Real-life hobbit holes take fans to Middle Earth ahead of 'The Lord of the Rings' TV show

Hot tubs, dancefloors and dome ceilings: these are the otherworldly hillside homes that put The Shire to shame as 'The Rings of Power' hits Amazon Prime

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They have all the features of proper hobbit holes — rustic craftsmanship, country charm and the famous circular doors with the knob squarely in the middle.

But these real-life houses are worlds away from The Shire and aren’t even in Middle Earth.

Instead, the homes have been painstakingly crafted by The Lord of the Rings superfans, and with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power set to hit Amazon Prime on Friday, there’s never been a better time to kick off your shoes and put your hairy feet up in a cosy cottage Bilbo Baggins would be proud of.

The Amazon series, which cost an estimated $500 million in the making, is set in J R R Tolkien’s fabled Second Age when the illusive rings are forged and the age of men faces its peril.

Viewers will recognise elven queens, dwarf lords, battle-hardened men and even the odd fire demon, but it’s the hobbits that diehard fans have grown to cherish, some more than others.

Own your own hobbit hole in Vermont, US

This hobbit house in Vermont has been a labour of love. Photo: Cynthia Clayton

For generalist designer and The Lord of the Rings enthusiast Cynthia Clayton, the 2014 finale of The Hobbit trilogy sparked a vision that would cost her $350,000 and 6,000 hours in labour to complete.

“At 60, I suddenly became obsessed with the idea of building a hobbit house and as I looked out over our 12 green acres, I realised we had a Shire landscape overlooking a lovely view,” says Clayton, now 66.

“I had a strong background in design and architecture and a somewhat hesitant but willing, very talented ‘jack of all trades’ husband, so it was game on.”

Clayton and her husband Pepper, 59, a mechanical engineer, threw themselves into the huge project, building into the hillside of their 5-hectare estate in Middletown Springs, Vermont.

They began digging in October 2016, and for the next two-and-a-half years, the couple poured everything into building the 1,100 square-foot energy-efficient hobbit hole as they gradually brought Clayton’s dream to life.

The finished cottage boasts a round door, clawfoot tub, a full kitchen and dining room, lounge, library and even an on-site bar with a dance floor, widescreen TV and a piano.

“My goal was architecture as an art installation,” says Clayton. “I wanted to create art that you could not only view but immerse yourself in.”

In 2018, the project was completed and Clayton began to rent out the cottage on VisitHigherGround.com and Airbnb until she was ready to retire and move in herself.

Since then, poor health has changed her plans and the property is currently on the market for $788,000.

“It was a very hard decision to sell the hobbit house but I take comfort in the knowledge that it has brought so many people happiness and will continue to do so,” says Clayton.

“Lots of people have said it’s magical, and as a designer, this is the highest compliment — creating a dream come true.”

Round doors and romance in Texas, US

A circular door and bed await guests checking into this hobbit house. Photo: Dasha Wright

Maria Gold, 54, and her husband Ben, 55, spent $45,000 and 1,400 hours converting an old shed at their home in McKinney, Texas, using all natural materials.

“I grew up in Romania near the Carpathian Mountains and I was always fascinated with primitive architecture and building with natural resources,” says Gold, an entrepreneur. “We originally built the house for our children to have a special place to hang out with their friends but it’s grown into something else entirely.”

Gold enlisted the help of her husband, a sales engineer, and her three children to get the project off the ground in March last year, delicately crafting a round door and a circular wooden bed by hand.

“We started our project with a $1,000 order from Home Depot of building materials that were delivered to our home,” says Gold. “From there, we travelled all over Dallas going to flea markets and fairs to see how we could make every detail authentic.”

For the next four months, Gold spent up to 15 hours a day designing and building, while her husband became an expert at torching and scraping wood. And, their hard work has been appreciated far and wide.

“We wanted to share the magic with others so we put the cottage on Airbnb,” says Gold. “We've had at least 30 The Lord of the Rings fans spend their wedding night here and there have been several marriage proposals.

“People tell me that as soon as they open the door they enter into another reality. This is a place where people can come to forget about the problems they have in the real world and enjoy a day or two of immersing themselves in The Lord of the Rings.”

A luxury hobbit house on a vineyard in Sussex, UK

'A Lord of the Rings' fan during a stay in Sussex. Photo: Jacqulyn Hamilton

In the Sussex countryside, Brazilian America Brewer and her British husband Nick built a luxurious take on the hobbit hole entirely from scratch.

The property, which is nestled within Oastbrook Estate Vineyard in Robertsbridge, features 300-kilogram bulbous doors, a hand-painted blue dome ceiling, a flourishing meadow on the roof and two spacious ensuite bedrooms.

“We took inspiration from The Lord of the Rings books themselves in designing the building but we wanted the property to be both atmospheric and also luxurious inside,” says Brewer.

“Building the hobbit house was quite an endeavour as we had to design the building entirely from scratch and also work out how to build it into a hillside.

“It took us almost a year to build and we used local craftsmen for all the oak work. The door itself weighs 300 kilograms and the hinges were hand-forged nearby.”

The attention to detail inside the property is painstaking, with the gold trees of Gondor etched into the ceiling and cobbled floors in each bathroom. The hobbit hole also has a hot tub and a fully equipped kitchen to bring it into the modern day.

“I think our guests like it for many different reasons,” says Brewer. “You have the fantasy elements of Lord of the Rings and views right across the vineyard lined with oak trees and willows. It’s almost otherworldly.”

Updated: September 01, 2022, 6:55 AM
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