It took 20 years and much pressure for me to read the first book about the boy wizard. I’ve still only got to the sixth instalment and I’ve never seen any of films all the way through.

Whether it’s because I was fully into adulthood when the first book came out, I don’t know, but I’ve never been swept up by the Harry hype. These stories that have sold in their many millions and the movies that have been one of the most successful franchises of all time have largely passed me by without grabbing my interest.

I say this to demonstrate how I am definitely not a Potterhead or a fanatic who fawns over everything related to JK Rowling’s tales.

But even I, this Muggle cynic, couldn’t resist being impressed and finding some magic on a visit to the Warner Bros Studios Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.

Getting there and getting in

The attraction isn’t in London at all – it’s in Hertfordshire, or Leavesden to be specific. Getting there from south London involves a trip across the capital to Watford Junction via Euston. It’s a worthwhile trip for anyone with even a passing interest in the Potter universe but it would be nicer if magic was real and you could travel by floo powder to avoid the long journey.

Once you’re at Watford Junction there’s a handy shuttle bus for the 15-minute ride to the studios - £2.50 return per person for this isn’t bad. After walking through a lengthy tunnel and reading many quotes from the books on the walls, you’re finally … not quite in yet. Instead, if it’s already you’re allotted time for your tour you can queue up or if you’ve got time to kill you can browse the gift shop or grab a snack in the café. We stopped for something to eat, and the three sandwiches and drinks for nearly £20 gave us an introduction to the rather pricey food and refreshment prices.

We then lined up to get onto the tour at our designated time – it was only about 15 minutes of waiting around, which wasn’t nearly as long as I first thought it might be. And then we were … nearly in. The last obstacle was sitting down to watch a video featuring the film cast and crew talking nostalgically about the 10 years they spent at these very same studios making the movies. As the screen rolled away, the doors to the Hogwarts Great Hall were revealed and then … magic happened.

What to see and do

Stepping into the Great Hall, the actual Great Hall, I couldn’t help but be moved by the awestruck reactions from all the Potter devotees around me. These people were in a special place, and they were spellbound. I too began to feel immersed in this cinematic world, marvelling at the craft of the set, prop and costume makers as I looked at just a fraction of the work and skill that went into producing the movies – based, of course, on the creativity from JK Rowling that made it all possible in the first place. You have to admire someone with that kind of imagination.

We were rather hurriedly hustled through the Great Hall, and would have enjoyed more time in there. Fortunately, this was the only rushed part of the experience as you next move into the first of two soundstages that house the rest of the self-guided tour and you can take it all at your own pace.

Inside the huge buildings are thousands of items used during the decade of movie-making that went into bringing Harry and his friends from the pages of books onto the big screen. The tour takes the form of a multi-directional trail, where you constantly have to look up and all around you to take everything in.

It’s incredible for any Potter fans to see all this genuine paraphernalia assembled with painstaking attention to detail in the potions classroom, Dumbledore and Umbridge’s offices, The Burrow and other familiar settings. Ever wanted to live out the fantasy of strolling down Diagon Alley, wandering through the Forbidden Forest or climbing aboard the Hogwarts Express steam train? This wonderland is where these dreams become reality, with so much of what there is to see being the authentic articles from the movies that have been recreated from their original locations at the studios which are still in operation.

I’m reliably informed that viewing everything first-hand and so up close only adds to the magic of the films, providing many “I’ve seen that!” and “I’ve been there!” moments when you watch them afterwards.

Along the tour, there are many fascinating insights into how things were made and how scenes were put together. There are also sections for special and visual effects, creatures and art explaining how it’s not just witches and wizards who are capable of making magic. The tour is heaven for Potter fans but still contains enough to interest even casual cinema-goers who just want to learn about the process of bringing films to life.

Special mention must go to the intricately detailed scale model of the Hogwarts castle that was used at various points in the filming – it’s an amazing sight up close.

What else to know

The tour takes around three-and-a-half hours, although our stay extended to about five hours with a couple of stops.

There are two cafes, the one at the start and another around the halfway point on the tour. There are three shops – two small souvenir places that have some exclusive items and then a huge emporium selling just about everything imaginable which you just happen to end up in at the end of the tour.

As I mentioned prices are on the steep side.

We got three butterbeers (a delicious creamy butterscotch flavour drink that isn’t beer at all) and three ice creams at the Backlot Cafe. This was £40, although we did get some plastic cups and bowls to take home. You can take your own food and drink to consume in certain areas, and I’d recommend doing this.

The gift shops aren’t cheap either. A replica robe is £75, a collectible wand is £29 and a scarf is £27. Smaller, everyday souvenirs aren’t exactly pocket money prices – with a small box of sweets and a keyring setting you back £8 apiece.

A family of four will spend £140 on tickets for the attraction. When you add on travel expenses and some modest shopping when you’re there, a day at the studios can easily cost upwards of £300 overall. It’s definitely something that will be an occasional treat rather than somewhere to visit on the regular.

The outlay involved in a visit is really my only negative.

Final verdict

The studios tour should not be confused with a theme park. If you go there expecting rides, rollercoasters and such things you’re going to be disappointed. The best way to describe it is as a museum of memorabilia.

Despite not being a thrill-a-minute place or having many interactive elements in general, this is still an exciting place in other ways and is an absolute must-see for Harry Potter fans. Everywhere I looked, people young and old were utterly engrossed in the experience as they looked at each exhibit with wonder on their faces.

And this Muggle cynic liked it too. I was able to appreciate the love and respect for the stories that went into creating the movies, and the vast amount of effort that went into making everything – and all this applies to how well the tour has been crafted too.

My wife, much more the attraction’s target audience since she’s been a massive fan since the early books, said it was the happiest place on Earth and visiting was life-changing. It's hard to tell from such reserved words, but I think she liked it. She and our teenage daughter came away with big smiles and big bags of shopping as Harry Potter cast his spell on them one more time.

Fantastic Beasts screenings, Hogwarts In the Snow and Dinner In the Great Hall are some of the upcoming events taking place at the studios so check out the web link above for all the details.

And check out more photos from the experience in the gallery at the top of the article.