My Real-Life Shire Adventure


Are you a Lord of the Rings fanatic that dreams of seeing the well-known Middle Earth? Well, you most certainly are not alone and I’m here to tell you that it is just as magical in real-life as it is in the movies! Okay, well maybe not really quite as magical due to all the digital editing, but it still is a place that without a doubt will take your breath away. 
I have experienced the quiet comfort of The Shire and enjoyed a brew in the The Green Dragon. I’ve reenacted the scene “Escape from the Nazgûl” and I came close to climbing the fiery depths of Mt. Doom. I too, just like Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, was able to have my own adventure in Middle Earth.

Mt. Doom.  From My Real-Life Shire Adventure

Mt Doom

It all happened during my semester studying abroad to New Zealand. I, like most individuals who watch LOTR and The Hobbit, am a fanatic and hobbit- (or elf, depending on the day) wannabe. Therefore, I made it a point to see as many of the filming sites and experience as much as Frodo and Bilbo did on their adventures. I even had my own ‘one ring’! 
One of the greatest spots, and a top must-see for any LOTR and Hobbit fan, is the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour in Matamata, New Zealand. This was where I had one of my first encounter with Middle Earth culture and it occurred in the very place the story starts, the home of the hobbits: The Shire

The Shire.  From My Real-Life Shire Adventure

The Shire

I entered the Shire through the same path that Gandalf enters on his horse and wagon full of fireworks (except I didn’t have Frodo Baggins jumping after me =/).  Entering The Shire was like walking into a dream; a dream that was real!  I literally had to pinch myself to make sure that what I was seeing was real.  The bright colorful hobbit holes were in fact there among the magnificent rolling green hills, the signposts, fences, gardens, and plants that you see in the movie were all there and they were all very real.

Bag End.  From My Real-Life Shire Adventure

Bag End

The two best things I saw were of course Bag End (the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins for you non-LOTR/Hobbit fans) and the home of Samwise Gamgee.  What made this trip even better was that two people on the tour were dressed up; one as a hobbit and the other as an elf.  Therefore, not only was I able to see The Shire with my own eyes but I was able to experience it with a hobbit!

The Shire.   From My Real-Life Shire Adventure

The Shire        

Throughout the tour I learned a bunch of interesting facts about the filming of the movies. For example, the location of The Shire was discovered by Peter Jackson (director) during a helicopter flight. According to our guide, what struck Jackson’s interest in the location was a very large pine tree in an open field. For those LOTR fans reading this you will probably know this as the “Party Tree,” which is the place where Bilbo firsts puts on ‘the ring’ in the Fellowship. Another fun fact about the Shire is that the New Zealand Army was actually contracted to build roads into the farmland so that filming could be started.

Party tree, the Shire. From My Real-Life Shire Adventure

Party tree

I can’t possibly think of a better way to top off a trip to The Shire than with a visit to The Green Dragon Inn and have a local brew which was frequently enjoyed by the hobbits themselves. And that’s exactly what I did! [Yes, it is a real bar!]. Sitting at the bar of The Green Dragon, I was able to close my eyes and envision myself there toasting with Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin (Cheers!). Leaving the Shire was definitely bittersweet; I wasn’t ready to give up my LOTR reality but I knew that the rest of New Zealand and the filming sites were awaiting me.  And so as I left the Shire, I left with Bilbo Baggin’s grand saying, “I’m going on an adventure!”

Green Dragon Inn. From My Real-Life Shire Adventure

Green Dragon Inn





Brad Miner, originally from a small town in northeast Pennsylvania, found his passion for Study Abroad and International Education while studying abroad in Costa Rica and New Zealand and by having the good fortune of traveling to Fiji, Nicaragua, and Panama. He is currently living in the southwestern portion of PA enjoying his position as the Study Abroad Coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. Brad loves that on a daily basis he gets to relive his study abroad experience and help students have their own incredible time abroad. 


All photos courtesy and copyright Brad Miner