1. You feel like a child.
You go into a cinema and are shown an introductory film about the tour. Then the screen rises up and holy HELL, there’s a huge door behind it. This woman asks everyone if they’re excited, and you shout “YEAH!” louder than all the children who are there put together. Then the door slowly opens and…
Thought the whole thing was CGI magic? No, they built this place from scratch. It looks pretty much as it did in the films — even the candles are floating above the tables (although you can see the wires).
In fact, for the first half hour or so, you’re just in awe. You’re reminded that for just over a decade, Britain built a magical world of winter balls and curvy secret passages…
2. You end up completely sucked into Harry’s magical world.
And when you look at your pictures afterwards, you’ll realise exactly how long you spent walking around grinning like a tool.
Look at these people. They’re being taught a sneaky wand attack preferred by Death Eaters, and that isn’t sad. That’s AMAZING.
3. You’re blown away by the ambition and amount of work that went into everything.
Look at Dumbledore’s office. Just LOOK AT IT. Those bookshelves are phone directories that have been rebound and covered in dust.
Yes. Diagon Alley is an alley. There are 20,000 different packages and goods in this street. The buildings have been bent and twisted with ropes and winches.
They really built a world here.
Including the cottage where it all began.
And building a world takes incredible skill. The concept art and the detailed models alone took many, many hours.
And a huge number of actual documents were made for the movies — there were thousands of letters for a start, but they had to be rewritten after they were found to be too heavy for the owls.
Some of the props — like the Magic is Might statue and the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets — are ludicrously oversized.
4. You realise that however lost in this world you might be, there are people far more lost than you.
A great many adults have come in full costume.
5. Then things start to get a bit creepy.
This is actually scarier than when you saw it in the movie.
And that’s before you turn around and realise there’s a giant spider suspended from the ceiling and staring at you.
6. And then you remember that Harry Potter was quite bleak sometimes.
It was, at its heart, a story about the desperate need to escape the miserable claustrophobia of middle-class British suburbia.
You ask yourself, was Harry Potter ever really a story about magic at ALL? For example, who was really scarier: Voldemort or Dolores Umbridge, a woman whose main trait was the strength of her conviction in her own righteousness, a person we’ve met, by degrees, over and over in our lives?
You start to feel a bit down.
7. And then you wonder if you should have come here.
Because it’s destroying the magic. Quidditch: an elaborate and highly technical deception. It didn’t happen.
None of it was real. Nearly Headless Nick wasn’t really a ghost.
8. The harrowing truth about adulthood hits you.
Here is a stand that sells Butterbeer. It tastes exactly as you’d expect Butterbeer to taste and no one asks what the ingredients are because they don’t want to spoil the magic.
Next to it is a Starbucks.
The houses of Hogwarts aren’t houses any more. They are brands. And you aren’t a fan any more. No, my friend, you are a consumer. Work, earn, consume. Work, earn, consume, to the bitter end.
You remember you’re not in a magical world at all. You’re standing in a big warehouse near Watford.
9. And then something rather beautiful happens.
You come across this massive scale model of Hogwarts, which took seven months and 40 people to build. It’s used for pretty much every external shot of the school.
The lighting changes from day to night, and it looks even more magical.
And you’re just blown away by this thing. It’s gigantic. But what really hits you is the amount of love that must’ve gone into making it. And suddenly you realise — yes, Potter is an industry. It always was.
And yes, you’re old and cynical and now you can’t help but notice that fact. But does it really matter? Because if it’s an industry, it’s still one that makes thousands of people happy. There are hundreds of kids running around this place right now, with huge grins on their faces. And that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?
10. And you see this quote from J.K. Rowling on a screen on the way out of the tour:
No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do live in us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.
It took a while, but we got there. Notice how the tip immediately glistened with magic once I’d found the correct one for me. Either that or I’m terrible at photography.
In conclusion, you should go on the Harry Potter tour if you’re an adult. It will be emotionally draining, but ultimately will reconnect you to a sense of childlike wonder that you felt the crushing mundanity of modern life had entirely extinguished. 8/10.