Andrew and I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Hobbiton movie set recently; thanks to a very generous Christmas gift we were able to go for the evening tour, which included not just a tour through Hobbiton, but dinner at the Green Dragon Inn and then a starlit tour back amongst the hobbit holes.
The tour started by the town of Matamata and the path that Andrew and I took was not very well marked. We had absolutely no idea if we were going the right way or not, but thankfully we managed to find the right place. We checked in, then waited for the tour bus to take us to the actual movie set on the Alexander Farm, which is still a working farm.
The drive itself was quite picturesque, through rolling hills with tonnes of sheep and not many signs of civilization. We got off at the parking lot where there was a sign welcoming us to Hobbiton. I was so excited I was literally bouncing as we walked through a tunnel of trees and out into our first views of Hobbiton. The entry way is the same small narrowing that Gandalf first drives through when he enters Hobbiton in the movies, and is the same small path that Bilbo runs out of when he goes on his adventure.
It was fun being there and not only immersing ourselves in the fantasy world of Lord of the Rings, but also learning about some of the film-making techniques that they used. The sheer attention to detail and lengths that they went to while making those films is simply astounding.
For example, the tree above Bilbo’s house is actually an artificial oak tree. After they finished wiring all of the artificial leaves to it, they decided it didn’t quite look like the right shade of green…so they hired someone to go up and paint all of the leaves! They also wanted the paths through the Shire to look naturally worn, so they hired a few people to go hang out washing and take it down from the hobbit lines a few times a day and to meander to each other’s ‘houses’ so that the paths through Hobbiton look like the worn paths in a normal village.
It was also quite fun seeing the hobbit holes of all different sizes so that the actors placed in front of them looked suitable smaller or larger depending on whether they were hobbit or wizard. I certainly felt distinctly hobbit sized in front of a few of them!
The tour led us through the Dell and then up into Hobbiton proper, where we climbed the hill to Bilbo’s house. I was very excited to see that little hobbit door, complete with the iconic “No admittance” sign. It’s one thing to visit a theme park where scenes have been re-created, or to see props from films (which are both neat experiences, don’t get me wrong); it is quite another to stand where those actors stood and to actually feel like I could have been in the shire with a hobbit just around the corner and to see where they actually filmed such wonderful films.
The tour then proceeded to the iconic field under the party tree, where Bilbo celebrated his birthday. It was also here that they imparted some little-known anecdotes about the film.
Like the fact that they filmed Bilbo’s birthday speech in one take and that Ian Holm did such a terrific job holding everyone rapt and nailing the performance that it wasn’t until they were back in the studio editing the clips that they noticed that the cake behind Bilbo was quite noticeably in flames. Apparently it was made of styrofoam, which isn’t a good combination with over one hundred candles! Instead of re-shooting the scene they did some clever clipping, zooming, and editing so that it isn’t visible unless you know exactly what to be looking for.
Of course, we also got to have some fun at the party tree. I just had to get on the see-saw and a little girl was kind enough to join me. They also had stilts, which all of the adults were a bit hesitant to pick up at first, but upon some encouragement that it was alright and that we weren’t going to hurt sensitive props, most of us had a go at it. They take a lot more balance than I had thought! Andrew and I both managed to walk a few steps with them though.
From the party tree and the house of Samwise Gamgee we proceeded across the bridge to Sandyman’s Mill and the Green Dragon Inn. The location is just so beautiful and picturesque. A local company has brewed ciders, beers, and ginger beer specifically for Hobbiton, which we got to enjoy from the Green Dragon while watching the sunset over Hobbiton. It was a really wonderful way to spend the evening.
After the sun set we were called inside to an amazing feast. In all the years that they have done the dinner and evening tour, they have never had a group be able to finish everything on the table. I believe them!!
The meal was absolutely wonderful. They were really great about handling allergies as well. After they served the main feast, the head cook brought out a plate specifically for me that had been prepared for my specific allergy. Another lady at the table was allergic to lactose as well as gluten and her plate looked quite good as well! They then proceeded to tell me what else on the table would be safe for me to eat as well if I was still hungry after I finished my plate.
They then left time for us to chat and explore the inn before they served dessert. I had asked another guest to take a picture of me beside the bar and the guide came past. He told me I wasn’t standing in the right spot for a good picture and that I should move further left…and then further still until I was standing behind the bar. He said that was the perfect place for a good picture and then offered to take the picture for me. Dessert could have easily have been an entire meal unto itself! Homemade cinnamon and honey yogurt, Pavlova with fresh picked fruit from the Shire gardens, and a brownie were my top picks.
After we relaxed for a bit after dinner and dessert, our guides handed out lanterns for our walk back through Hobbiton. It was beautiful wandering through the village, illuminated by our lanterns and the porchlights of hobbits who have not returned home yet. It was very peaceful wandering around, listening to the frogs croak in the pond, and enjoying an after-dinner walk.
They wanted to make sure that everyone had a chance to get at least one good picture of themselves in front of a hobbit hole after dark so they brought out movie lighting and had everything set up to get a good picture on almost any camera or phone.
It was truly a magical experience wandering through this fantasy world. Their customer service and attention to their customers was also exceptional and I thoroughly enjoyed my evening.