If there’s one thing you can say about the Harry Potter fandom it’s that it is loyal. Amazingly loyal.

Despite the final instalment of the books being published nine years ago, the franchise continues to capture the imagination of readers and viewers young and old.

For many fans, a pilgrimage to the studio tours in London is seen as an essential trip, despite its expense.

But before you rush off to book your rail tickets and hotel room, let me tell you about a wonderful place for Potterheads that’s a little closer to home.

Gloucester Cathedral is something of an original Hogwarts. It was the setting for many of the scenes from the Philosopher’s Stone, the Chamber of Secrets and the Half Blood Prince, and with writer JK Rowling growing up in the county of Gloucestershire, I’m sure it’s not a stretch to say the cathedral’s image was somewhere in her mind when she was creating her famed school.

I was lucky enough to take part in a recent Harry Potter tour at the cathedral. These tours happen a couple of times a year, drawing in families from far and wide. Tickets for these wonderful events sell out fast and once I got there it was clear to see why.

I was greeted at the door by a witch and her owl, informing me that flying lessons would be commencing soon and that I should take a broom should I wish to. I, of course, helped myself to a broom.

Inside the main entrance was a great gathering of mums, dads, teens, young Hermiones, a few little Ginnys and, of course, a mass of mini Harrys all eagerly awaiting their tour.

Each group was split into classes (potions, divination, charms etc) and each group had a witch or wizard who would guide them through the tour. My group was headed by a stern witch who made it clear to us all that flying our brooms in the corridors was strictly prohibited. No one dared answer back.

There was certainly a sense of very-real excitement when the event began and our classes were each ushered off through the large wooden doors into the vast corridors of the great building. It did truly feel like we were all stepping across the threshold into Hogwarts.

The cathedral is 900 years old and up until the reign of King Henry VIII was a monastery.

Despite being vacant of monks for many many years there were lots of little clues on the walls and floors that showed they once roamed the very same halls.

One especially wonderful feature was little etchings, almost like graffiti, marked into the stone seats. These were apparently left by naughty schoolboys who were bored of their Bible studies. There was also the well-preserved lavatorium where the monks washed. This was used in the troll scene of the Philosopher’s Stone, although I must admit it is almost unrecognisable in the film.

After showing us where the famed ‘petrifying’ scenes from the Chamber of Secrets were filmed, our witch took us to the doorway used as the Gryffindor common room’s entrance. It was then up to a young lad to shout the password ‘caput draconis’, before we were all allowed to proceed with the rest of the event. Thankfully Ravenclaw’s common room doorway was not filmed at the cathedral otherwise most of our tour would have been spent trying to answer riddles.

Just as our legs were starting to ache our professor stopped outside the cathedral’s chapter room which, at one point, was the planned filming location for Hogwarts’ great hall. Alas, it was deemed too small. Our witch declared that we were now free to unwind inside the room and enjoy the rest of our evening.

In my humble opinion the chapter room would have made a perfect great hall. Its high ceilings, carved stonewalls and intricate stained glass was every-bit the banquet hall I imagined when reading the books. Rather fittingly this is where youngster (and their parents) could be sorted into their houses, if they were brave enough to take to the stage in front of everyone and don the infamous sorting hat.

This was an opportunity I couldn’t miss, so I was one of the first to get in line. After a handful of Slytherins and a Gryffindor, I took to the stage.

While I didn’t go as far as Harry and think ‘not Slytherin, not Slytherin’, I would have been notably disappointed should I have been sorted into either Gryffindor or Slytherin (I’d like to think I’m not too evil but I’m certainly not brave). When the sorting hat exclaimed ‘Ravenclaw!’ I couldn’t hide my delight. As a bit of a bookworm and a somewhat logical thinker I’ve always been drawn to the eagle-crested house.

With the serious business of sorting out of the way I was then free to explore the delights of the hall which including meeting real owls, eating chocolate frogs, drinking pumpkin juice and creating my own wand and companion.

For many Potter fans the pilgrimage to London is a must. Of course it’s wonderful - it’s where most of the magic was created - but it shouldn’t be the be all and end all for a Potter fan. A studio tour is just that - it’s a tour of a studio – it isn’t anything more than the construction of a film company, whereas visiting a location spot means you learn about history and support our heritage.

The cathedral is open and free to visitors 365 days a year. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming Potter events by visiting the website http://www.gloucestercathedral.org.uk