The journey there was a bit of a 'mare. Rush hour, signal problems, 'coupling' issues and missed connections meant it took three hours door to door. I was a little fearful of being unable to locate the shuttle from Watford Junction to the studios, but when a bloody great double-decker Harry Potter bus drifted passed in all its magical painted glory I realised I had been an idiot for expecting a ramshackle mini-bus with black exhaust fumes and a side door held shut with fraying string and a clothes peg. Apparently I have low expectations of my own country.
Once inside the studios we were immediately made to feel welcome. Very welcome. Very very welcome. We had trouble even taking a few steps before we were ambushed by multiple smiling and suspiciously good-looking people who were desperate to know if we were okay and did we know where we were going and what we were doing. This would have been annoying, but as it happened we had no idea where we were going and or what we were doing and the hanging props and massive canvasses of the cast were awfully distracting and it therefore really did take three different people to help us collect our tickets and find the tour entrance.
Even with our timed-entry tickets we had to queue for around thirty minutes. Once inside we were seated in a cinema and treated to a video of the cast talking about the tour. Then the screen lifted and behind it was the door to the great hall. Wow. Yeah. I've seen the hall its based on in Oxford, but this was something else. We then went on to see many other spectacular sets. The Gryffindor common room, the boy's dormitory, Hagrid's hut, Umbridge's pink office among them. My favourite without a doubt was Diagon Alley. It really was like walking right into the books and films.
The highlight of the day, though, was the butterbeer. Holy concentrated sugar, Batman! I've never tasted anything like it and am considering starting a campaign to make it available in Sainsburys. I would go back just for more butterbeer. I drank it on the Knight Bus and then watched opened-mouthed as it began to snow around me. Snow, in bloody May! Crazy.
I wasn't impressed by the giant hanging spider. Because of that disgusting, repulsive, realistic prop I couldn't get a good look at Buckbeak.
The tour finished with a spectacular, giant-sized, to-scale model of Hogwarts and then after a small panic at not being able to get out and that we were trapped forever by some terrible Dark Lord we found the hidden exit and were thrust into a very expensive gift shop. I wanted to buy everything, but settled for a Slytherin keyring and a few small presents. I regret not buying myself a pink pygmy puff and wished dearly there was such thing as a cuddly Voldemort. My friend bought me a Slytherin scarf, which I proudly wore home on the train. At Watford Juntion I was accosted by a small Gryffindor who pointed his wand and tried to disarm me with Expelliarmus. Luckily, the spell backfired and I did not fling my coffee across the waiting room.
This pic of Hogwarts does no justice to the immensity of the actual thing. It's fills an entire room. A very large and very tall room!