Diagon Alley — so good I walked it twice. The wonderful world of Harry Potter
It’s a place I’ve travelled down many times, through the pages of a book. The windows of the shops — some brightly mullioned, some dusty, but all displaying wares of the most wonderful and magical — broomsticks, little fluffy creatures in cages, piles of books on sorcery and charms, robes and cloaks for the discerning witch or wizard. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Diagon Alley, the only place in London where you can get all you require and more, for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - courtesy of Warner Bros Studio, Leavensden.
I’m nearly tearing up just writing this, thinking of my own walk up the cobbles, my children trailing behind, each lost in their own individual Harry Potter moment. A Death Eater stepped out from a darkened alley and we all flocked over, enthralled and delighted to see a genuine J K Rowling character brought to life.Â
If you could bottle the entire collection of Rowling’s epic series for viewing then the World of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros Studio is as good as it can possibly get. Every horcrux, school cup, outfit, broom, magical creature and spell book ( I actually saw a copy of the Polyjuice Potion) is displayed for your perusal. There’s a wonderful miniature model of Hogwarts and the surrounding area that is so vast and detailed that it takes a good fifteen minutes to walk around, recounting scenes and moments from the films. Definitely well worth the asking price of £39 for an adult. The tour is a thing of magical beauty — starting with the Great Hall. We arrived on Hallowe’en (deliberately) and the Great Hall was festooned with hanging candles and carved pumpkins. There was no magic ceiling of course (mentioned in the book “Hogwarts a History” as read by clever clogs Hermione Granger) but then as I kept having to tell myself, this is a set Fiona. All the same, I kept anticipating the arrival of the spectral “Headless Horde” or to hear a kindly word whispered in my ear by “Nearly Headless Nick”.
It really was a dream come true for me and my girls. I’m actually writing this wearing a Slytherin sweatshirt (purely coincidental, I can tell you ) and yes, we can’t all be Gryffindor. We’re serious Harry Potter fans in my house. I first came across The Philosopher’s Stone in the review section of The Sunday Times in 1999. I bought a copy for my eldest’s eighth birthday, smuggling it into my bag behind her back in the Eason’s bookstore in a train station — no, not King’s Cross but Dublin’s Heuston Station. Of course as soon as she had finished it, I took it for my own.
Those books really are the gift that keep on giving. We watch the films annually and afterwards I treat myself to another read of the series.
I don’t want to give too much away and spoil the pleasure of future visitors so I’ll skip the detailed description of the full tour but what I will say is this — there aren’t many tours with this level of detail and with such love of the story and characters so clearly evident as in the Harry Potter Studio Tour. It was everything we could have wished for bar an appearance from the cast in full Hogwarts’ regalia, sporting wands. Poor Alan Rickman is no longer with us but his Severus Snape lives on in the hearts of his fans and he glares down from a framed picture in the huge entrance to the tour, watching the thousands of visitors who pour into the Studios daily
We were exhausted when we finally boarded the Knight Bus to take us back to the train station. Exhausted from the high level of attention we paid to each and every detail — eager to remember and record all we saw in order to bring them out again for later perusal. We took photographs and videos until the batteries went in our phones and then pooled our hoard in a Whatsapp group. Our conversations have stemmed from the tour ever since. We saw so many wonderful exhibits but my favourite moment of all was walking down the narrow cobbled street of Diagon Alley, just exactly the same as when they filmed there.
The books may be read, the films finished but the magic of J K Rowling lives on in our hearts (and photographs).