Visit England, visit Middle-earth – and holiday like a hobbit

Cheddar Gorge (c) Oast House Archive
Cheddar Gorge (c) Oast House Archive

J.R.R. Tolkien drew inspiration from many sources and one of them certainly is the country he lived in – England. And as modern tourism has discovered in recent years that it is quite possible to make a lot of money by covering tv show and film locations Visit England, the official tourism website for England, has started to promote Tolkien as well. By the way: according to a 2013 publication “tourism is worth £106.0bn to England´s economy.”

However, with the success of the Peter Jackson film trilogies Visit England has a lot of work to do. To many people New Zealand has become a second Middle-earth replacing the original and as New Zealand is a beautiful location to visit even without any film-related background this is an impressive task. Visit England has named the following locations as places worthy of a Tolkienist visit in press releases made in 2013:

  • Birmingham: Childhood Memories & Mysterious Lands
  • Oxford: Studies, Family life and final resting place
  • Cheddar Gorge: Dramatic Landscapes & Inspirational Heights

The brewing of ale is a long-standing tradition not only among hobbits but also amongst the English. A national pub week ist therefore in order and the Eagle & Child in Oxford where the Inklings met has to be part of any visit to the city of dreaming spires. And even better – there is a list of how to holiday like a hobbit:

  • Foraging & Sustenance.
    Have a ‘Merry’ time mushroom ‘Pippin’ in the delectable New Forest with Limewood. Keep your creature comforts while getting hyper-local with a foraging break. Nature’s bounty offers ‘fun-guys’ a mix of porcini, chanterelle, oyster and pied de mouton mushrooms to discover. With the help of an expert, distinguish between edible and harmful produce before cooking with the head chef to prepare and serve up delicious dishes.(…)
  • Dragon-Slaying Spots
    As Bilbo prepares to face the mighty Smaug, why not head yourself to the hills of Uffington in Oxfordshire and perhaps the most famous hill in England? Legend has it that this is the hill where St George, on white horse back, rode to smite the infamous dragon. Visit Dragon Hill and the giant White Horse of Uffington, in tribute to our patron saint. (…)
  • Hobbit Holes
    England is full of comfy and quirky holes, like Hobbit House in Cornwall. Quite the opposite of Tolkien’s ‘nasty, dirty and wet hole’ creations, here guests can relax to birdsong, cook freshly scavenged food in the outside wood oven, stargaze from the apple orchards and even cleanse in a wood-fired shower for true hobbit living (…)
  • Inspiring Locations
    Home to literary legends including George Elliot and of course Shakespeare, leafy Warwickshire was also home to J. R. R. Tolkien and was arguably his inspiration for ‘Hobbiton’.  In addition, his aunt’s farm Bag End, the Kinver Edge rock houses in Worcestershire and the countryside around Sarehole Village, where he grew up, undoubtedly influenced his vision of ‘The Shire’. Today, fans can delve into the origins of Middle-earth  on a Tolkien Trail around Sarehole Mill in Birmingham (…)
Sarehole Mill (c) John M

As clear a link to Tolkien as possible:  Sarehole Mill (c) John M

Please keep in mind that many people claim a link to Tolkien in an attempt to boost their own “celebrity tourism.” All locations mentioned in this blog post have clear and proven links to the Professor but many out there on the internet don’t. And even with Visit England some of the places listed should be taken with a grain of salt: both the Forest of Dean and Kinver Edge really aren’t proven to be links to Tolkien, at least not the way people are “marketing” them…

To show you what I mean by a link to Tolkien I give you Sarehole Mill as an example. He lived close to it, he mentioned it repeatedly and in a letter from 1968 he said:

As for knowing Sarehole Mill, it dominated my childhood. I lived in a small cottage almost immediately beside it, and the old miller of my day and his son were characters of wonder and terror to a small child.

That is a clear and proven link.

Press releases quoted: England’s Own Middle-earth; National Pub Week; Holiday like a Hobbit.

Quote from: No. 303, Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter (ed.), 1981.

Picture credits: Cheddar Gorge © Copyright Oast House Archive and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence (featured picture). Sarehole Mill © Copyright John M and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Dead links were updated, March 13, 2019, with archived material by the Internet Archive.

Marcel R. Bülles

Marcel R. Bülles is the author of, a specialist blog centering on worldwide Tolkien fandom, geekdom and research. He works as a freelance translator, journalist and writer and is the founder of the German Tolkien Society as well as a co-founder to RingCon, Europe's formerly biggest fantasy film convention. You can find him in cafés all over the world sipping an espresso blogging, writing, reading. At one point he was married to an extremely lovely French lady by the nickname of Sauron. Yes, that Sauron. He is also active with the International Tolkien Fellowship on Facebook and the Tolkien Folk on Instagram.