Throughout our trip in New Zealand there was always a faint guilty feeling at the back of my mind. Whenever I stood, marvelling at another fabulous bit of scenery already familiar from Lord of the Rings (you really can’t escape it), I couldn’t help but think “Holly would love this“. My sister, you see, is a bona fide Tolkein Superfan. There isn’t a location she couldn’t name on sight, a microsecond of the film she hasn’t got encyclopaedic knowledge of or a character whose entire backstory she couldn’t recite. And now, just to really kick her in the nuts, we were off to the real live Shire on a Hobbiton set tour. She took this with remarkably good grace.
The Hobbiton set is located in the middle of a still-working sheep farm. It is only because director Peter Jackson happened to fly over in a plane that it got spotted at all: it could have so easily remained in obscurity as sheep grazing pastures.
Hobbiton was first built for the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a temporary set, due to be dismantled at the end of filming. Happily, when PJ et al returned to make the three Hobbit films, they rebuilt a more permanent set which is now the bustling tourist attraction we pulled our monster camper van into.
I generally loathe tourist sites, but Hobbiton really is brilliant. Except the gift shop which is either overpriced or tacky or both. And I was buying for a LotR obsessive.
As soon as you get off the tour bus, you are right into the heart of Hobbiton, walking down the very path where we first meet Gandalf in LotR. Holly would be able to tell you it’s proper name.
The tour around the (surprisingly big) set takes about an hour. The detail is just incredible, from tiny little gumboots outside tiny little doors to tiny washing lines to a village vegetable patch still maintained by a team of (non-Hobbit) gardeners.
The gardens were my favourite – all cute wildflowers in sweet containers with little rose bushes growing up the little porches. This is my blueprint should I ever become a homeowner despite the fact I am distinctly un-Hobbitlike at 5’10” tall.
The tour takes in all of the key sites such as Bag End (home to one B. Baggins) and the party field – Bilbo’s venue of choice for birthday parties. You even get to play at being hobbitses!
The tour ended on a high at the Green Dragon pub. If I had a local, I would want the Green Dragon to be it. The cosy log fires, the lakeside beer garden and the amazing (exclusively brewed) drinks – what more could you want from a pub?! Even the ginger beer (designated driver again!) was fiery and delicious.
If you want to take a Hobbiton set tour
- Tours cost around £36 per person and include a drink at the end of the tour
- We didn’t struggle with finding availability (tours leave regularly throughout the day) but to avoid disappointment you can book your preferred tour time here
- Tour groups can be quite large. Although the guides are pretty good about ensuring everyone gets to see everything and take the photos they want, the tour moves in stages to control crowds so you can’t run ahead or linger behind if something captures your imagination. Stick at the front of the group (near the guides) to ensure you get maximum time at each spot and don’t get stuck at the back of a slow queue of people trying to snap the same thing!