The Cotswolds are one of the most beautiful parts of the English countryside and you may not be surprised that it actually inspired a lot of the worlds invented by JRR Tolkien!
If, like me, you love to find these out of the way spots that are linked to the films and books you love then you’ll love this post where I’m looking at the Lord of the Rings and Tolkien Cotswolds spots!
Being huge fans of the Lord of The Rings, my daughter and I have had a bit of a binge fest this year what with the new Rings of Power season coming out too. As a travel blogger I knew all about that other magical book and film series and all the locations associated with it – yup Harry Potter, I’m thinking of you. And then I got thinking – are there any real life Tolkien locations around? Unsurprisingly there were!
It also coincided with a trip I was planning to the Cotswolds so my husband (who isn’t as geeky as me on the real life locations and facts) was dragged around these spots! He loved it really though as we made him sit through our LOTR marathons so he was refreshed in his love of the films too!
Tolkien’s inspiration in the Cotswolds came from his later life when he would visit the area and his brother who lived there. While he never lived there himself, he spent a lot of time there.
Some of his early life inspired his works too and there’s a Tolkien Trail in Birmingham where you can even see the place he grew up and based The Shire on.
Let’s look at some of the sites Tolkien was inspired by in the Cotswolds for his Lord of The Rings series.
Loads of people disagree about what was or wasn’t inspiration for Tolkien – of course, without specific words from him confirming it we just don’t know. I hope that these sites, whether real inspiration or not, will bring you joy like they did me when I visited them!
Top Tolkien Cotswolds Sites to Visit
Need somewhere to stay on your Tolkien expedition? You can actually stay at the ‘Prancing Pony’ (aka The Bell Inn) in Moreton-in-Marsh!
1. Doors of Durin, St Edwards Church, Stow-on-the-Wold
The first stop on anyone’s tour of the Cotswolds should be Stow-on-the-Wold which is a gorgeous small town with plenty going for it.
With so many small villages in the area there’s not always a lot to do except just wander around. Stow is a little bigger and has plenty of shops and restaurants that will keep you happy, entertained and fed!
As well as being gorgeous, for fans of Tolkien in the Cotswolds, Stow on the Wold has a beautiful hidden secret. I say secret because if you didn’t know it was there you could pass right on by and I’ve seen many people say they have done just that.
Get yourself in the churchyard of St Edwards Church in the centre of the village and find the most amazing doorway ever. Flanked on both sides by old yew trees, having the most gorgeous roots, this church door is often said to be one of the most photographed in the village (and there are plenty of pretty doors in Stow!)
Does it remind you of anything?
Many people cite this as the Door of Durin from the Mines of Moria in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
What do you think? I’m convinced!
JRR Tolkien would visit Stow on the Wold and other parts of the Cotswolds to see his brother Hilary who lived in the area. I can really imagine that these picture perfect villages would inspire some of the old English mythology he was looking to bring into his tales.
Getting to Stow-on-the-Wold
Parking was easiest for us on the outskirts of the village next to the Tesco as we were in a large campervan. If you have a car you might want to find a spot in town but it took only a few minutes from where we were and it was free! Make sure to use the council car park right next door to the Tesco owned part.
2. The Bell Inn, Moreton-in-Marsh
Just a few miles north of Stow on the Wold is Moreton-in-Marsh which is another quite large village/small town with lots of small shops to explore and pubs and restaurants to eat in.
The Bell Inn is the interesting stop here for Tolkien fans and where James was ever so happy to be told he was allowed a drink (he’s the driver so he often can’t!). You can also stay over here too.
The Bell Inn was frequented by Tolkien and some say that it was to be the Prancing Pony inspiration. The pub in Bree, just outside of the Shire is where the Hobbits meet Strider (Aragorn).
Now, I have to say that I was looking forward to seeing the pub but it didn’t immediately strike me as having that ‘Prancing Pony’ feel to it. Perhaps because of the images I had in my head from the film? I don’t know.
The Bell is a really nice pub though and very ‘English’ which might be what any overseas visitors will enjoy.
They also have a fab wall with the map of Middle Earth on it for you to explain to your not quite so geeky husband where everything is.
The walls are all adorned with pictures about Tolkien and the Lord of The Rings too – I could have spent ages there!
The people are also super friendly and although we didn’t have time to stop for a meal – they looked and smelled amazing!
Getting to Moreton in Marsh
There’s a train station in Moreton in Marsh that makes it an easy one to visit if you’re on public transport.
There’s also a small car park by the station as well as plenty of parking by the main road. Again we were in a camper which made it not so easy here – we eventually found a spot on a side street not far from the train station car park.
Four Shire Stone
On your way out of Moreton in Marsh you might like to stop off at the Four Shire Stone. While not marking current places this old monument marked the ancient boundaries of four counties – Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. (Some great counties to practice your pronunciation of English places there!)
In the Lord of the Rings there is talk of the Three Farthing Stone where 3 of the 4 divisions of the Shire meet.
It’s widely thought that this would have been inspiration for Tolkien for that as he explored the countryside around Oxfordshire and towards where his brother lived.
3. Rollright Stones
A little ways out in the countryside is a wonderful ancient site of a stone circle and neolithic burial chamber.
I’m a big fan of stone circles and ancient places, they inspire me so much, so was thrilled to find that this one also inspired Tolkien!
The stone circle dates back over 5000 years and consists of a lot of upright stones which reminded me of jagged teeth. This is called the King’s Men and there are many legends about it.
One legend I liked was that it’s said that the number of stones is uncountable – if you could count them 3 times and get the same number each time you could have a wish!
A little further away there is a burial mound – this is the Whispering Knights – and across the road is a solitary stone which is The King Stone.
With regards to the Lord of the Rings connection – it’s thought that it could be inspiration for the Barrow Downs area near The Shire. That was an ancient area where old kings were buried.
(I found out about the Rollright stones last minute on my trip and for some reason got it in my head that they inspired the 9 Kings of Men who turned into the Ringwraiths – there’s a legend about the stones being King’s Men who get turned to stone. I perhaps got a bit muddled with the names being similar – unless anyone knows where I got this idea from?)
There are a couple of laybys to park in on the road. Be aware that they do ask for a donation to visit with a cash honesty box (£1 for an adult and 50p for a child at the time we went). You can also donate online at their site which is useful if you forget cash.
4. Broadway Tower
This stunning tower, and folly, is thought to have been the inspiration for Amon Hen in the Lord of The Rings. Amon Hen is in ruins when Frodo is there at the end of the first book (and film) but was originally a ‘seat of seeing’ on top of a hill. Frodo puts on the ring and sees the eye of Sauron bearing down on him.
Broadway Tower overlooks the wonderful Cotswolds area and the estate has a really interesting history to it, including a time when there was a nuclear bunker! You can go on guided tours and even go to the top of the tower to see the viewing platform.
Look out for red deer around too!
Check their site out here.
5. Faringdon Folly Tower
This is a little further south than what you’d call the Cotswolds area but it’s not a huge distance away. We drove past the area but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to stop.
It’s a similar site to Broadway Tower in that it’s a folly that overlooks the amazing English countryside and could well have been an inspiration for Orthanc or perhaps one of the other towers in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
In ‘The Worlds of JRR Tolkien’, John Garth suggests that Farindon’s Folly was part of a furore that Tolkien would have seen in the news and that it matched an allegory he had written about the poem Beowolf.
Furthermore the tower only had one use (it was a folly afterall) which is that you ‘might’ have been able to see the Bristol channel on a good day – Orthanc was similar in that the viewing platform at the top was only used for stargazing.
6. Bredon Hill
There are some megalith stones on Bredon Hill which have led people to think that it inspired Trollshaws, where Bilbo met the trolls and they turned to stone in The Hobbit.
There are lots of walks around the area, a folly tower (these feature so highly around Tolkien sites) and of course amazing views.
7. Chipping Camden
Finally I want to just point out the small village of Chipping Camden and the hotel the Red Lion Inn which is one that Tolkien stayed at in the past. You can still stay there today if you really want to follow in Tolkien’s footsteps!
Recommended book about Middle Earth location
We picked up the above book, The Worlds of JRR Tolkien, and have really enjoyed it for getting some info about some Tolkien locations in England. It’s quite in depth with a lot of references where the author tries to prove his thoughts but still really good. Unfortunately Tolkien didn’t leave us with a list of exact places in most cases so it’s all a bit of a guess!
I would definitely recommend it if you want to see more real life Middle Earth!
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