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.

TheTolkienist

A Tolkien fan for twenty-five years (and more to come...) Founding chairman of the German Tolkien Society, Co-Founder of Ring*Con, Co-Founder of the ITF, host, presenter and fantasy expert

5 Responses

  1. Hans-Georg Lundahl says:

    In this fan fiction where Susan Pevensie meets C S Lewis and Tolkien, we are reminded of Birmingham and of Warwick:

    http://enfrancaissurantimodernism.blogspot.fr/2011/12/chronicle-of-susan-pevensie.html

    (Of course, Warwick was not original for Middle Earth, but for Kortirion).

    • It has become rather common in recent years to put one of the Inklings or several of them into fanfiction and published novels – a witness to the continuing popularity of Tolkien, Lewis, Barfield, Williams etc. Afaik there are whole forums dedicated to “rewriting” Tolkien and/or adding to Middle-earth – understandable, it is a fascinating universe to write in!

      • Hans-Georg Lundahl says:

        I am aware. And doing it with “Susan Pevensie the surviving friend of Narnia” I am very certainly one in a thousand. BUT I think I have a point of any fan fiction about any Pevensie needs to include CSL, and anything including CSL would be incomplete if not including JRRT.

  2. Michael Flowers says:

    Nice piece Marcel as always. It seems the spurious tourist industry claims are mushrooming similar to your other campaign of pointing out false Tolkien quotes on the internet! It’s a shame Visit England doesn’t take into account neglected areas, which have a genuine Tolkien connection.
    Here’s a Tolkien quote from Letter 165: “the kernel of the mythology, the matter of “Luthien Tinuviel” and “Beren”, arose from a small woodland glade filled with ‘hemlocks’ (or other while umbellifers) near Roos on the Holderness peninsula – to which I occasionally went when free from regimental duties while in the Humber Garrison in 1918.”

    That seems another clear and proven link to me!

    • Indeed it is, Michael!

      I am planning to do a special on all _proven_ links to Tolkien via T & GW, Chronology and other sources relevant and reliable. I really have to do that Kickstarter campaign to get someone to help me do this – I’d love to write much, much more (and I have about half a million ideas, both serious and fun!) but time is against me. Or rather earning a living elsewhere 😉