We sat in the courtyard drinking butterbeer which, sadly, contains no alcohol, but a lot of sugar - like a cream soda.
|The Knight Bus|
|Inside the Knight Bus|
|Little monsters on the Flying Motorbike|
|Tom Riddle's grave|
|Wizard chess pieces|
The creature workshop was fantastic. Here is where you get to see how Dobby functions, how Hagrid's giant head is made to move, and how the uprooted mandrakes wriggle and scream. All the magical mythical beasts are explained with working models, from thestrals and hippogriffs to mermaids and werewolves.
The table of latex elf and goblin heads is a little spooky, but the tone is lightened by Luna Lovegood's lion headdress.
|In the creature work-shop|
|"Thestrals can only be seen by people who've seen death"|
Turning a corner, we entered the spectacular Diagon Alley. I loved this cobbled street lined with Olde Worlde shops; it remined me of Haworth!
There's Olivander's Wand Shop, crammed with boxes of wands, each in a hand-painted container. There's Potages, stocked with all-purpose cauldrons of every possible size. There's the imposing exterior edifice of Gringotts' bank.
Mr Mullpepper's apothecary sells clabbert pustules and various livers and fangs, but warns against asking for unicorn blood because it is 'not sold'.
An owl emporium displays cages of the beady-eyed predators, while Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment and Quality Quidditch Supplies boasts broomsticks in the window.
Florian Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour is probably the most 'normal' shop on the street, although Flourish and Botts, dispensing quills and other writing utensils, may also be able to lay claim to that title. Not so Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, with its puking pustulles and other gimmicks. It was a fabulous street/set and one of the highlights of the tour.
Another corridor led us past some of the designers' artwork (they envisaged these scenes so intricately!) and scale paper models of Hogsmead, Diagon Alley, the moving straircases (complete with mechanical engineering images of how this would work), and the Durmstran ship that carried Viktor Krum.
|Artist's concept for Fawkes the phoenix|
|Ukranian Ironbelly Dragon crashing through Gringotts' roof|
|Artist's impression of Hogsmead|
|Hogsmead scale model|
|Moving staircases in paper detail|
And then, the big reveal! a 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts, with details taken from the original sets of Alnick Castle and Durham Cathedral. It took 86 artists and crew to construct the first version, which was then rebuilt and altered many times for the next seven films.
All the doors are hinged, real plants are used for landscaping, and miniature birds are housed in the Owlery. Over 2,500 fibre optic lights simulate lanterns and torches, and give the illusion of students passing through hallways. The lighting is demonstrated to full effect with a day-to-night cycle every four minutes, highlighting the changing atmosphere at the castle/ school.
Just before the gift shop are the cases of wands - every member of cast and crew had one made for them, and you can hunt for the names. I found Dawn French, Helen Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Dilip Patel (assistant accountant) and Jenny Harling (hair stylist).
The nephews and niece wanted robes but they were pretty expensive so, after Aunty Sarah promised to make them, they settled for scarves and wands. Nephew Olaf and Nephew Adam both got Harry Potter's wand, while Niece Rachel chose Hermione's.
The Weevil got Fleur Delacour's wand and, when we questioned the concept of a grown woman buying a wand, she countered succinctly, 'How else am I going to defend myself?' Fair enough.