After the Great Hall, I can’t wait to see more of The Magical World of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden.

Much to my delight, we’re immersed in a sea of Potter paraphernalia and among the first exhibits is a perfectly laid-out chocolate feast, the decadent pudding course from the Yule ball featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The dining table is stacked with profiteroles, sumptuous gateaux, chocolate cakes decorated with golden icing and even a towering chocolate phoenix cake.

As we explore we learn more, like the fact that the Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies and have been translated into 67 languages. It doesn’t surprise me that the studio tour has already attracted more than 5 million visitors since its opening in 2012.

We’re drawn to a small crowd in front of a tall, brightly lit mirror, taking turns to take selfies. It is The Mirror of Erised (desire spelled backwards) where ‘the deepest and most desperate desires of our hearts’ are revealed. I remember Harry’s first encounter with this mirror at Hogwarts, wherein he sees a faint reflection of himself reunited with his parents.

We meander around the corner to the Gryffindor common room. My daughter mumbles the magic words to open the door,‘Caput Draconis’. I marvel at such a detailed film set with a ‘Lady and the Unicorn’ wall tapestry richly embellished with scarlet and gold threads.

The Gryffindor boys' dormitory is next. I love the gold star patterns on the red velvet curtains dressing each little four poster bed. It is here that the invisibility cloak makes its first appearance when Harry receives a mysterious present on Christmas Day; fascinated and intrigued, he tries it on while Ron gazes in disbelief.

We pass by the Griffin stairwell and my daughter stops in awe of the glorious gilded creature leading us to Dumbledore’s office, located in one of the highest towers at Hogwarts. A place surrounded by wall-to-wall bookshelves, where the professor can retreat to spend time alone with his star charts and telescopes and ponder on astronomical probabilities. I remember delighting in the birth of Fawkes, and watching the baby phoenix rising from its own ashes in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Magnificent!

The professor’s Gothic wooden memory cabinet, rich in medieval spires is illuminated. Behind the glass doors, hundreds of miniature bright glass vials are filled not only with his own memories but those of many other wizards.

The potions classroom, hidden underground in a dark and eerie dungeon, is surprisingly spacious. Dozens of glass jars filled with strange specimens are labelled and neatly arranged on shelves. Children delight in the self-stirring cauldron. I’m surprised to discover that the classroom was actually shot on location at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire before this set was built at the studio.

As we walk by the wands cabinet, we learn that over 3,000 were made for the films.

We hear a strange combination of fear and excitement in the distant shrieks of visitors and we’re drawn to the forbidden forest exhibit. Apparently in the early stages of the films, these scenes were filmed in Black Park in Buckinghamshire.

In these scary moments the little ones certainly need the guiding hands of their parents. It’s very atmospheric and I willingly suspend my disbelief, feeling ill at ease. Gigantic tree trunks loom about us, their bark covered in huge cobwebs. We walk at a slow pace, not sure what we’re going to see next. To the right, a male centaur appears through a blue cloud of dry ice. I turn a corner and yell “oh nooo!” a monstrous spider graces us with its all-consuming presence. It is hairy and menacing and I grab my daughter’s arm.

My husband has wandered off and is having a look at the hippogriff, the magnificent creature introduced to Harry by Hagrid; he’s transported straight back to the moment when Harry holds on tight and takes to the skies on a magical flight.

Next, the darkness disperses and we’re guided to a huge bright set. It can only be platform 9 3/4 and the iconic scarlet Hogwarts Express.

It’s such a glorious shining steam train and all of those light-hearted magical moments from the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone come back to me: Harry making a run for it through the brick pillar at Kings Cross; a crowd of 11 year old pupil’s carrying strange creatures in cages and saying their goodbyes; the lady passing through the train with the confectionary trolley and Harry’s surprise at the leaping chocolate frogs! ‘All aboard’! I smile cheesily at my daughter who suppresses a teenage smile and steps onto the train.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city