Everything You Need to Know for your Trip to the Shire
Good Morning! What do I mean by that? If you don’t know, you need to study up on your Tolkien before you revisit this post—or at least before you visit the Shire!
Hobbiton, a town of Middle Earth’s Shire, is found fifteen minutes outside of the tiny New Zealand town of Matamata on the north island. According to legend (i.e. my sloppy-haired, sunny-smiling tour guide Carolyn) the location was the third to last of 159 possible locations on Peter Jackson’s shortlist that fulfilled all three of his requirements: rolling hills as described in the books, an enormous rounded-top tree, and a lake adjacent to said tree.
For Lord of the Rings fans who come to NZ, this tour is a must—particularly since it’s the only affordable and official Lord of the Rings tour in New Zealand. Most others are helicopter rides that show one or two filming locations.
But when visiting a famous place like the Shire, one must be prepared. The HobbitonMovie Set Tours do most of the work: shuttling you to Hobbiton from Matamata, providing knowledgeable tour guides, and serving up Green Dragon’s finest ales. But to fully enjoy the experience and to make the most of your photo opportunities, I’ve provided a packing list for your day trip to the Shire.
Be sure to bring with you:
|At Sam's house!|
1. Camera/Recorder. Duh. But in all seriousness. Go to this tour with a friend or two and make a pact that one person will stay with the tour guide at all times and record what he or she says. Take turns. The guides are gold-mines of information and they welcome questions of all kinds and field them like pros. But if you want to take fun pictures during the tour, you will undoubtedly miss a good chunk of the tour since half of it is informal questions and tidbits. I and my travel companions spent the entire tour dancing between dorky pictures and gleaning every drop of trivia from our friendly guide.
2. Tolkien Knowledge. If possible, read up and watch up before you go. Lucky for me, I fell into the Tolkien craze during my middle school and high school years when I had abundant time for obsessions and a young brain still able to soak up absurd details and hold onto them for years. A solid familiarity with both books and the movie will only enhance your trip to the Shire.
3. Picture Props: You’re on a major movie set; don’t miss the opportunity to snap all of the stupidest pictures you’ve ever wanted to take. Most of the set is hobbit holes—including Bag End and Sam’s house—of varying sizes. You don’t want the same picture again and again (but this time the door is yellow! this time blue!), so to spice up your photos, have the following:
a. Prepared Photo Ideas. The tour goes fast and the next tour is coming in behind you (unless you get the last one of the day, which I recommend: fewer people, slower time schedule), so take Jeremy Irons’ advice and be prepared! You don’t have time to hem and haw.
b. One Ring. Even if your ring wasn’t forged in the fires of Mt. Doom, you should at least be able to find a plain replica: gold, with ancient Elvish markings which delineate something along the lines of one ring to rule them all. For the A+ students, bring an envelope as well. Prior to your arrival, practice in your best Gandalf voice: Keep it secret. Keep it safe.
c. A Pipe. And perhaps a leaf of Old Toby to smoke outside of Bag End. Prior to your arrival, practice your smoke rings. It’s all about the ambiance.
4. LotR Soundtracks and Speakers on which to play them. I cannot emphasize this enough. Humming doo-doo-do-do-do-dodududoo as you stroll up and down Hobbiton’s grassy paths is fun, but it is not the same as listening to the official tin whistle solo. I have been itching for my violin ever since I got here to Middle Earth.
In all seriousness, visiting Hobbiton was a blast. New Zealand’s landscape brings Middle Earth to life without any help from the cameras or set-builders, but when you see Hobbiton up-close and examine the detail crafted into the movie set, the result is truly inspiring. It also confirmed my suspicions that I would have grown up quite happily as a hobbit. I will one day have a hobbit door. And hopefully live near to a pub as quintessentially pub-like as the Green Dragon.
So, Good Morning! Even if you’re not a hobbit like me, come visit the Shire! Elves, Ents, and all a manner of folk welcome!
|Carolyne, our tour guide and barkeep.|
|Cider, at the Green Dragon.|
 “Good morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. “What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good thir morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” “All of them at once,” said Bilbo.
 P.S. You write like what you read. Can you tell I’ve been doing nothing but keeping up with travel guidebooks for the past week and a half? Traveling is exhausting! But at least I’m better at driving these days. ^^