A Lord of the Rings Guide to the Cotswolds | 6 Places That Inspired Tolkien

The Cotswolds probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings author grew up in the city of Birmingham, then spent most of his time in Oxford, so they are the locations most associated with him.

However, Tolkien had family in Evesham – a small market town in Worchestershire – and he would visit often throughout his lifetime. His brother Hilary had a fruit farm there, so the author would pack up his Morris Cowley and take his entire family on road trips from Oxford to Bag End (Yes, his aunt had a cottage called Bag End) through the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds inadvertently became a big part of Tolkien’s life, and a source of great inspiration for his work – and if you’ve ever visited the area, it’s not hard to see why. With rolling hills, quaint villages, and lush wooded areas in abundance, it’s difficult to think you’re anywhere but Middle-Earth.

Jess and I recently visited the Cotswolds ourselves, and set out to find as many Tolkien related places as we could. If you’re a fellow lover of all things Lord of the Rings and are looking for some inspiration on places to visit, here are a few you should definitely add to your bucket list.

6 COTSWOLDS LOCATIONS THAT INSPIRED LORD OF THE RINGS

A Lord of the Rings Guide to the Cotswolds | St Edward's Church

St Edwards Church

If this medieval Church in Stow-on-the-Wold doesn’t scream Tolkien, I don’t know what will. Its ancient entrance, flanked by two yew trees, is said to have inspired the Door of Durin, which was the impenetrable entrance built into the walls of Moria, which lead down to the Dwarven city of Khazad-dum. In The Lord of the Rings, you could only enter if you answered the riddle ‘Speak friend and enter’, but in real life, everyone is welcome inside St Edwards. The town of Stow-in-the-Wold is also home to many quirky cafés that wouldn’t look out of place in one of Tolkien’s stories.

The Four Shire Stone

The Four Shire Stone, located just outside of Moreton-in-Marsh, is a 16th Century pillar that used to mark the meeting place of four English counties – Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire. I say used to, because the geographical boundaries have since changed, so only three of them actually meet at this point now, nevertheless, the monument is thought to have inspired the Three Farthing Stone in Lord of the Rings. In Tolkien’s novel, The Shire is divided into four farthings, three of which meet at the Three Farthing Stone. It’s said to mark the centre of the Shire itself.

The Rollright Stones

Known collectively as The Rollright Stones; the King Stone, the King’s Men and the Whispering Knights, are all ancient monuments located on the border of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. Constructed in close proximity to one another – some dating as far back as 3500 BC – they are thought to have been used to mark burial sites when they were first created. This bares a remarkable resemblance to the Barrow-Downs in the Lord of the Rings – a site that the Hobbits come across in the novel – which also served as a resting place for the dead men of the north.

A Lord of the Rings Guide to the Cotswolds | The Bell Inn

The Bell Inn

Situated in the picturesque town of Moreton-in-Marsh, The Bell Inn is considered by many to be the inspiration for the Prancing Pony in Lord of the Rings – the Inn in Bree where the Hobbits meet Aragorn for the first time, escaping death at the hands of the Nazgul. According to research conducted by the Tolkien Society, the Inn bears many similarities to the Prancing Pony, specifically its entrance and layout. They gifted the pub with a plaque to commemorate its significance, which you can see as you enter the building. Moreton itself is thought to have inspired the town of Bree.

Bredon Hill

Bredon Hill in Worcestershire, has been a great inspiration to many authors and artists over the years, so it’s no surprise that Tolkien based a part of Middle-Earth on it – Trollshaw. The wooded area, found west of Rivendell, is where Bilbo and his Dwarven friends come across three trolls – William, Tom and Bert – who try to cook the group, before Gandalf shows up and distracts them until they turn to stone. In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo also passes through Trollshaw, finding the petrified trolls still standing. They are inspired by Bredon’s King and Queen Stones. Legend has it that if you pass between them, you will be cured of all illness.

Broadway Tower

Broadway Tower is a 65 foot folly found at the second highest point in the Cotswolds, and is rumoured to be the inspiration for Amon Hen in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In the tale, Amon Hen is the location where the Company of the Ring camp until being attacked by Uruk-hai. The skirmish results in the death of Boromir, and the parting of the company as Frodo and Sam set off across the river alone. The movie portrays a rather derelict looking building, but the Amon Hen in Tolkien’s novel is grand, holding the Seat of Seeing which allows you to see for hundreds of miles in all directions, much like Broadway Tower, which supposedly overlooks 16 different counties on a good day.

WHERE TO STAY

A Lord of the Rings Guide to the Cotswolds | Bag End

Bag End

Another Tolkien treat in Stow-on-the-Wold is the little stone cottage of Bag End, which we passed as we wandered the streets of the village one morning looking for second breakfast. It’s as cosy as a Hobbit hole, but with all modern amenities and a deceptively big garden that Farmer Maggot would be jealous of. With a separate annex, and three bedrooms, it sleeps up to 8 people in total. Prices from £149 a night.

The Red Lion Inn

Chipping Campden, a small market town in the Northern Costwolds, is home to The Red Lion Inn – a hotel frequented by J.R.R. Tolkien and his son Christopher whilst they travelled together through the Cotswolds. In letters written by Tolkien himself, he writes about the Red Lion being one of his favourite places to stay, and how he would sign copies of The Lord of the Rings for its owner out of gratitude. It is unknown whether the Inn actually inspired anything in Tolkien’s books, but it’s well worth a visit either way. Prices from £75 a night.

Are you a Tolkien fan and have you ever read Lord of the Rings? Who’s your favourite character? Would you visit the Cotswolds to check out some of these magical locations. Let me know below.

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39 thoughts on “A Lord of the Rings Guide to the Cotswolds | 6 Places That Inspired Tolkien

  1. I love the Lord of the Rings books and live in the Cotswolds(!)… But I’ve never been to any of these sites, although I’ve been to both Stow and Moreton before. I’ll have to keep a look out on my next trip. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You live in the Cotswolds? I am so jealous. I absolutely love it there and try to visit as much as I can. I’m actually heading up again in a few weeks time so if you have any recommendations.. And you should definitely check a few of these spots out since you’re so close anyway.

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      1. I do! Near Cirencester, which I’d highly recommend a visit too. If you’re into history, Chedworth Roman Villa (as long as the weather’s nice), or there’s Gloucester a little North of the Cotswolds. Gloucester Cathedral was used for the Harry Potter films. I also love Bourton-on-the-Water and go there as often as I can.

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        1. Gloucester is definitely on my list – yes, not gonna lie, partly due to the Harry Potter connection, haha. But I have heard its a great city. And I’ve been recommended Bourton-on-the-water a few times now, so I’m going to have to check it out when I’m around that area in a few weeks.

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  2. Great read, gave this a share. Love these articles that explore the world behind the locations. Great piece 👍🏻

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  3. Oh, come on! Cotswolds even SOUNDS like it would be in Lord of the RIngs 🙂 I think I know my next destination for a vacation 🙂

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    1. Haha, it does doesn’t it. I’d definitely plan a trip here at some point if you’re a LOTR fan. Even if you’re not, it’s a stunning place. Lots of movies have been filmed there too and there’s loads of other stuff to do.

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      1. I’m a huge LOTR fan. Currently, I am re-reading all the books, and this time in English. The original language is always the best :-)

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  4. Interesting read. I can recommend the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter, near Bourton on the Water. There’s No film connection, though they have featured in a 1998 TV adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, but with a name like that, how can you resist? They’re also very picturesque, and while they’re not entirely tourist-free, they’re a lot less busy than Bourton, And you know I’m sure that the cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral were used as a location in Harry Potter.

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    1. Thank you, I will definitely check them out – I’m actually going to be in the Cotswolds again in a few weeks time, and have been looking for some beautiful places to take photos of. Yes, I think I heard that the cathedral was used in Harry Potter, and of course you have Lacock Abbey as well which stood in for some classrooms.

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  5. My husband and I stayed in Stow-on-the-Wold for three days during our honeymoon and absolutely loved it. We’d go back to the Cotswolds in an instant…and now we have even more places to see there. Thanks! :)

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    1. Oh what a beautiful place to go on a honeymoon. The hotels and bnbs around the area are just stunning, so I’m not surprised you’d want to take a break there. Yes, definitely check some of these out when you’re next there – I couldn’t recommend them enough. It just feels, well, a bit magical when you come across something that directly influenced such an iconic fantasy series.

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  6. That is enchanting! It really does look like LOTR’s Shire. It’s no surprise that it has served Tolkien some inspiration. It also looks like a place that just sprung out from a fairy tale book. We would love to visit here if given the chance.

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    1. Yes the whole of the Cotswolds is very fairy tale like, and definitely worth a visit when you next find yourself in England. It’s not somewhere people generally think about checking out on their first few trips, but it’s worth it.

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  7. Cotswolds looks an amazing place to spent a day. Medivial Saint Edwards Church is truly brings in memories of The Lord of the Rings. The Four Shire Stone, though now has only three counties meeting place, it reminds us of the rich history.

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    1. St Edwards really is the epitome of Tolkien and everything fantasy, and is definitely worth visiting if you love anything a little magical. It looks like it’s come straight out of a story book.

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  8. I am amazed by Cotswold. I didn’t know these places existed in the real world. Glad to know the connection of Lord of the Rings author and these amazing places. Can relate to Saint Edwards Church as seen in Lord of the Rings.

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    1. It does doesn’t in? I did actually hear someone mention that the door inspired Tolkiens hobbit holes as well, but I’m not sure how accurate that is. It definitely seems possible though.

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  9. As a fan of the Lord of the Rings, glad to know about behind-the-scenes sights at Cotswolds. How much time would you suggest to explore everything?

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    1. I’d definitley give yourself the day to get around to all the locations. They’re all relatively close to one another – I can’t imagine it would take more than an hour to get between the two furthest spots – but if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to spend a good chunk of time taking a million photos at each spot, and then a million more on route because the Cotswolds are so beautiful, and pretty much everything will remind you of lord of the rings.

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  10. St Edwards Church looks amazing, like a fairy tale. No wonder he was an inspiration in the Lord of the Rings. I didn’t read these novels, but I watched movies and I liked them a lot.

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    1. If you’re a fan of the movies, you’ll definitley need to check out New Zealand if you haven’t already. They have a real life Hobbiton over there that you can actually visit. It’s incredible.

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  11. Am the only one who hasn’t watched full GOT! haha I am going to send this to my GOT fan friend, am sure he will appreciate this.

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    1. GOT is a good show, but this post was actually about Lord of the Rings? I’m sure your Game of Thrones fan friends would still appreciate it though to be fair

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  12. Very classic and beautiful country, hopefully I can touch down to England sometime and Cotswords is my list destination. Thanks for sharing the amazing post and beautiful captions of Cotswords.

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  13. Beautiful post and I never knew that The Lord of the Rings inspiration was from Cotswolds. As Tolkien spent his most of the years in Cotswolds so he may have recreated those scenes from his life to screen life. Some places really look very quaint and rustic.

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  14. Very classic and beautiful country, hopefully I can touch down to England sometime and Cotswords is my list destination. Thanks for sharing the amazing post and beautiful captions of Cotswords.

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  15. After seeing some of these images, I’m not remotely surprised that any of these sights in the Cotswolds inspired Tolkein. I think it has a lot to do with the wild, uninhibited growth of the trees – there’s just something wild and magical about that!

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    1. Oh definitely. When I’m walking through some areas of the Cotswolds, it’s almost like I’m having a stroll through a forest in a fairy tale

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  16. I am gutted we missed St Edwards Church when we visited Stow on the Wold! Guess I will just have to go back! I had no idea that Tolkein was inspired by the Cotswolds!

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    1. Yes, definitely an excuse to go back there – the Cotswolds seems to get better everytime I visit and I’m sure it will be the same for you.

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  17. Good post. Unfortunately I just can’t get in to Tolkein’s writings. The genres just not for me but I think it’s great that it inspires people to travel.

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