Harry Potter Forbidden Forest experience review: A Magical journey for fans and families

Miriam Margolyes reflects on 20th anniversary of Harry Potter

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Warner Bros have already brought The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour to London, but now the studio have opened a new attraction for the North of England. Located at Arley Hall and Gardens between Liverpool and Manchester is Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience. Express.co.uk headed up to Cheshire to check out this magical night-time trail that is entirely outside in the surrounding woodlands.

Met with a warm welcome, we picked up some mulled wine and hot chocolate before walking over to a twinkly circle of lanterns.

There, our journey began with a staff member using a Deluminator to borrow the candles’ flames and light the start of our path.

Heading off into the Forbidden Forest Experience, which takes around 45 minutes at a casual pace, we were met with Harry Potter music and an illuminated path throughout.

As you wander through the seasonal attraction, fans can look out for familiar Fantastic Beasts, while Hagrid and his dog Fang are easy to spot early on.

There’s plenty of magical creatures to look at along the way from Hagrid’ half-brother Grawp the giant and Harry Potter’s snowy owl Hedwig to Bowtruckles and a den of Nifflers with their loot.

All are beautifully decorated, but perhaps more could have been moving animatronically as Disney have in their theme parks.

Nevertheless, there are some fun encounters with those that do move, with the first you come across being Buckbeak the hippogriff.

We made the error of not maintaining eye contact with him when bowing, so he shook his head at us. But in the end, he was kind enough to give us another try before returning the gesture.

A bit further along and there’s a chance to buy some Butterbeer for the sweet tooths among you and testing your talents in a wand battle is on offer too.

While a particularly magical interaction has to be casting your own Patronus to discover what animal comes up for you.

Further along and we could hear Harry and Ron stuck in the Whomping Willow, before coming across their grounded blue Ford Anglia itself.

Then, deeper into the darker parts of the Forbidden Forest we could spot a unicorn in the trees before coming across an optional scarier encounter.

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Near the end, we braved entering Aragog’s Lair to meet the giant Acromantula and his children, which was a particularly thrilling highlight.

Aesthetically, this woodland trail was beautifully laid out with coloured lights, providing a festive experience that will work well around Halloween, Christmas and beyond.

While the grand finale came as we approached the end, which saw a spectacular reimagining of Harry Potter casting his stag Patronus over a lake.

After experiencing the magical journey, we ended up in a wizarding village, not too dissimilar to Hogsmeade, with a whole host of treats on sale.

Aside from more Butterbeer, hearty food was on offer from big British roast dinners to good ol’ fish and chips, alongside some vegan and gluten-free options.

Additionally, there’s a bar with a special pumpkin spice cocktail on offer, a giant pick ’n mix stall with every variety of fudge under the sun and a marshmallow toasting fire pit. There’s even a large Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts merchandise store for all one’s wizarding needs before heading home.

Overall, the new attraction was a warm-hearted twinkly experience with the odd thrill that’s perfect for this darker and colder time of year and will especially appeal to the biggest Harry Potter fans and families looking for a fun evening out.

Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is located at Arley Hall and Gardens and is open now until early 2022. Tickets start from £19 and can be ordered here.

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