Fans of The Lord of the Rings: unite! Non-fans who just like film sets and may or may not have Elvish tattoos anyway: unite! Oh, just me? Weird.
Today we’re tumbling down the wildly intriguing rabbit hole and landing in some Hobbit Holes!
In 1998, when Peter Jackson was scouting for the perfect location to set up ‘Hobbiton’, he spotted an unsuspecting sheep farm from the sky and his eyes turned into heart emojis (at least that’s how I imagine it). With help from the New Zealand Army, the Alexander family farm in Matamata, New Zealand, was transformed into ‘the Shire’, a region of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth, described in The Lord of the Rings.
The thirty-nine Hobbit holes were built to meet the standard building code, although they were mostly external facades, and other set features were created from locally and internationally sourced materials, mostly temporary. For The Hobbit, the set needed to be rebuilt, a process that took two years. This time it was permanent, and although the films are done and dusted, Hobbiton prevails, and it’s probably the cutest thing in New Zealand after the Kiwi.
Your guided exploration of Hobbiton will include all sorts of titbits and insider information, such as how they managed to get those picket fences looking so weathered (hint: yoghurt), the trouble shooting involved in making Gandalf look big and the Hobbits look small using forced perspective (different sized Hobbit Holes), and other snippets of movie magic (clue: filming the sunrise backwards).
As you wander through The Shire, your eyes will be drawn to bright splashes of colour and vibrant gardens, alive with root vegetables and flowers. Tiny ladders lean up against trees full of fruit, dried flowers and cow bells dangle outside front doors. A suspended game of chess lies on an outdoor table, homemade bread cools by the front gate, and all over Hobbiton, little clothes hang on the clothes lines. It’s as though the Hobbits know you’re coming and are hiding, peering out of their windows over cluttered windowsills to check when you’ve walked past.
You’ll be able to tell the profession of the Hobbits who live in certain houses based on the display outside. Carefully stacked firewood at the woodcutter’s house, a cheese stand at the cheesemaker’s house, honey outside the beekeeper’s and so on.
Your tour will last about one hour and ends up at The Green Dragon Inn, where you can enjoy one free beverage. You’ll have a choice of beer, ale, cider, or non-alcoholic ginger beer, all crafted especially for Hobbiton. Peter Jackson ensured that his actors didn’t get too merry by serving them ale with 1% alcohol, but at The Green Dragon you’ll get the real thing.
As you leave, don’t forget to look back. You might just see a little Hobbit waving goodbye.
Hobbiton is a magical place for Tolkien lovers, tiny house enthusiasts, film buffs, and anyone with a whimsical imagination. For more information, check out the website: Hobbitontours.com
By Lauren Becker