley, before we reached the finale which was of course, a miniature Hogwarts School. It was not until I saw the model that I realised just how big Hogwarts was meant to be. The detail was incredible and it was amazing to think that the model had been built especially for the filming of all the movies. Sadly this marked the end of our tour and after this spectacle it was time to leave. I loved my tour of the studios, and it really made us feel like witches and wizards for the day.
A short drive from the studios, along some rather narrow and winding lanes, we made it to our hotel for the night – the De Vere Latimer Estate. The hotel was really lovely, and on arrival we were treated to a complementary upgrade. The room was still rather small, but was quintessentially British, and kitted out with everything you might need for a short stay and amazing views out over the estate. Once we had settled into our room we decided it was time for dinner and made our way down to the hotel’s restaurant. I opted for duck, which was beautifully prepared and presented, and tasted amazing too. Jack went for (you guessed it) the burger, but this time it was ‘different’ because it came in a pretzel bun. He claims that this was great, but unfortunately, he was only given 6 chips which wasn’t the best considering how much they were charging! Overall though, the hotel was very nice and I would recommend it to anybody who visits the studio.
I really loved my Harry Potter themed weekend and I pleased that I have finally made it the studios. If you ever want to revert back to being a child for the day, or just want to fuel your inner magic, a tour of the Harry Potter Studios is definitely for you! If you have already visited, let me know what you thought of it. As for now, there’s only one last thing to say…