|The cupboard under the stairs|
We got to walk through the Great Hall (sadly without that enchanted ceiling...), which had two of the four tables in it, and seems a lot smaller in real life! It was a great start to the tour, and the little details were fun to spot, such as the house points counter up on the dais (Gryffindor were way out in front). They had some of the original costumes, including the huge costume that Robbie Coltrane wore as Hagrid. It was news to me that he had a (taller) body double at times, and a robotic Hagrid head does some of the scenes, rather than Coltrane - I had genuinely never noticed that, so it'll be interesting to see if I can spot it now...
The rest of the tour was self-guided, and there was so much to see that it seemed almost impossible to take everything in, no matter how many ways you tried to look at once. There were some unexpected bits that I really enjoyed seeing, like five versions of the same outfit that Harry wears, in various stages of distress, and plenty of original sets: the Gryffindor common room, the boys' dormitory, Dumbledore's office, Hagrid's hut, and the Burrow (or, as the French girls behind me yelled gleefully, "la maison de Weasley!"). I really liked Dumbledore's office (where apparently the books are actually recovered phone books), and the Burrow had the magical iron and the magical knitting, all going on while no one was home.
One thing I was really excited to see were the green tiled fireplaces from the Ministry of Magic - I always loved how that was brought to life on screen. A weird little thing, but still one of my favourites, was a pile of letters like the ones used in the scene where Hogwarts writes to Harry care of his cupboard under the stairs, to tell him that he's a wizard.
That part of the books - the Muggle world at the beginning of each one, but particularly in the first book - is one of my favourite aspects of the series. I don't think you can beat the scenes where Harry finds out he's a wizard. Nothing makes me feel more like a kid than that. So I was also really happy to see the exterior set of 4 Privet Drive - not that it looks that different from the house I grew up in, or loads like them, but it was still interesting to see it.
We also saw the Knight Bus, the Hogwarts bridge, the Potters' cottage, and Tom Riddle's grave, which was in an outside section. I thought the tour was over at this point, but there was quite a lot more to see. There was a room dedicated to the special effects and how a lot of the non-human characters were made and animated: Dobby, the goblins, Buckbeak, and the dragons. They had parts of the basilisk (eek) and the Aragog model, which was suitably disturbing.
And then... Diagon Alley! Again, a little smaller than expected, but absolutely fantastic to get to walk down in and see all the shop fronts, including the Weasley's shop. As one of those early scenes I mentioned earlier, the first time Harry gets to see Diagon Alley is also one of my favourite bits of the book, so it was pretty exciting to get to do the same walk for the first time!
The scale model of Hogwarts was really (sorry) magical, and I spent quite a lot of time in that part - it was so well done. Although the whole experience is based around the films, it was easy to have the books in mind at the same time, because although a lot of stuff from the books was cut from the films, they stayed faithful in a lot of other ways. Seeing some of my favourite parts of the Harry Potter world come to life was definitely worth the trip - if you ever get chance to go, I'd definitely recommend it (broomstick riding and Butterbeer optional!).
It's made me want to re-read the Harry Potter books again - I last did it about four or five years ago, so it might be time to dig them all out again!
[All pictures are mine.]