hobbiton-set-2 (Image: Jackie.lck; the restored village of Hobbiton in ‘the Shire’)

The charming Hobbiton set near the rural Waikato town of Matamata, in the far north of New Zealand, was all but abandoned after the completion of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But it wasn’t long before tourists flocked to the empty Hobbit holes, their ply and polystyrene frameworks set unmistakably into sides of the rolling hills.

Thanks to its enduring popularity, a decision was made to turn the ghost village formerly known as Hobbiton into a more permanent attraction following Peter Jackson’s recent epic take on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

hobbiton-set-bag-end-2 (Image: Tom Hall; Bilbo & Frodo’s restored hole at Bag End)

Located on a 1,250 acre sheep and cattle farm owned by the Alexander family, the movie set village was constructed at Matamata with the help of the New Zealand Army, which laid a mile-long road to the 5.5 hectare location.

Roughly 40 Hobbit holes were built on the ranch, which was chosen because of its similarity to the tranquil counties of rural England which greatly influenced Tolkein’s Shire. Die hard fans beware, however, as the interior of Bag End, however, was filmed in a studio in Wellington.

hobbiton-set-bag-end-abandoned (Image: Rob Chandler; Bag End abandoned after LOTR trilogy)

The gardens at Hobbiton had been planted a year before filming commenced on Lord of the Rings and were in full bloom by the time the actors arrived on set, greatly adding to the atmosphere and realism of the magical Middle Earth world that had been created.

But despite the coming of tourists after filming had wrapped, the derelict, deserted Hobbit holes, which hadn’t been built to last, had already begun to fall into ruin and provided de facto shelter to grazing sheep.

hobbiton-set-3 (Image: Rob Chandler; abandoned Hobbit holes near Matamata in 2006)

Thankfully, the New Zealand government had noted their appeal and Hobbiton was preserved once The Hobbit trilogy had been completed. Those visiting the set today can almost experience the pastoral paradise of Hobbiton as Bilbo, Frodo and Gandalf did, its beautifully presented Hobbit holes, with their colourful rounded doors, lining the rolling hillside.

hobbiton-set-4 (Image: Rob Chandler; Hobbiton, an abandoned ghost village in 2006)

Well, almost. There’s now a cafe on site, which appropriately serves breakfast and second breakfast, while a replica of Bywater’s Green Dragon inn can also be visited. By 2013, a slightly overgrown but no less charming Hobbiton had welcomed half a million visitors. The set village remains a popular attraction today, irrespective of the fact that Tolkein fans have no more installations of the Hobbit to wait for expectantly. Next up, The Silmarillion?

hobbiton-set (Image: Tom Hall; restored: Hobbiton mill and bridge in 2014)

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