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
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.
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 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 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
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.
What to read next:
- 10 Lord of the Rings Quotes That Will Inspire you to Travel
- Movie Worlds You Wish You Could Visit
- Five Things Harry Potter Fans Can do in York
- Literary Locations | A Book Lovers Guide to Vienna