New Zealand and Lord of the Rings are like a young couple who can’t keep their hands off each other. It’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Being a huge LOTR fan it was time to be “going on an adventure” and enjoy a geeky few hours in Middle Earth.
“Hobbiton” is the quintessential “Shire” set with all the delightful round Hobbit holes and visit to “The Green Dragon” pub. However Peter and I decided against a visit. Firstly because it’s expensive. Secondly because it appears to be drowning in it’s own success. I have heard reports of people being hurried along in the tour because the next group is just behind them, not allowing much time to appreciate the great attention to detail and photographic opportunities. And thirdly, EVERYONE goes there! So in my ever present desire to do things a little bit differently we decided on a location tour named “Hairy Feet” which was used in the first Hobbit film and has the most screen time of any location used within the franchise. It does require a little imagination and fond memory of the films themselves but the location itself is breathtaking and there are plenty of reminders as you go along the tour from the guide.
What was great with this place is that it was all so personal to the family. We heard the backstory of the film crew approaching the family to film on their farm and what went on with the filming itself. There were funny stories and fond memories shared about genuine experiences on the film set and I actually learnt quite a bit about the filming process itself which was fascinating. I also got to stand where a digital Warg lept into action, sit on the same rock where Richard Armitage learned his lines (swoon!) and even attempt to pretend that I was a worried looking Martin Freeman on his Bilbo Baggins marker in the forest. The fact that I couldn’t stop laughing made this last task a little more difficult.
It was a great tour (my cheeks actually hurt from smiling so much!) and a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the atmosphere. We ended up spending a long time after the tour chatting to our guide who was more than happy to show us extra bits and pieces. And of course we had to buy one or two themed souvenirs as well. It all felt like wonderful value for money and we both came away very pleased and desperate to watch the films (yet again).
If you do find yourself in the depths of New Zealand’s Middle Earth I would definitely encourage you to look up some of the other experiences on offer. If you can afford to go to all of them then fantastic, go and enjoy (and send me some of your spare money!) but if time or money or both are limited then maybe opt for a slightly different experience than Hobbiton.
Another exciting thing you can do if you have the means is to use one of the camper apps such as “Campermate” to discover where the real film locations are under the “things to do” tab. I was incredibly excited when I discovered this and quickly plotted a quick route to Rivendell via Mordor and the Dimolt road with a quick stop at Weathertop. Sadly we haven’t managed to get to any of the locations yet but it’s still on the to do list and we shall certainly keep a wary eye out for Nazgul along the way