There’s a former convict settlement in Tasmania, a penal colony. It’s the prison they used to house convicts in back when the British first settled Australia. By all accounts, it was a brutal place to live back in those days. Nowadays it’s an historic site and one of the state’s biggest tourist attractions.
Port Arthur went through a period of neglect, where people left the buildings to rot and fall down, sometimes actively pulling them down because they wanted to eliminate the terrible past. Eventually, the government stepped in and started preserving the buildings and what was left of the huge sandstone walls. As a result, it’s a mix of preserved buildings, immense sandstone walls and acres of manicured green lawns.
Despite its past, despite the tourists, it’s a beautiful place to visit. Despite all the deaths, despite all the horror of its past, it’s a peaceful place. It’s a place just to walk, and to contemplate.
As I walked around Hobbiton it invoked in me that same kind of tranquillity that Port Arthur does
I’m not saying Hobbiton is hiding a terrible past, it but it did make me feel the same way. Maybe it’s because in both places you come in via a frenzied entryway.
In Port Arthur you enter through the gift shop. That’s where the crowds are. Once you’re past that, however, it’s lovely.
At Hobbiton, you come in through the car parks. Note the plural. There’s one whole car park dedicated just to RVs (camper vans, for those of us in Australia and New Zealand). It was full, so you can image what the other carparks were like. There was a bus park, also full. And what looked to be two or three car parks—or maybe it was just one big one. All packed.
The bus from the ship dropped us off at the gift shop. We didn’t have much time to browse for our tour bus arrived.
Hobbiton is on a working farm. You can’t visit the site yourself, you must book and take a tour.
You wait for your bus near the gift shop. At the appointed time, you get onto the Hobbiton tour bus and are driven through lovely, green farmland. I did say it was working farm, didn’t I? Somewhere along the way a guide joins your bus. She, or he, starts to tell you about Hobbiton as you roll through the countryside.
Some facts. This is not the Hobbiton that was in Lord of the Rings. That Hobbiton was pulled down afterward filming and the whole area restored to farmland. If I recall correctly, when the location scout landed (in a helicopter) at the farm and knocked on the farmhouse door, the rugby was on. I don’t know if it was final, but these Kiwis take their rugby as seriously as we Aussies take our Australian Rules football. And our rugby—at least in some states. The farmer told him to come back when the rugby was finished.
Luckily for us, they did.
This is the Hobbiton from the Hobbit movie. Because they’d already had so many tourists come looking after Lord of the Rings, when the film company wanted to rebuild the set for the Hobbit the farmer said, sure, provided this time they made it out of more permanent materials, and didn’t pull it down afterwards.
From this came the amazing tourist destination you can visit today.
I’m not going to talk much about the tour itself, except to say, “Go do it”, and show you the pictures. I seem to have lost my pictures of Bag End, and of the Green Dragon inn, and Sam Gamgee’s house, but you know what they look like.
I have to say, Bilbo Baggins certainly had the best house in Hobbiton.
We both absolutely loved it. Not only that, the tours were paced enough so that even though there were crowds, it didn’t seem crowded. And because you were in the middle of a farm, you really felt like you were at the Shire.