“WELCOME to Hogwarts,” our grinning tour guide says.
She pushes open the huge, wooden doors to reveal what wizard fans worldwide would recognise as the Great Hall, decorated to look just like it did on Harry Potter’s first visit.
And it’s truly magical.
The magnificent films set is laid out with the same long tables covered in plates and cutlery, as if awaiting the arrival of Hogwarts students.
This isn’t my first visit to the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Leavesden, Herts. (Try ninth . . . I’m a huge Potter fan).
But it is the first time I’ve seen the Great Hall like this, with 400 candles floating magically above our heads, casting a speckled glow over the towering walls.
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This extra sprinkle of magic has been added for the Discovering Hogwarts feature, which launched this week.
The latest addition to the behind-the-scenes experience hopes to give die-hard Potter-heads a closer look at the first few films in particular.
All of the usual tour elements are still in place – real costumes, a venture through Aragog’s lair, green screens that let you ride a broom, prosthetic goblin faces and a whole lot more.
But during the summer months, there will be craft workshops to make your own origami “sorting ceremony chatterbox” and special pop-up stands will be dotted around the sets, with experts on hand to explain how the magic works – and even showcase some of the tricks.
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For example, did you know the late Robbie Coltrane, who played friendly giant Hagrid, had a body double?
Many Hagrid scenes were shot with Martin Bayfield, we learn, a 6ft 10in ex-rugby player who wore an animatronic head.
And remember the famous Wingardium Leviosa scene where Hermione makes a white feather levitate?
Well, we discover how the background magicians made it glide gracefully through the air.
I won’t give away all the secrets, though. And these pop-up stands are only a teeny splash in a whole cauldron of fun on offer.
You can flit between nitty-gritty details and interactive fun that even Muggles would enjoy.
Pose for snaps in Hagrid’s bike and side cart, or take home a souvenir video of you fighting off a dementor from your train carriage on the Hogwarts Express.
Celebrate your victory with a butter beer – maybe only one, though, as this butterscotch, syrupy juice topped with a liquid marshmallow certainly packs a sugar hit.
Make sure you leave time to get through it all, as the tour takes an average three-and-a-half hours, according to Warner Bros (or at least four in my experience).
And don’t splash all your cash on photo memorabilia and food from the cafe, as the huge gift shop at the end will have little eyes bulging out of their sockets – but the wands, cloaks and cuddly toys don’t come cheap.
My advice is go for treats such as Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and chocolate frogs.
They’re still pricey, but they’re fun, tasty and the frogs come with collectible cards.
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Plus, it’ll keep kids quiet on the journey home. That’s a win.
Discovering Hogwarts runs until September 4. Tickets cost from £51.50pp. Click here to book.
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