71043 Hogwarts Castle is the second largest set ever released, containing some 6020 pieces. We have therefore decided to divide our review into two parts, the first of which was focused upon the minifigures and the building experience.
Attention now turns to the completed Hogwarts Castle in the second part of our review and I will also be giving my opinion on the set as a whole.
The Completed Model
Hogwarts Castle occupies an enormous area, as one would expect of a set which contains more than 6000 pieces. It measures 69cm wide and the Marble Staircase Tower reaches an impressive height of just over 58cm so the entire model looks tremendous on display, due in particular to its accuracy in relation to the source material. However, such authenticity does impose limitations as some of the tan walls appear bland when viewed from certain angles.
The famed school of witchcraft and wizardry stands on the banks of the Great Lake. Students starting their first year travel across the lake on board enchanted boats and this set includes five such vessels, each featuring a small lantern and making clever use of a reddish brown window frame. Two more trans-yellow lanterns flank the entrance to the Boathouse and a sticker is applied on the wall inside, showing the crests for each house.
A steep flight of steps leads from the Boathouse to the Viaduct Courtyard. This has been scaled down quite considerably here and is represented by a simple series of tan 1x2 slopes, following the contours of the surrounding landscape. The tan elements do not particularly stand out against dark tan cliffs but I think this was probably the best available solution at such a small scale.
Large rock panels form the basis for the cliffs surrounding Hogwarts but their repeated shapes and flat surfaces have been cleverly disguised using a range of different slopes. The resultant landscape looks remarkably realistic and I like the irregular shape of the base very much. The trees, each consisting of a reddish brown 3L bar with three green flower stems on top, are equally effective and add a welcome splash of colour to the model.
The Viaduct Courtyard lacks the large entranceway featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, instead taking inspiration from the earlier movies. It is constructed using 1x2x2 window frames, almost all of which are occupied by a printed window pane. The dark bluish grey roof above the cloisters looks excellent as well, especially at the corners where 1x2 wedge bows create an interesting shape. I also appreciate how the window frame at the top of the steps is empty so forms a door.
An enormous clock, here represented by a 2x2 round tile with a sticker, hangs above the entrance to the Great Hall. I like the pattern behind the clock and the shape of the surrounding arches is superb. Two more stickers are placed on the doors and you can also identify a golden statue of the Architect of Hogwarts which stands at the main entrance to the castle.
The exterior of the Great Hall is intricately detailed and looks perfect when compared with the movie. I love the vertical columns between the stained glass windows and the windows look absolutely spectacular when lit from inside. The cylindrical building beside the Great Hall lacks texture but still looks pretty good in my opinion, housing either Argus Filch's office, the staff room or a ground floor classroom.
Pearl silver teeth form dormer windows protruding from the roof alongside three spires, the proportions of which look brilliant. Moreover, I love the tiny Dementors floating around the roof, each standing on a trans-clear bar to give the impression that they are flying. The Darth Sidious hologram element is ideal for representing a cloaked Dementor at this scale.
71043 Hogwarts Castle looks magnificent when viewed from outside and the interior is equally detailed, particularly inside the Great Hall. Colourful banners for each Hogwarts house are suspended above the dining tables and candles are clipped to the wall. The vaulted ceiling is wonderful and I like the sticker showing Dolores Umbridge's educational decrees, although it is a shame that there was not room to include the Entrance Hall where these notices should be found.
Three more stickers are placed above the high table, where staff are seated. The house points counter is a delightful inclusion but the windows seem rather awkward to me, due primarily to the stark contrast between these stickers and the brick-built stained glass windows but also to their positioning above the table. However, I like the reddish brown neck brackets that form chairs and the central throne appears suitably impressive.
The Marble Staircase Tower is constructed using similar techniques to those from 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V and the resultant structure looks fantastic. Trans-black 1x1 plates form most of the windows but some are represented by stickers. The textured surface which surrounds these windows is lovely, making ingenious use of 1x2 and 2x3 curved slopes.
A series of 1x1 slopes form the machicolations between the narrower section of the tower and the top. This design is remarkably effective and I love the dark bluish grey roof, although the transition from a studded surface to a smooth one appears rather abrupt. Unfortunately, I can envisage no alternative solution here. The three distinctive turrets, on the other hand, are represented nicely and I appreciate the designer's attempt to depict their differing diameters, using angular pieces on the innermost turret.
Harry Potter faces a Hungarian Horntail during the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. This dangerous creature pursues Harry to the top of the Marble Staircase Tower in the movie and I am glad that scene is represented here. The dragon is remarkably poseable despite its small size and includes a few dark tan spines so matches the film exactly. Its dark tan and reddish brown colour scheme looks superb.
Two staircases are situated inside the tower and they are both mounted on turntables, allowing them to change direction. This is an interesting function but the absence of surrounding doorways, even if they were only represented by stickers, is disappointing. In addition, the light bluish grey floor between the staircases seems out of place to me.
However, I like the portraits which surround the steps. These depict numerous influential witches and wizards from the past, including all four founders of Hogwarts as well as the Fat Lady who guards the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. Applying stickers to concave surfaces is always difficult and this example is no exception, although any errors are partly disguised by the irregular arrangement of the paintings.
A couple of different locations have been combined on the next level. The wash basins at the centre of the bathroom are from Moaning Myrtle's bathroom on the second floor while the mermaid stained glass window, shown on a sticker, is based upon the prefects' bathroom. Nevertheless, the high level of detail is impressive and I love the Moaning Myrtle trophy figure, floating on a sticker above a row of toilet stalls!
Professor Dumbledore's office occupies the uppermost level of the Marble Staircase Tower. A golden gargoyle is located beneath the office and its interior is decorated with some stickers, featuring a perch for Fawkes as well as the Sorting Hat, the Sword of Godric Gryffindor and portraits of past headmasters and headmistresses, a couple of whom appear to be asleep. I am delighted to see the portrait of Ariana Dumbledore hanging centrally above the office, although this room is heavily reliant upon stickers and further brick-built detail would have been welcome.
The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is located underneath the Marble Staircase Tower, three levels below Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. The round door cannot open but this sticker looks brilliant and I love the chamber itself, including four carved serpents along with an enormous statue of Salazar Slytherin's face, from which the Basilisk is emerging! The serpent is represented by a sand green snake and you can see a black 1x1 tile, depicting Tom Riddle's diary, on the floor of the chamber.
A long viaduct connects the courtyard in front of the Great Hall with the Viaduct Entrance. Not every arch is visible when the model is viewed from higher angles as half of the 1x4 arch bricks are hidden behind the rest. Even so, I think the viaduct looks pretty good on the whole, especially with a couple of trophy figures placed on top to break up the tan silhouette.
The building which adjoins the Marble Staircase Tower looks comparatively plain beside the Great Hall, although that reflects the design of Hogwarts Castle in the Harry Potter film series. The Lookout Tower is integrated beautifully with this building and I like how headlight bricks are used to represent square windows, just below the conical roof.
However, there is some room for improvement where the Stone Bridge is concerned. This short bridge should link the Lookout Tower with the Viaduct Entrance but instead begins behind the aforementioned tower. It therefore looks rather awkward in my opinion and this becomes even more apparent when the model is viewed from behind as the Stone Bridge is revealed to lead nowhere.
I am far more satisfied with the imposing Viaduct Entrance. This enormous building combines features of the Great Hall with those of the Marble Staircase Tower, including several stained glass windows as well as four narrow towers with dark bluish grey spires on top. The stickers on the doors look splendid and I like the external terrace as well as the round window which contains some colourful 1x1 round plates. Unfortunately, they cannot be lit from behind so these colours remain dull.
While the area around the Great Hall has an established internal layout that could not be easily altered, the Viaduct Entrance has not been comprehensively mapped. The designer has accordingly chosen to include well known rooms, paying little attention to their true location within the school. I think that was a good decision and like how the Room of Requirement is furnished with jumbled furniture, just like in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. A Vanishing Cabinet can be found inside and I like the stacked chairs in the corner.
Professor's Snape's potions classroom occupies the neighbouring chamber. The wooden shelves are laden with colourful vials and there are several cauldrons in here, one of which looks absolutely huge beside the trophy figures! The stickers on the rear wall look good but my favourite detail is the sand blue 1x1 tile on one of the work benches, representing Snape's copy of Advanced Potion Making.
The lower levels of the neighbouring building are similarly detailed, containing four of the challenges which protect the Philosopher's Stone. Devil's Snare occupies a small area behind the cliffs while the larger space features the chamber of winged Keys and a large chess board. Such efficient use of the available space is very pleasing, especially since there is still room to place the trophy figures inside.
Once again, several stickers are used in this area of the model. Some of the winged keys are placed on trans-clear tiles while others fly around in the background. I am impressed by the depth of the image on this wall panel and the broomstick, represented by a reddish brown paint brush, looks great. The chess board is highly detailed too, consisting of white and dark blue squares that provide a welcome contrast for the black chess pieces.
The final chamber contains the Mirror of Erised alongside some flames and a tiny trans-red 1x1 round tile, depicting the Philosopher's Stone. A message from the Heir of Slytherin is found in the corridor on the next floor, along with the hidden entrance to the Room of Requirement. It seems strange to place this door so far from the actual room and its scaling is not entirely appropriate beside the scrawled message on the wall, although it does suit the trophy figures quite well.
Dolores Umbridge's office is immediately recognisable. Its lurid pink walls really stand out among the muted shades of tan and brown which dominate this model and I like the white 1x1 round plates that represent decorative dishes on the wall. The Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom looks superb too, containing three desks as well as a gramophone and the wardrobe containing a Boggart. A few Cornish Pixies and a dragon skeleton are also visible on stickers in this classroom.
I was surprised to find only two furnished rooms inside the Viaduct Entrance as this is a substantial building and there would have been space for another floor. Even so, both Gryffindor common room and the library look great, including several notable details from the films. For instance, the common room contains two red settees, a foot stool and the fireplace where Harry speaks with Sirius Black during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
The library features an impressive bookshelf along with stacks of books and five wooden chairs. A few more stickers are applied on the columns in the Viaduct Entrance, featuring some brickwork, a notice board outside Gryffindor common room and a chalkboard from one of Professor McGonagall's transfiguration lessons which includes the initials of the set designer, Justin Ramsden.
This set also includes a couple of important locations from the school grounds. Hagrid's Hut is based upon its prominent appearance in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, consisting of two round buildings which are connected. The pumpkin patch outside looks brilliant and I love the ramshackle stone texture on the walls. A medium nougat spider, representing Aragog, is found behind the hut but Hagrid himself is not included.
Harry and Ron encounter the Whomping Willow during their second year at Hogwarts, crashing Arthur Weasley's enchanted Ford Anglia into the tree. A tiny rendition of the Ford Anglia is therefore included, consisting of just four pieces and fitting neatly into the Whomping Willow's articulated branches. A pair of black 1x1 quarter circle tiles form the hidden passageway which leads to the Shrieking Shack at the foot of the tree, demonstrating wonderful attention to detail.
A small display stand for the minifigures completes this set. Each figure stands on a pair of 1x2 jumper plates along with their respective house crests and these are formed using stickers which is somewhat disappointing. Nevertheless, I appreciate the inclusion of a display stand and the four minifigures really stand out against their tan and dark tan base.
Hogwarts Castle is a spectacular location within the Wizarding World and my expectations for 71043 Hogwarts Castle were therefore exceptionally high. Fortunately, this model does not disappoint. Not only does its exterior look absolutely magnificent in relation to the source material but the set is packed with fun references to the movies, particularly on the inside.
Furthermore, this set contains a wonderful selection of trophy figures which are a perfect size to inhabit most of the castle. A few internal details are too large for these characters and the heavy reliance upon stickers is somewhat disappointing, although the latter issue cannot be easily resolved. Despite these flaws, the price of £349.99 or $399.99 seems reasonable so I have no hesitation in recommending 71043 Hogwarts Castle to older fans of Harry Potter. Younger collectors will probably find more enjoyment in the minifigure-scale sets.
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This set was provided for review by The LEGO Group but the review is an expression of my own opinions.