The first time I realise Hobbiton is more than a reconstructed set is while walking down the stone-walled path that Gandalf rides his cart along at the start of the first Lord of the Rings movie.
Hobbiton doesn’t stand alongside the world’s wonders but in its own way it invokes a similar sense of wonderment and wanting to simply sit and experience what the world is like on the other side.
My initial moment of amazement comes after a rather unassuming bus ride past fields of sheep, deer and cows while listening to the story behind Hobbiton’s existence. I won’t spoil any of the tales but keep an ear out for the creative filming techniques used – not always CGI.
There are many players at work during a tour of Hobbiton, the only remaining Lord of the Rings movie set, each one lending a precious hand to making this fantastical world a reality.
Movie Magic In The Shire
When it comes to Hobbiton, the dream is in the details. Sir Peter Jackson was ruthless when ensuring his set for the Shire remained true to the books and as real to the actors as it was to their characters.
The same goes for visitors. Standing at the gates to hobbit houses, the movie magic that gives them character is clear, from the doors weathered beyond their age to the subtle touches such as bottled plants.
Being able to see Bag End, walk the same paths as Gandalf and the hobbits and stand in the field where the awesome firework dragon brought Bilbo’s 111th birthday to a controversial end gives me a greater appreciation for the fantasy world.
The Borders Of Hobbiton Are Further Apart For Some
As our guides, Shaun and Maya, walk us around Hobbiton, they stop to share what each house or section is and why it has been shaped to look a certain way.
The tour is compulsory. In the past, guests have run off from the group (more on that later) but I really enjoy sticking with the guides to learn about the filming techniques and changes made throughout the years.
I, along with many, want to linger in certain areas, particularly the wide open Party Field with the world-famous Party Tree (you can get married there now).
Standing on the stone bridge, looking up at the collection of underground houses and intricate details, I picture Hobbiton stretching beyond the surrounding hills and it almost seems real.
I Want To Have A Drink With Bilbo
Leaving the houses of Hobbiton behind, I cross the bridge over to the Green Dragon Inn. While many movie-themed watering holes struggle to reflect the captivating charm of their fictitious counterparts, the Green Dragon holds no such limitations.
I enter to a crackling fire, high-backed chairs and rectangular wooden tables that would make a suitable stage upon which to perform a merry ditty. The setting is classic Shire, wholesome and warm, rich in food and drink.
Four specially-made brews (two beers, one cider and one non-alcoholic ginger beer) that can’t be purchased anywhere else in the world are poured from wooden kegs into mugs for our visiting troupe and we all take a seat around the fire.
Everyone is talking about what they've just experienced.
The People Are Hobbiton's Heart
The Lord of the Rings has resonated with many, but more so with some. These individuals find the home they’ve been dreaming of in Hobbiton, donning costumes and a child-like imagination.
While exploring, I notice two German bloggers on a private tour. One is dressed in a cloak and wearing fake pointy ears, pumping water at Samwise Gamgee’s house and performing other hobbity tasks.
Not all of these mystical characters are content with sticking to the tour. Some, dressed as orcs, will venture off hunting for hobbits, while others are perfectly happy to sit under the Party Tree with the lake in front and a good book in their lap, appreciating for a few hours what it would be like to live in such a peaceful place.
I guess that’s where Hobbiton differs from the movie theme parks and attractions and becomes more like the wonders of our world. You don’t necessarily have to do anything there. Its existence is simply enough.