The Ultimate Guide to Harry Potter Studios, Watford

Travel, UK

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Any self-confessed Potter head has either already ventured to the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Watford or has spent each waking moment dreaming of going. Well, whether you are an Auror or a first-year it doesn’t really matter, This guide should help your visit be the best yet.

 

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Tips & Tricks

1.Buy your tickets in advance and try to go on a weekday!

You will inevitably arrive to a hoard of people queueing outside the main entrance. If you have already pre-purchased your tickets online you have no need to queue at the kiosk. There are handy touch screen machines that you can collect your ticket from and that is much quicker.

2. Leave the shopping until the end of your tour

Unless you’re a sad act like me and want a prop to wear on the tour, then leave the shopping until you are finished. There are several shops throughout the studios and the exit point is through the store that you see on entering anyway. Save your arms from carrier bag marks and wait. Unless you know Hermonie’s bag enchantment charm? DM me!

3. Stop off at the Three Broomsticks and share a Butterbeer

Ok it’s not actually The Three Broomstick it’s The Backlot cafe but there is a small Butterbeer shack for you to stop at. If you have an insane sweet tooth then be my guest, have a Butterbeer all to yourself, if not, get one to share. Butterbeer is exceptionally sweet, imagine a cream soda with a butterscotch cream on top, That’s the level of sweetness. I’d recommend ordering one in a souvenir glass, ok it’s plastic and isn’t the most attractive but it makes a much better photo than if you order one in the flimsy plastic beer glasses they have. Rain or shine, I recommend getting a seat outside the Backlot Cafe. There is a small overhead canopy and you get a lovely view of the Knight Bus, Privet Drive, etc. Take a jumper!!

4. Make sure to take your Time Turner with you

What? You don’t have one? How absurd. I suppose you will have to make do with the good old fashioned Muggle way… taking your time. The website advises that you will spend 2-3 hours at the Studios, I spent just over 4 on my visit and I still didn’t get to see everything. Don’t give yourself any time constraint. Take your time wandering through and read the information sections – you can find out some really fascinating facts about the movies and the sets. A lot of the props are incredibly detailed too – Spend your time meandering over the Gryffindor Common Room tapestries or gazing at the carefully placed detail on the Tri-Wizard Cup. One of the most beautiful things about the Harry Potter franchise is the almost incomprehensible attention to detail that went into the films, so take a few moments to appreciate it. I promise you, you’ll feel like you are in Hogwarts itself!

 

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Hidden Gems

We know the books and the films are magic but so are the sets and the props. Here are a few hidden gems that you shouldn’t miss.

  • The tiny bottles of memories stored in the corner of Dumbledores Office – You’ll spot a few familiar names…
  • Uncle Vernon’s most prized possession, The trophy made entirely of drillbits – Sat on the mantel in 4 Privet drive behind the flurry of letters
  • Dolores Umbridge walking the tight rope in Fred and George’s Joke Shop – The Diagon Alley set
  • a grubby little package wrapped up in brown paper lying on the floor” of Vault 713. 
  • The Chocolate Frog cupcake at The Chocolate Frog Cafe – Entrance of the studios
  • Harry’s spectacles on a shelf in the cupboard under the stairs
  • Self-stirring cauldrons – These were made for the film!
  • The board of the animal actors in each film – Read the short bio’s, it is utter heartfelt loveliness reading them.

 

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Best Photo Opportunites

You can be honest with me, it’s ok, we all know that one of the main things you want to do at the Studios is have your photo taken in the Potions Lab to show off on Instagram. Me too, but there is no need to spend hours queuing at the green screen stations. Seek out some of these locations to get the Golden Snitch of photo ops.

  1. The Harry Potter Undesirable No1 posters – Outside the studios either as you arrive or exit
  2. Sat at one of the benches in The Great Hall – Everyone else will be gathered in front of the costumes, take your moment and get a great shot of you on one of the benches.
  3. Mirror of Erised – this one is trickier to get (crowds) but try to find a moment and get your closest photographer to snap your reflection in the mirror.
  4. At the entrance to Dumbledore’s Office
  5. Looking into the Pensieve
  6. Boarding the Hogwarts Express – Queue to board the train and as you are boarding get your mate/partner/resident photographer to stay at the bottom of the small steps to catch you heading off to Hogwarts!
  7. Rushing onto Platform 9 and 3/4 – Luggage in hand of course
  8. Sipping on a Butterbeer – Take it outside and use the Knight Bus or Privet Drive as your backdrop
  9. Outside No3 Privet Drive – yes, I know Harry lived at No4 but there will be a huge queue outside No4 – Go next door and stand tactfully in front of the house number. They’ll never know the difference…
  10. The Hogwarts bridge.
  11. Gringotts Bank in front of one of the Goblins – Hand over your card and request some galleons.
  12. Perusing in any one of the storefronts on Diagon Alley.
  13. The sweet shop within the gift shop – This real store looks just like Honeydukes!

 

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Key Information:

Website here.

For all transport information, opening hours and FAQs use the above website link.

Ticket prices:

  • Adult (16+): £41
  • Child (5-15): £33
  • Family (2 adults & 2 children OR 1 adult & 3 children): £132

8 reasons why West Wales should be your next holiday destination.

Travel, Wales

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1.THE PUBS

New Quay is home to the Black Lion, reputably Dylan Thomas’ favourite haunt. Tresaith is home to The Ship Inn, my favourite haunt. Aberaeron is home to The Harbourmaster, reputably everyone’s favourite haunt. It has won countless awards after all. You could really spend your entire holiday going from pub to pub and why not!? From the beautifully modern Harbourmaster to the traditional stone and slate Pentre Arms (Another favourite of Dylan Thomas) there are so many lovely pubs to choose from so why choose at all?

2.THE BEACHES

From where we stay in Tresaith there are at least six or seven beaches within a short driving distance and each more beautiful than the last. My personal favourite is Mwnt, wind down the country roads and you’ll most certainly think you are lost but the view at the end is worth the journey. Sat on that beach, looking around at the crystal blue sea and the rock formations dipping into it you’d believe you were in a movie set. Oddly, it somewhat reminds me of that Raquel Welch beach scene in One Million Years B.C. A beach that is so beautiful it’s as though it is completely untouched, totally natural and almost prehistoric. How many other places can you say that about in this day and age?**

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3.THE WILDLIFE

Up until my first visit to West Wales I had the right hump about never having seen dolphins. I’ve been to countless Caribbean islands but not a single spotting… I drive two hours from Cardiff to New Quay and there are dozens of the buggers! It’s almost a challenge to not spot any wildlife on the Pembrokeshire coast. Dolphin pods, Seals basking in the sun or popping up to be nosy, Crabs, Lobsters and sea life galore. Best of all? All in their natural habitat. For a great dolphin spotting location head to one of my favourite pubs in the world, The Ship Inn, Tresaith. Grab a cold drink and try to nab a bench overlooking the sea, there are dolphin spottings almost every day from that exact location.

4.THE FOOD

If there is one thing I love most about the seaside it’s the seafood and the Pembrokeshire coast does it exceptionally well. Try The Lime Crab in New Quay for your old school fish and chips fix. In addition to cod and chips for you traditionalists, they also offer up a few different dishes such as salt & pepper squid, mackerel goujons or scallops for those who like their chippy tea with a twist. They also offer a great range of both gluten-free and vegan options. If you fancy a sit-down meal then you really can’t miss The Cliff, Cardigan or The Harbourmaster, Aberaeron. Both serve up a stunning array of freshly caught seafood. For a quick pub snack, The Harbourmaster crispy cockles with spicy vinegar are not to be missed! If you somehow aren’t full from the copious amounts of crab, cockles and other fresh fishies you simply cannot miss a visit to Crwst in Cardigan for a spot of brecwast. Try their pancakes served with Llaeth y Llan yogurt, homemade granola, mixed berries, and Cardigan honey and grab a few doughnuts to snack on for later. You’ll find space, trust me.

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5.THE HISTORY

Whether it’s famous poets or prehistoric settlements you are looking for, the West is a haven of historic tales for you to explore. Arthur’s Stone, Cefn Bryn is surrounded by myth and legend, the 25 tonne stone is actually a Neolithic tomb but in the land of the dragon, there is no harm in believing whichever legend you choose. Head into the town centre of Cardigan and to the castle that sits on the banks of the River Teifi to explore years and years of Welsh history, or, If beautiful views are the cheese to your toastie then don’t miss Pembroke Castle. It’s as if Disney plucked this castle right into each of their movies, it really is breathtaking. It’s also the birthplace of Henry VII!

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6.THE BEER

Dive into any one of the aforementioned pubs and you won’t struggle to find a pint of good, Welsh beer. The South may be the kings of brewing the beers with the likes of Tiny Rebel, Grey Tees and Pipes all residing there but the West know how to serve it up. For a real taste of the West then seek out a pint of the strong stuff brewed by Felinfoel or Gwaun Valley Breweries. Iechyd Da!*

7.THE VIEWS

Stand by the statue of St Crannog looking over Llangrannog bay. Near the Church of the Holy Cross in Mwnt. On the beach in Aberporth. Stand/Sit/Jump in any one of those spots and tell me that those views don’t rival some of the best in the world. Wales is a country of unparalleled beauty and the West coast showcases it beautifully with its picturesque seaside towns and coastal paths.

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8.THE RELAXATION

Joe and I are lucky enough that we go to the West Coast every summer with his family. When I started writing this piece I asked him what his favourite thing about Tresaith was (The small coastal village we stay in), “It’s a week of the year where I can just totally relax because it feels a million miles away but yet it still feels like home”. Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s a home away from home, a small piece of Welsh paradise and the perfect remedy for those busy bees amongst you that just want a break away from city life.

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If you are officially head over heels and fancy booking your break to West Wales, check out Canopy and the Stars for some gorgeous accommodation options. Including a few dog-friendly ones so your pooch can also come for a mooch!

*Cheers! in Welsh.

**Be warned there are lots of steps to get down to the beach so make sure you have your supplies before you get down there, you don’t want to find your perfect spot and then realise you’ve forgotten your much needed Calippo.

12 Hours in Amsterdam

Adventures

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Last weekend Mr. PL and I went on a five-day cruise for my lovely Dad’s 50th birthday. One of the day stops was Amsterdam. I have visited once before but I was only 17 at the time and so I was only interested in sleeping in, staying up all night and laughing at the risque souvenirs. So this time I was so excited to return and see the real Amsterdam.

We got off in the cruise terminal and decided to wander through the streets toward the Bloemenmarkt. Narrow, tall houses with ornate gabled facades line each street, everywhere you look there is a beautiful building to gaze at. If architecture isn’t your cup of tea I assure you that you will still be fascinated. One reason – Each house seems like it was built in the middle of an earthquake. They lean in every possible direction, the windows look positively tipsy in their frames. It truly is the Dutch answer to The leaning tower of Pisa – The leaning houses of Amsterdam.

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Bloemenmarkt is the worlds only floating flower market. Sounds like a dream and looks like a dream. Each market stall sits above the Singel canal, full to the brim with tulips of every colour you can imagine. I have a few pleasures in life, fresh flowers and cheese are two of them – Bloemenmarkt combines the both because directly opposite the flower market sit a plethora of cheese shops. As if I hadn’t already indulged enough.

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We strolled along the canals all the way to the old Heineken Brewery which today houses the Heineken Experience and museum. One of the many beauties of Amsterdam is that you can walk around most of it as it isn’t a huge city like say Rome or London. You get to see so many more hidden gems wandering around.

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We spent around 2.5 hours in the Heineken Experience, learning about the history of the brewery, the beer, and the brand. It really is such a fantastic and immersive set up that they have there. It’s well tailored to the Instagram crowd with numerous ‘selfie spots’ dotted around and my favourite – the karaoke bikes!

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To finish the tour, we drank wayyyy too much beer in the Heineken bar. Perfectly poured pints in a low-lit underground bar, trays of bitterballen and a pour your own pint immersive bar. I blame the staff at that bar for how much cash I went on to spend in the brand shop.

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After spending the afternoon learning about Heineken and drinking Heineken what did we decide to do? Go to Cafe de Pijp of course for a large Heineken. Retro-modern decor, large cold beers and more hot, crisp bitterballen. I really couldn’t have asked for more. With a slight beer haze and bellies full of deep fried Dutch delicacies, we spent the rest of our evening walking through the canal district and the old square. Amsterdam’s image can be sordid but it’s so much more – a beautiful, cosmopolitan city perfect for a city break.

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Disclosure: Opinions expressed are purely my own and I accept no responsibility for your sudden urge to book a trip to Amsterdam