Travel: Wizard weekend at The Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter

WITH the help of a little floo powder we could have reached our destination more quickly.

And such was the excitement of my two – and me, if the truth be known – that we would have loved to have got our hands on the glittery, silver powder used by witches and wizards to travel through the Floo Network.

There was so much magic when we arrived at The Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter, that it made mere muggles like ourselves fall under its spell sooner than you could say ‘expelliarmus!’.

We already knew we were in film-making land when the taxi driver taking us from our hotel to the giant hangars which were ‘home’ to Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson et al for so many years turned round and said: “You’ll never guess who I had in my cab last week…” It could have been scripted.

But it turned out we were sitting on the very seat which had been graced by Tom Cruise just days earlier, and it added to the excitement.

By the time we drove into the giant car park in front of the attraction’s entrance we were beyond excitement and the haunting theme tune as we strode up towards it gave us goosebumps and the hair on the back of our necks stand up.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, just outside Leavesden, provides an amazing opportunity to explore the magic of the most successful film series of all time, Harry Potter.

This unique walking tour takes you behind-the-scenes and showcases a huge array of beautiful sets, costumes and props.

And it also reveals some closely guarded secrets, including facts about the special effects and animatronics that made the franchise so hugely popular all over the world.

For three people who have absorbed the books many times over, and enjoyed the films more times than Dumbledore has presided over dinner in the Great Hall, it is an experience not be be missed and certainly to one day be repeated.

The Tour begins inside a cinema where the stars who brought Harry, Ronald and Hermione to life explain all about what’s in store, and the skill and dedication it took transporting JK Rowling’s tales from the page to the big screen.

As it ended the huge cinema screen rose up to reveal the giant doors which lead into the famous Hogwarts’ Hall. It provided the first ‘ooh’ of the day but it wasn’t the last by any means.

The huge hall was lined with costumes worn by the stars and, with its solid stone floor, and the top table set for dinner, you could almost imagine Dumbledore was about to enter, flanked by Professor McGonagall and Severus Snape, and a huge banquet was about to descend from the ceiling.

Callum and Lois walked around with their passports which they got stamped at various locations when they spotted a hidden golden snitch but, in truth, not tiny children any more, this lost its attraction as they were more interested in simply enjoying the sights to see.

And we were mesmerised.

Being able to stand at the edge of Dumbledore’s office; and step onto the cobbles of Diagon Alley was so special; to see the shop fronts of Ollivanders wand shop, Flourish and Blotts, the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Eeylops Owl Emporium is an amazing experience.

We ‘wowed’ and wondered at the iconic props including Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broomstick and Hagrid’s motorbike and side car.

A particular highlight was the potions room, lined with bottles and bowls which magically stirred themselves.

But, so too, was being able to see the dormitories with the four poster beds, so small the cast had to dangle their feet out of the bottom out of camera-shot! And we loved the Gryffindor common room, Hagrid’s hut and Professor Umbridge’s office at the Ministry of Magic.

We toasted the Tour with a butterbeer while, outdoors, we knocked at the door of the Dursleys and hitched a ride on the Night Bus.

Words cannot do justice to the thrill of being able to get so up close and personal to the sets of such an iconic film series and story, and one which had earned a special placed in the hearts of Callum and Lois, and made such an impact in their formative years.

We learned how creatures were brought to life with animatronics and green screen special effects before being blown away by the stunning, hand sculpted 50ft wide scale model of Hogwarts Castle itself, used for exterior shots of Hogwarts for the first six films and which brought a tear to the eye.

We spent four and a half hours wandering around the tour and our legs tired before our enthusiam waned.

I was glad we had decided to stay in a hotel close to the Studio Tour rather than travel there and back in a day – eminently do-able, but to be able to relax afterwards and recall the highlights as we enjoyed dinner in the De Veres Hotel Hunton Park, which backs onto the Tour ground, served to add to our experience and make a break of our visit instead of simply a day out.

The charming Queen Anne house has been skillfully transformed into a hotel which combines the elegance of a period home with modern day features and comforts.

And it was the perfect place in which to unwind. Set in 22 acres of landscaped gardens, leisure facilities include an 18-hole putting green, indoor swimming pool, boules, croquet lawn and trim trail, and just a five minute drive from the Tour. You could even walk – we were told it would take about 15-20 minutes, so it couldn’t be better placed.

The Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter celebrates its first anniversary this year and is planning a celebration with surprises, giveaways and extra experiences around the attraction between now and Sunday, April 14. So there has never been a better time to visit – and prepare to be spellbound.

Tickets for The Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter are £21.50 per child and £29 per adult. A family ticket is £85. www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/ 08450 840 900.

Book for De Vere’s Hunton Park , Essex Lane , Hunton Bridge , Hertfordshire , WD4 8PN. 0844 980 2311 www.deverevenues.co.uk Until June 6, rooms from £19 per room, per night.

Janet Tansley and family travelled on Virgin Trains. Best deals by booking in advance and travelling off-peak. Single fares start at £12.50 (advance standard) and £38 (advance first). 0871 977 4222, www.virgintrains.com

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