Holiday like a hobbit

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Taking us ‘there and back again’, the second instalment of The Hobbit film series, released on 13 December, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has once again transported us to the fantasy world of Middle-earth. Here, VisitEngland calls all fans back to the motherland to forage in our ‘Mirkwoods’ and walk through our own ‘Misty Mountains’, which so inspired  author J. R. R. Tolkien himself to write one of the most well-loved books in English literature.

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.

 

Complement the natural with a stash of the finest cheese, wine and local produce for your hobbit hole. In Somerset, visit the only Cheddar cheese makers left in Cheddar. Watch the step-by-step instructions on hand-making the mouth-watering namesake and head to the Taster Bar where staff can match cheese to individual preferences. Wanderers and explorers can get their hands on a treat or two on the Isle of Wight. Follow in the footsteps of the chefs at the Priory Bay Hotel and go searching in sand hovels for shellfish, strayed razor clams, and drifted sea spinach among other aqueous wares which are then served back in the adventurous restaurant.

 

Hobbits are fond of ales, and English towns and villages across the country pride themselves on their welcoming inns. Boasting the largest number of real ales per head of population, more than 120 real ale pubs, two annual CAMRA Beer Festivals and the one and only “Beer King”, it’s no wonder that Derby is heralded a British beer capital, for its particularly excellent ale. Both The Brunswick Inn and Ye Olde Dolphin House hold microbreweries on site providing authentic regional tastes. Alternatively, brew your own in Leicestershire’s Belvoir Brewery.   That should be plenty to accompany a day’s breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, dinner and supper.

 

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.

 

Other villainous wyverns include the Lambton lamprey. As the folklore goes, prior to leaving with the crusaders, mischievous young John Lambton, son to the Earl of Durham, accidently cursed Washington with a serpentine beast when he skipped church to go fishing. While Lambton was off fighting in foreign lands, the creature coiled itself around Penshaw Hill and terrorised the villagers for several years. Returning home from battle, John Lambton then sought out the snake and fought him by the River Wear.  You can still see the marks left behind by the monster on both Worm Hill and Penshaw Hill.

 

Other ways to prove your valour include troll tricking and there’s nowhere better for this than in ancient Cornwall. It was here that Jack the Giant slayer, defeated Cormoran, the goliath mostly associated withSt Michael’s Mount.

 

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.

 

Or, if you’re more into watering holes, try Southampton’s The Hobbit Pub, backed by Gandalf himself! With Sir Ian McKellen’s stamp of approval, Bag End Burgers and special Tolkien tribute nights, you’ll feel like you’re in Bywater’s Green Dragon Inn. Enjoy a beverage with Fili, Kili and other characters, as here the cocktails have been named after our fictitious friends. Another inspired eatery is The Hobbit Café in Tolkien’s childhood home of Moseley. Here, you’ll find his heritage haunts, literally on the doorstep. Located on the street where the author grew up, retire after a day’s adventure to The Mosely Bog.

 

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.

 

Worcestershire’s other claim stretches to the Malvern Hills. While walking ‘Over the Misty Mountains Cold’, with his good friend, C S Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien thought up the Dwarvan strong-hold. Walk the same hills today and see what they stir up in you!

 

Also fighting for the credits is Cumbria. Kingmoor, after all, is the location where a mythical Viking Ring was discovered, complete with a strange runes winding around it. A replica can be seen at Tullie House, a must for fans given the object’s uncanny resemblance to Bilbo’s ring. Amble around the Lake District yourself, on numerous themed trails to see what treasures are in store for you. Just make sure not to play ‘Riddles in the Dark’. An Ale and Amble break might even have you seeing a Gollum or two.

 

For other literary-inspired breaks, visit www.visitengland.com.

 

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