Last weekend I had a dream come true: I visited Hobbiton. And it was better than I dreamed. I absolutely loved it.
My family had some reservations about going. We’re big Lord of the Rings fans, but the Hobbiton Movie Set, located on a farm in Matamata, has a reputation as a tourist trap. It’s quite expensive and, being the height of summer, we feared it would be heaving with visitors. We didn’t know how much of the set would be left, or if the experience would be worth it. As it turned out, we were blown away.
The set looks exactly as it does in Peter Jackson’s films.
Still, as we drove towards the site, we couldn’t help but giggle at a sign that read Tourist Farm. Then, when we got there, we were greeted by a curious sheep.
The set is a short bus ride away from the car park. As the bus driver explained, the original set was dismantled after the filming of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but when it came to the filming of The Hobbit, the owners of the farm asked that the set be built to last. That decision made them rich.
The first magical moment of the tour was when we rounded a hill and The Green Dragon came into view. It was like sliding back in time. The pub, the mill and the stone bridge could have been straight from the Middle Ages.
The next magical moment was when we stepped off the bus and walked between two stone walls into another world. There was Hobbiton. It was so colourful, not just the emerald grass, but every petal of every flower was remarkably vivid. The gardens were beautiful. And then there were the bright, circular front doors.
Everything was ridiculously detailed. It looked lived in; a functioning village. There were vegetables in wheelbarrows, washing lines with hobbit clothes on, tools leaning against fences and candles in windows.
The commentary our guide provided was interesting and, actually, even though there were heaps of people there, it didn’t feel crowded. If anything, seeing other tour groups in the distance added to the feeling of the living village. I felt like I was back in England!
There was so much to look at, I probably missed a lot. With every step came a new delight. Most of the stuff didn’t even make it into the films, but no detail was overlooked. What those filmmakers did was insane – such as taking all the fruit off an apple tree and replacing it with plums, because that’s what was in Tolkien’s books.
Of course, the highlight of the tour is Bag End, the house of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. It did not disappoint, right down to the no admittance except on party business sign on the gate. Standing there at the top, looking out over the fields with the famous party tree in the centre, you genuinely feel as though you’re part of the films.
Too soon, it was time to go back down the hill. We passed more hobbit holes, including Sam Gamgee’s house, and the site of the long-expected party. Then we crossed the stone bridge by the mill – there was a village notice board with all sorts on it!
The final magical moment was when we entered The Green Dragon. It was the most gorgeous pub I’ve ever been in, a fantasy version of the very best old pubs in England, all dark wood and rafters and fireplaces. Every visitor gets a complimentary drink in a medieval-style beaker, a choice between cider, stout, ale and ginger beer. I had the cider and it was the best I’ve ever tasted!
The interior of The Green Dragon is just as detailed as the rest of the village. Hobbit coats are hung up by the door and above the food bar is an amazing carving of a dragon. There’s a book of cast signatures in a glass case. I noticed that Sir Ian McKellen had put a G rune next to his name, for Gandalf.
The pub and the party marquee next to it are available to hire for functions. I’m already dreaming of having my wedding there! The pub garden was exquisite.
The only disappointment of the tour was that we felt a bit rushed in the pub, but it would have gotten too crowded if they hadn’t moved us on. Besides, as my dad said, “I always feel rushed when asked to leave a pub.”
So it was back on the bus and to the gift shop, which has a pretty good café above it. We bought a couple of fridge magnets, (the signs of The Prancing Pony and The Green Dragon,) and the extended edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
What a day! If you were wondering whether or not to visit Hobbiton when travelling around New Zealand then wonder no more. It’s wonderful. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, an Anglophile, a history nerd, or just someone who loves gardens, Hobbiton is definitely for you.
For more Lord of the Rings locations, see 10 Places Hobbits Have Been.
Article by Abigail Simpson, author of POMS AWAY! A British Immigrant’s View of New Zealand