I fell in love with The Shire, home of the Hobbits while watching The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) : The Fellowship of the Ring. So, I was excited to travel to The Shire through The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour.
Hobbiton is the only remaining full set location from LOTR. The set is located on farmland owned by the Alexander family about 20 minutes drive from Matamata. One can either join a tour starting from Auckland, Rotorua or Matamata or drive directly to The Shire’s Rest Café instead. The place was busy but well run and organised.
I waited eagerly for the tour bus to take us to Hobbiton village. The 2-hour tour runs at an interval of 15 minutes to 30 minutes. As it is a guided tour, we had to follow the guide on a planned route through the village.
My excitement went up a notch as we reached the ‘Welcome to Hobbiton’ signboard. Everyone was busy taking photos with the signboard but the moment the first hobbit hole came into view, the camera shutters went into overdrive!
Throughout the tour, the guide stopped at various points of interest, showed us where scenes of the movie were shot and shared the intricate details of the movie set. Amongst them was how the farm was chosen when Peter Jackson spotted a large and striking pine tree during an aerial search and involvement of the New Zealand army in building the 1.5 kilometre road into the site.
With its lush green fields, rolling hills with scattered trees and dotted with lakes, this farmland definitely makes a very picturesque Hobbit village.
There are a total of 44 colourful hobbit holes which are deliberately ‘weathered’ for a more rustic and live in feel. Each hobbit hole has a unique shape and varies in size. Most of the holes are locked but a few are opened for the curious to have a peek inside.
I was impressed by the high standard set by Peter Jackson as can be seen from the detailed setting of each of the hobbit hole providing each a personality of its own.
As we reached the heights of Bag End, we had a wonderful view of The Shire with the Party Tree in the field where Bilbo birthday party was held and the Green Dragon over the horizon.
We then came to stop at the most famous hobbit hole in The Shire, the home of Bilbo Baggins. The guide told us that the tall oak tree above Bilbo’s home was brought in from Matamata and 200,000 fake leaves imported from Taiwan were painstakingly wired onto the dead tree to make it look real!
So much thought and attention to detail was put into the Hobbit village – from the smoking chimneys, laundry hanging on the clothesline, the hobbit sized furniture and baskets of fruits in the neatly kept gardens. One can imagine the amount of work and resources to keep the whole place in tip top condition.
From the Bag End, the tour headed towards to the last stop, Green Dragon Inn across the stone bridge. The inn is the only building in The Shire that has been recreated inside and out just as in the movie. We received a free drink with a choice of ale, beer, apple cider or non alcoholic ginger beer to choose from.
The interior of the inn was very warm with earthy colours, stone floors, wood paneling and hardwood doors. The deep leather chairs in front of the crackling fireplace were really inviting and I could stay there forever with a good book. Unfortunately we only had 20 minutes at the inn before making our way back to be picked up by the tour bus.
The tour cost NZ$ 79 but I felt it was well worth every dollar as I thoroughly enjoyed myself venturing into the magical world of Middle Earth :).