Beamish North of England Open Air Museum (Beamish)
We visited Beamish a couple of weeks ago when we were on holiday in Yorkshire. I had visited with my parents when I was younger and we had wanted to go last year when we were up that way however it was still a two hour drive so we didn't end up going. Therefore, when we were staying in Whitby we decided a visit was ... essential!
==What is Beamish?==
Beamish is an open air museum in Yorkshire. It focuses on the lives of people living in the North East of England during Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian times.
==Where is it and how do you get there?==
Beamish is in County Durham. 12 miles away from Durham and 8 miles away from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
If driving, the postcode for sat nav's is DH9 0RG. The museum is very well signposted from major roads including the A1 and the A68.
In addition to this there is a variety of buses that run directly to and from the museum. These include services from Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham.
It is worth noting that if you travel on any North East bus you get 25% off of any standard admission ticket which is a great saving.
==Arriving at Beamish==
We drove to Beamish and because my sisters partner seems to have a fear of sat navs we just used the brown signs. It was really easy to find and we had no problems whatsoever. There were plenty of brown signs that we followed.
Arriving at Beamish there was a massive car park so I imagine even parking on even a very busy day is not a problem. When we went the car park was probably only about 5% full as we went on a Thursday in May, we arrived quite early but when we left the car park was probably about 3 times as full.
It is very easy to find the admissions office, you walk down a pathway and in through modern glass automatic doors. There are then numerous staff waiting to sort you out with tickets. There was no queue so we went straight through. The boy here was very polite, he took our names and addresses and offered us a guidebook. He then took our payment and gave us our tickets. I was pleased to see that the tickets were actually an annual pass. Initially I had thought the museum was quite expensive for one day but it is really good value as you can return as many times as you like for a year. However, it's quite unlikely I will be returning to Yorkshire in the next twelve months so maybe it would be nice if you had the option for buying just a single day ticket.
Beamish is an open air museum. This means that the attraction is primarily outdoors however most of the attractions are actually indoors. Basically, Beamish is just like a small town. You walk down the roads and can go into the bank, shops, houses etc.
After leaving the ticket office we walked down a hill and at the bottom were greeted by two members of staff dressed in traditional clothing. They asked us if we would like to get the tram down to the town and said that if we did then it would be along in five minutes. The tram is one of the things I remember about going when I was younger so we waited for the tram and sure enough it arrived just a few minutes later. There were quite a few people waiting for the tram at this point, possibly around 40 as I think it was the first tram of the day. There was no queue formed so I did worry a bit about everyone being able to fit on but we all did. Inside the tram there are long wooden benches either side to sit aswell as straps on the roof for those standing. Our party all managed to find a seat but my partner did give his up for a disabled lad so he did stand. There were about five other people standing in our carriage too so it was quite full. We enjoyed the tram ride down to the town and it is certainly a must if you visit Beamish!
When we got to the town there were numerous places to go. As there were a number of us getting off of the tram we decided to go in a different direction to everyone else so that places were less busy when we visited them.
The first place we visited was the bank. I really loved this part of Beamish and found it so interesting to see exactly how a bank would have been. There was a member of staff in there who was 'working' behind the desk, counting money and doing sums etc. He had a vast amount of knowledge about the bank and its history which was interesting. In addition to the main part of the bank you can also go downstairs to see the vaults. I've always been a little bit intrigued by bank vaults, wondering what exactly they were so I found this really interesting!
We then walked up the High Street of the town. There were lots of small old fashioned shops to look in. One of the more interactive shops was the sweet shop. Here you can buy old fashioned sweets in quarters and also try out some traditional sweets. You can also see the kitchen where there were numerous staff making sweets how they would have been made. Sweet prices in here are reasonable, a bag costs either 99p or £1.25 (sorry I cant remember which!) and this provides a good sized portion. They are good quality sweets too.
Across the road you have the more general shops such as grocery shops and hardware shops. I loved these shops as there was so many things to look at. A few things are available to buy here but the main point of these shops is to show visitors what the shop would have been like in those days. We found these fascinating to see all of the old products, it was also fun to see how products we still have today have changed over time eg. Colmans mustard powder.
There are then a long row of terraced houses, all of which are open to visitors to see different houses of the times. These were interesting but there were quite a few - probably about five and by the last one I was getting a bit bored to be honest. They were also quite busy and where they are your traditional 2 up 2 down it was a bit of a squeeze, especially going up and down stairs.
Opposite the houses is a large park. We didn't go in here but it looked very well kept so therefore I imagine it would be a fantastic place to have a picnic!
We then walked up to the Home Farm area of the museum. I believe there is a bus that runs up here (a traditional bus) as it is a bit of a walk, it probably took us about 10 minutes dawdling. Home Farm highlights the farming that would have been used at the time. There are animals here too which is nice, you cans see sheep especially, when we went there had just been the arrival of lambs.
There was also a barn here full of artefacts from throughout history, this was interesting and there was also a member of staff in there in full character telling visitors more about the times.
We then walked round to the final area of the museum and visited the mine. Beamish is home to a small mine which visitors can go down to on a guided tour (each tour lasts around 15 minutes). At the beginning of the tour we went into a barn where we were shown a great deal of mining memorabilia and were told numerous stories. I found this fascinating as it was great to hear what times were like and how the men worked. I learned a lot from this and really enjoyed it as a prelude to the tour itself. Going down into the mine was really fun, our guide knew a lot and although it was a relatively short tour it was very interesting.
Also in the village is the school which is brilliant. There are numerous classrooms in here and you can actually go in the largest one and sit at a desk and use a small blackboard. We really enjoyed this part of the museum and it seemed as though a number of other visitors did too!
==The fish and chip shop==
Pit village is also home to the world famous fish and chip shop. Some of you may have seen a programme on BBC 1 a few months ago which showed the chip shop being built. It is a traditional chip shop using coal to cook the food, it is fried in beef dripping. We did go in here at around 1pm and it was fairly busy, we were around 5 people back in the queue however we had our food within fifteen minutes. It is worth noting that on busier days it gets much much busier. The food from here was really nice and I would recommend a visit if you do go to Beamish.
This was the end of our visit so we decided to head back to our holiday accommodation. In total we spent around four hours here however we could have probably spent a little longer.
==Catering and shopping==
Aswell as the fish and chip shop there are a number of snack places around Beamish including a pub, tearooms and coffee shop. These all serve snack type meals eg. sandwiches, cakes etc. The prices I saw were a little bit higher than the average but a lot of the food is made the traditional way so therefore it is worth paying a little extra.
There is just one gift shop which is situated at the entrance. This is a good size and I found that there was lots in here including souviners, soft toys and books. There was also snacks such as biscuits to be bought here. Prices were reasonable, I only bought two magnets but these were £1.75 each which I feel is a good price.
There is a small kiosk down near where you can catch the tram where you can buy last minute essentials such as guide books, drinks and snacks.
==Admission prices and opening times==
Admission prices are as follows:
Adult Unlimited £17.50
Child Unlimited £10.00
Family (1+2) £32.00
Family (2+2) £46.00
Opening times depend on season however the museum is open every day now until the end of November. The museum is open 10am - 5pm with the last admission being at 3pm.
==What did we think?==
We enjoyed our visit to Beamish. We all had high expectations as we had wanted to revisit for so long and nobody was disappointed. Its not as fantastic as I remember from childhood however ive found that few things really are! However, Beamish is a fun and interesting day out with lots to see and do. It is educational but not at all boring or dreary. The museum is very spaced out which means that even on a busy day you don't feel overcrowded. The favourite parts of Beamish for me were the mine and the transport. The only disadvantage I have is the price because it is quite expensive, especially for a family who only want to visit once, however everything is included in the price such as the mine visit.
To conclude, we all had a good morning at Beamish, I would probably go again but not for another few years as it is expensive. It is a good place for everyone to visit as there is so much too see and do. I would recommend a visit to Beamish if you are in the area and it sounds like your idea of a good day out.
Visitor enquiries, main switchboard and online ticket purchase enquiries:
Tel: 0191 370 4000 (9.00am - 4.00pm, Monday-Friday)
Fax: 0191 370 4001
Customer relations team
Tel: 0191 370 4026
Simon Woolley, Head of Learning and Outreach
Tel: 0191 370 4011
Thank you for reading and I hope this has been of some use to you.
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Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
Get ready for a mammoth of a post. (This is ridiculous but I'm tearing up just at the thought of it) As the grand opening of the studio tour was in my Easter break and very close to my birthday, I'd been begging and begging my parents to buy me tickets for months and the answer had always been the same - No. Then, on the day I ... returned from my excruitiatingly long and painful Duke of Edinburgh trek, my parents informed me that whilst I'd been away they'd been refreshing the website every day trying to get me tickets as there were none available for the opening month. Miraculously, as soon as I came to look at the website a spot became available for that very week.
The booking itself is very simple. All you have to do is select the date and time you want to go on the tour, enter the number of each type of ticket you want and then checkout. There is also the option to add on some extras to your package. You can pre-book a 'Souvenir Guidebook' and a 'Digital Guide', both of which supposedly enhance your experience. I opted for the 'Souvenir Guidebook', but not the 'Digital Guide', but in hindsight I should have selected both. The Souvenir Guidebook is a really nice booklet with glossy pages and big pictures. It is very well presented and serves as a lovely reminder of the things you've seen on your trip. You don't need to pre-order this book as it is also on sale at the gift shop at the Studios for exactly the same price. It is a bit pricey at £9.95, but for Potterheads it is well worth it. As far as I could tell (from jealously peering over people's shoulders), the Digital Guide was basically a device that looked a lot like an iPod touch that had extra snippets of information and videos on it. This costs around £4.95, though you do not get to keep it so it's not entirely necessary.
It appears that the intial rush to buy tickets is now over; however, I still recommend that you buy your tickets about a month in advance if you want to get the perfect time for you. If you're only available at the weekends then you definitely need to think about booking in advance because they weekend slots book up fast.
The Studio Tour is located at Leavesden Studios in Watford. Fortunately, I actually live quite close to this so it didn't take me long at all to reach there and with the help of a SatNav, it's fairly easy to locate. One problem I did encounter once I was a couple of minutes away from the Studios, was that the signs on the motorway were incredibly confusing. There was one pointing to 'Warner Bros. Tour' and one to 'Leavesden Studios'. As far as I knew, Warner Bros. Tour was located at Leavesden Studios so I got very confused as to why the signs were pointing in different directions. I decided to follow the sign that pointed towards 'Warner Bros Tour', though this actually led me in a pretty big circle which was unnecessary, though I can't say whether or not following the sign to 'Leavesden Studios' will take you on a shorter route. I highly recommend that when you see these signs coming up, you simply look out your window to spot the Studio and follow the road that leads to it (you won't miss it, there are absolutely huge Harry Potter posters all over the buildings). You will need to show your ticket in order to gain entrance and then you will be directed to a parking space. The car park is huge so I wouldn't worry about not finding a space, though my tour was the last tour of the day so the Studios were probably slightly less packed.
WHAT TO LOOK AT
The tour starts from the very second you hand your ticket over and join the queue. Whilst you're awaiting entry you will pass Harry's cupboard under the stairs - toy soldiers included - and many quotes from various people lining the walls to get you excited. First, you are led into a dark room with lots of screens and you are shown a quick film about Potter's history. My emotional rollercoaster started here as I was filled with fond, childhood memories. After this brief introduction, you are led into another room with a bigger screen, much like a cinema, and another video about the making of the Potter films is shown. I was crying pretty much the whole way through this. There are interviews with the cast, the crew, the directors, the author herself and lots of behind the scenes footage. When the film is over, a grand set of doors is magically revealed and the Great Hall lies in wait. The Great Hall is also incredible detailed and there are lots of costumes on display here, including Harry's very first uniform! There is a speaker for this part of the tour who gives an introduction to the tour and tells you all the interesting facts about the Great Hall - like the fact that the floor is made out of real paving stones.
After this, the tour is self guided and you are left to explore the rest of the tour in your own time. Some parts of the tour display props and costumes and others are the real sets. There is a spectacular show of the vehicles and bigger props used in the films and they are shown (moving) hanging from the ceiling, next to a large screen showing you exactly how this prop was used in the film and how special effects were used to make it realistic. This video shows you the extraordinary number of special effects that went into making these films. They even showed you how in one scene, Daniel Radcliffe was filmed walking on a treadmill in front of a green screen, but on film this was magically transformed into Harry walking through the snow at Godric's Hollow. It is absolutely incredible to see the transition from what was actually filmed and what we see on screen. In this section you can see The Burrow, the Gryffindor Common Room, Snape's classrooms, the Boy's Dormitory, Dumbledore's Office, Umbridge's Office, the Ministry of Magic, the fireplaces at the Ministry, Hagrid's Hut, the Griffin Stairwell, the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, Gringott's Vault Door and some others. There's also a huge display of props including the Philosopher's Stone, the Triwizard Cup, the snitch and other Quidditch equipment, the Goblet of Fire, the time turner and more. There is also a fantastic constume display to accompany each set and you can see clothes from all of the movies and see how the characters have grown! Lastly there is a stunning display of all the graphic designs and posters used for things like The Daily Prophet, the Quibbler, sweet packages etc.
When you've finished looking around the first building, about half way through the tour, there's the part of the tour which is outside and it is here where you will find the Knightbus, Godric's Hollow, the Ford Anglia, Hagrid's Bike, chess pieces from the Philosopher's Stone, Hogwart's Bridge and of course, Number 4 Privet Drive. This part of the tour is great because you can actually touch all of these things. You can sit on Hagrid's bike, get inside the Ford Anglia, stand in the Knight Bus and knock on the door of number 4 Privet Drive. This is another great photo opportunity so don't think that the weather doesn't matter when picking which day to book your tour! Possibly the most exciting thing about this section of the tour is the opportunity to buy Butterbeer. Personally, I really liked this drink. It's really sweet and fizzy with a thick layer of sweet cream on top - exactly as I'd imagined. Each cup costs around £2.95, and although it isn't large, it's definitely worth it! It even leaves you with that white moustache on your upper lip that is so often talked about.
The second part of the tour is a lot more about what went into making the films rather than the sets and props. Here you will find an amazing array of every single creature featured in the films and how they were made. You will disappointed to hear that in fact only the head of the basilisk was made. You can see each and every one goblin/house elf mask - they do look pretty grim - and how each of these were made and fitted the actors. After the 'Creature Shop', you are lead to another breathtaking part of the tour- Diagon Alley. I did not expect Diagon Alley to be, well, a real Alley! Each and every shop is properly decorated with detail with shop displays and it looks like a real street! All the shops from the film are here, though it is a lot more compact, and you feel as if you could actually just go shopping for a new owl or a new set of robes!
The very last room of the tour is the most spectacular of them all. It had been a highly emotional visit for me (for some reason anything HP related sets the waterworks off) so when I rounded the corner to see the 1:24 model of Hogwarts Castle, I was completely overwhelmed. It was the most beautiful and amazing creation I had ever seen and I was blown away by the detail that went into it. Everything was perfectly handcrafted to scale and real gravel and plants were used to for the landscaping. There are more than 300 fibre optic lights installed and these stimulate torches and lanterns to give the illusion of students walking down the hallways. It is the crown jewel of the Harry Potter art department - which isn't surprising given that it took a team of 86 people to construct the first version. Footage of this model was combined with special effects to create the incredibly realistic views of Hogwart's exterior which I had always believed to be comprised of real castles. This was a phenomenal end to the tour and was definitely the most memorable moment for me.
WHAT TO DO
There is an absolutely fantastic photo opportunity to be had during the Studio Tour where you are given the chance to ride a broomstick. Using CGI and a green screen effects, they make it look like you are actually flying and it is absolutely incredible. Firstly, you are given a set of Hogwarts robes (you can choose one from the four houses), and then you wait in line for your turn. There are a total of three broomsticks there so the waiting time isn't too long. When I first joined the queue, it said that the waiting time 'from this point onwards' was 45 minutes, and I wasn't too fussed about this because I was determined to get on that broom, but thankfully, it didn't take nearly as long as that. When it is your turn, the friendly staff member talks you through everything. You make yourself comfortable on the broom, and then the magic begins. Now, this isn't just any photo opportunity, because before your photo is taken, you get the chance to see yourself fly over London and Hogwarts. There is a small screen in front of you so it looks like you're actually moving and the broom itself isn't fixed so you can swerve from side to side and bob up and down. The member of staff attending to you will make sure you get the most out of your experience by giving you a few things to do whilst on your broom. When your 'flying' experience is over, there are a few quick snaps and then it's off to the counter to collect your photos. There are four different photos to choose from: hovering over Hogwarts, flying in front of some buses in London, flying along the Thames and flying along the water surrounding Hogwarts - the favourite of most people seems to be the one hovering above Hogwarts. There is also the opportunity to have your photo taken inside the Ford Anglia and you can watch yourself 'driving' it through the air. This photo is great for families as you take the photo with as many people as you can fit into the frame. These photos aren't exactly cheap, but they are definitely worth it. I'm not entirely sure what the prices were but I believe I paid £15 for two photos and they come in a lovely, glossy, paper frame (just like the sort you'd get at a theme park - but better, obviously).
Words cannot even begin to describe my excitement upon entering the gift shop. So I was always one of those children that spent the entire day out pushing and pulling my parents through the exhibitions just to get to the gift shop, but I guarantee that you will be blown away by it. There is a huge range of Potter products on offer, but I won't deceive you, they don't come cheap. If I had it my way I would've bought EVERYTHING in the shop, though of course, my mother did not allow this and so I opted for a Potter t-shirt (£32.95) and Hogwarts scarf (£24.95). It is a very large shop and products range from sweets to keyrings to clothing to stuffed toys to wall paintings to jewellery to uniform to notepads to magnets to books to wands to replica costumes - and more! It is literally my favourite shop in the whole entire world and if I could I would go there everyday, though unfortunately you can only get to gift shop after you've shown your ticket proving that you're actually there for the Tour (sad face). The queue in the gift shop is enormously long at times so I recommend you keep wandering around until it's a normal length.
I could say more, but I think that I've waffled on for long enough! The Warner Bros Harry Potter Tour is essential for all Harry Potter fans, and even those who aren't massive Potterheads will definitely enjoy a day out at Leavesden. Not only does it provide an incredible insight to a worldwide Phenomenon but you get to witness first hand the immense amount of detail that went into making these films. You can see the sets the cast walked on, the costumes they wore and the props they used. There is lots of behind the scenes footage and information so don't think that this is just a display of what you've already seen or read online - because it's so much more. All along the tour there is the Harry Potter sountrack playing in the background enhancing the atmosphere and making everything feel that much better. Do bear in mind that whilst the Tour is absolutely incredible, there will inevitably be a sense of disappointment as you finally realise that the magic isn't real and Hogwarts doesn't exist. On a side note, as I was casually scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed after I'd returned home, I discovered a photo of Matt Lewis (Neville Longbottom) from the very same day. WHY DID I NOT SEE HIM?! WHY. Ok, outburst over. But seriously, why.
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Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
***As much as I want to tell you every single little detail, I don't want to ruin it for people who haven't been yet so I wont be telling you everything, some secrets you need to find out yourselves*** Since June 1997 Harry Potter, The boy who lived, has enthralled generations adults and children alike. The story of a normal ... 11 year old boy who finds out that he is a wizard on his birthday and then enrols in Hogwarts School of magic. Since then 7 books were written, and in 1998 J.K.Rowling sold the film rights (for just £1million) to Warner Bros, who the produced the 8 films we all know and love!!! These were all filmed at Leavesden Film studios in Abbots Langley/Watford.
In March 2011 Warner Bros/ Leavesden Studios announced that in March of the following year (2012) they would open the studio's that all the films were filmed in as a 'behind the scenes' tour, with the original props, costumes and sets. Tickets went on sale shortly after this, and this dear reader is where my adventure begins................
Adults and children over 15 - £28
Children 5-15 - £21
Children 4 and under are FREE
Family (2 adults and 2 children) - £83
Family (1 adult and 3 children) - £83
Complete ADULT studio package (ticket, digital guide and souvenir book) - £37.95
Complete Child studio package - £30.95
The digital guide and souvenir guide book are available separately (I forgot to order them) at £4.95 and £9.95 respectively.
Tickets can ONLY be bought from the official website www.wbstudiotour.co.uk, and you can choose to have them sent to you (P+P - £3.95) or collect them from the ticket desks outside the main building. We choose to have them sent to us, and they arrived within 2 weeks of ordering and were contained within a little folder bearing the tours name, it also had directions etc on, the tickets themselves each had a HP character on, there are 6 to choose from and we ended up with Dobby, a Mandrake, Fawkes, Nagini and Hedwig. You must also take you booking confirmation as this is needed to enter the car park.
In total the tickets cost me the grand sum of £80.95 incl P+P for 2 adults and 3 children, for 11 o'clock on the 10th of May 2012.
Secrets will be revealed..................
Sadly the local broom shop had rented all the brooms and floo powder for that day so we had to use our muggle car to get there (although there is a direct HP bus from Watford Station or WD25 7GS for sat nav users), luckily we were staying with my father in Wheathampstead 11 miles away, the studios are easy to find and well sign-posted, with a minor road going straight past the entrance to the (FREE) car park. Although we did not use the bus, I was told there is one every 10 minutes, and saw quite a few outside the tour before and after our visit (they are also photo worthy too!!!).
Parking was really easy and there were a few attendants directing people to where they should park, all the ones we met were very polite and friendly. There is plenty of parking available and also drop off points as well as a part dedicated to the buses.
(At this point my 6 year old was practically climbing out of the window to go!)
Walking up to the studio building there is the separate queuing area to collect tickets if you chose to collect there and also a automated ticket service, as we had ours posted we could walk straight in, just having the tickets checked by a woman on the door. Upon entering the first set of sliding doors there is the dedication to everyone who worked on the films and also a set of handprints of Harry, Hermione and Ronald taken from the last film, you are allowed to touch these and my lot loved being able to compare their hands to Harry's (his hands aren't that big actually), you then carry on through the second set of doors and then it hits you........... There is all its glory is the flying car!! Okay so there is also the entrance to the tour, the café, the shop and also the cloak(!)room and toilets, it is here that you can also hire/collect the digital guide (we didn't use these sadly but then I don't think I would like to hear Malfoy in my ears for hours), the entrance hall is beautiful with still images of all the characters around the top and also a few props etc.
As we arrived nearly an hour early we decided to tackle the dreaded gift shop first.
***The gift shop***
This, dear reader' is heaven on earth for any HP fan it sells everything and anything HP related, and we easily used up the extra time we had here. Some would say that it is expensive and over the top, I disagree there is something here for everyone and every price range, so luckily I needn't have worried about the children wanting everything..... Actually it turned out to be me wanting it all!!!!
They sell everything from Honeyduke's Bertie Botts every flavour beans (£8.95) to a full real Dumbledore costume (£495) and 'real' wands (£25); you can also pick up a copy of the guide book here too. As well as having your photo put on the 'undesirable no 1' poster and the Quibbler (£12 for 1, £15 for 2, 3 for £18 and 4 for £20).
In total I spent £122 in the gift shop (A mug, guide book, 2 wands, 2 x bertie botts, medallion, 2 photos' and a squashy scabbers) and yes I admit I nearly passed out at the till!!!
The shop also contains some props and artefacts from the films, namely a huge stained glass window, which is beautiful these also tend to be great opportunities for a sneaky photo (if you can get one with out all the people walking past)
Children are also given a 'HP passport' (FREE) these are little books that they carry around and need to get 'stamped' at certain points in the tour e.g. the Gryffindor common room they contain questions, colouring in and also the 'spot the golden snitch' game (finding the 15 'lost' snitch's around the tour'), my lot loved these as it gave them something to do and made a game of finding the stamp machines.
About 15-20 minutes before your actual tour time is the best time to start queuing up here you are greeted by two people who check and scan your tickets (giving them back of course) and direct you through a rope type queue system, while walking through this you get to see the famous 'cupboard under the stairs' incl stairs! What can I say this gets you more excited about the tour (if possible) and as you get so close to it, it shows you just how much attention to detail went into these, there is also a little board in front giving you some 'insider' knowledge about this set!
After queuing for an eternity (10 mins tops) the doubles doors open into a room with TV's on the walls it is here you meet the tour guide and a short talk is done explaining the worldwide phenomenon etc. It is from here that you take a small door into a cinema room and watched a 10 minute film about the making of Harry Potter, (at this stage I was slightly worried as there were no more doors in the room and I was hoping that this wasn't the only thing), upon the film finishing we are giving the first surprise (no I'm not telling) and the next thing I know I'm standing in the Great Hall!!! All I can say is WOW until you see it up close nothing compares to it, the detail is stunning and even a non HP fan cant fail to be amazed at the skill of the set decorators and artists, here the tables are laid and there are the house costumes (the originals) and also the teachers stage area, it is exactly the same as the movies but without the cast of course......... We spent a good 20 minutes here taking photo's, marvelling at the set before we had to move on ( the next tour group were coming), it is here that the tour guide leaves you are you are welcome to go at your own pace throughout the rest of the tour.
This is where the tour truly comes into its own, you are surrounded by the most beautiful sets, props and costumes and the size of some of them are staggering, split between two groupings you can wander freely around,
The first section
Here you will find the 'Potions' and 'Defence against the dark arts' classrooms (full size), the common rooms, as well as costumes, smaller props etc (I saw Horcruxes!) But the one that blew us away was Dumbledore's office, if you only see one thing please let it be that!!!! Although I'm in love with the Weasley's house too!!
Rounding the corner we come to the ministry of magic and the huge monument and also the offices this is also the part dedicated to the 'death' eaters and of course 'He who must not be named' and also the Floo network chimneys.
Of course I have only mentioned a minute part of this one as so not to ruin it for you all.
It is at this stage that you can go to the green screens, and have special photo's taken the queues were quite short and we were only in here for around 20 minutes (you pay for them there) all the staff are polite and friendly and are all quite good with over-excited children (and adults). One word of warning though, broomsticks are hard to control!
You are then able to go outside to continue the tour and this has to be one of the favourites because this is where you can get Butterbeer!!! It looked like a very strange fizzy brown liquid with mr whippy on the top! At £2.95 it isn't cheap but you get half a pint in a little plastic glass (we bought 2 to share amoung 5 of us), my lot loved it although im sure I have never tasted something so sweet! There is also a 'normal' refreshments bar selling pop, tea, coffee snacks etc. There is also a large seating area to enjoy refreshments etc This is also where you will find the 'Knight Bus', the 'Godric's Hollow', the 'covered bridge' and 'Privet Drive' and the 'Riddle' gravestone ( i found this a bizarre choice to use here) there are some fantastic photo opportunities here incl Hagrids bike, the flying car and also on the Knight Bus. Here is also the home of the huge life size Wizard Chess pieces.
The second section
Upon finishing said Butterbeer and having a stroll around we entered the next part of the tour, upon entering you are met with all the models made and the make up departments' props including the transformations into Goblins. Here you can also see how the werewolves are made, and also meet Dobby!! Walking through I turned a corner to be met by Aragon the biggest blinking spider I have ever seen, I would recommended not taking people afraid of spiders and also got to see a Hippogriff!
It's quite dark at this stage and as you walk through you realised the floor has turned to cobbles rounding the corner you are greeted by (yep that's right) Diagon Alley!!!! To be honest I was speechless is it amazing my 6 year old practically squeaked when he realised where he was, the attention to detail here is stunning and any photo you have seen of it does not do it justice, here you can wander at your own pace up and down and gaze lovingly into the (fully stocked) shop windows, it is rather dark so a flash camera is required, you can touch anything as there are barriers but it doesn't take away from the excitement, although my son wanted to go into Weasley's wizard wheezes store!
From here you are taken through the art departments set up here they have the first set ups of the sets, first drawing of the digital characters etc there are some guides here and the are friendly and full of little bits of information and they can also hold a 6 year old attention for over 10 minutes by telling them HP 'secrets'.
At the end of this it becomes very dark and following the path around to..........
The most spectacular prop, set ever used in Harry potter or any other film!!
I really cant say as it would ruin the whole experience, but I will say that it bought tears to some peoples eyes when the saw, it is it awe- inspiring and huge, and a brilliant end to the tour,
Although it wasn't truly the end as upon leaving this epic you come to the wand room (look closely at the names on this, you might be in for a surprise), and then you end up in the shop (convenient) and that marks the real end of the tour!
Considering the hype of the tour and the build up I wasn't sure if it would live up to the expectations of the fans and most importantly a 6 year olds imagination and innocence about film making and I can safely say in all honesty it well and truly smashed my expectations it was incredible and definitely worth the money spent, while it shows us the making of the films I do believe that it keeps a child still believing in the films. Throughout the tour there is plenty for younger fans to do and interact with and my children (6, 3 and 2) never complained about being bored, although how I'm going to explain no Hogwarts letter on their 11th birthdays is a mystery!
The staff we met were friendly happy and looked like they enjoyed their job, all worked well with children and adults alike. The whole tour is wheelchair and pushchair accessible as well. If you get a chance to go GO! You certainly won't regret it. Thank you for sticking with this epic, im off to polish my broomstick :)
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England Museum National
Museum National / Location: 8 Cathedral Green, Wells Somerset, BA5 2UE.
Museum National / Museum of the old grammar school in Hawkshead, Cumbria.
Museum National / Address: Southey Hill Trading Estate, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5NR.
Address: Albert Dock / Museum National / Liverpool / L3 4BB / Merseyside / England - International modern and contemporary art.
Address: Bovington / Museum National / Dorset / BH20 6JG / England - Over 300 tanks are on display here, ranging from WWI to the most recent Challenger.
Address: Hitchin / Museum National / Hertfordshire / SG4 9TS / England
Address: Grahame Park Way / Museum National / London / NW9 5TW / England
Address: Port Sunlight Village / Museum National / Wirral / CH62 5EQ / Merseyside / England
Address: Manor Park / Museum National / Runcorn / WA7 1SX / Cheshire / England - Aside from the museum, one can enjoy the optical stimulus of the excavated medieval ruins, the spectacular St Christopher statue, the Walled Garden and the extensive woodland and sculpture trail.
Address: Buckingham Palace / Museum National / London / England
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