Raised in Birmingham, England, and educated at the University of Oxford, J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most popular fantasy series of all time: The Lord of the Rings. The fantastical world he created, while unique, seems to draw from some real-life places here on Earth, especially in the Cotswolds. When driving through the Cotswolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK, it’s easy to see how these beautiful landscapes inspired Tolkien when he wrote his series.
In this Lord of the Rings guide to the Cotswolds, you’ll learn about all of the places in the Cotswolds that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien when he was creating his world. Not all of these are factually proven, and some might seem a bit of a stretch, but it’s still nice to imagine how these real-life places played a part in the design of Middle-earth.
These Lord of the Rings locations are all found in the Cotswolds. At the end of this Lord of the Rings guide to the Cotswolds, I include a map. All of the locations are relatively close enough together to make for an easy weekend trip to the Cotswolds, or even an addition to your Cotswolds trip itinerary.
Tolkien’s connection to the Cotswolds
The family of Tolkien’s mother owned property in Evesham, a town in Worcestershire close to the Cotswolds. Tolkien’s brother, Hilary, owned an orchard and market garden near Evesham, which Tolkien and his family often visited from Oxford, a route which necessitated a drive through the Cotswolds. Multiple towns in the Cotswolds also have records (or tales) of Tolkien visiting.
The yew tree door in Stow-on-the-Wold
This famous door is thought to be the inspiration for the Doors of Durin that guard the western entrance to the Mines of Moria. As you can see in the clip below, the Doors of Durin are also framed by two yew trees, but the resemblance pretty much stops there.
Unfortunately, there is no concrete proof that the hobbit door at St. Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold was the inspiration for the Doors of Durin. Nevertheless, it’s still well worth a visit if you pass by Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds.
Bell Inn, Moreton-in-Marsh
The Bell Inn in Moreton-in-Marsh served as the inspiration for The Prancing Pony in Bree, where the Hobbits meet Aragorn for the first time.
The Tolkien Society even gifted the pub with a plaque that reads: “The Bell Inn was visited by the author J.R.R. Tolkien. It has been attributed as the inspiration for the inn of The Prancing Pony which features in The Lord of the Rings. Attribution by The Three Farthing Stone Smial, a meeting group of Tolkien Society members and Tolkien fans.”
The Four Shire Stone
This 16th-century pillar, located just outside of Moreton-in-Marsh, once marked the geographical meeting place of the English counties of Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, and Worcestershire. In 1931, the boundaries of Worcestershire changed and the stone now marks the meeting place of the three English counties.
In the world of The Lord of the Rings, this pillar is thought to have inspired the Three Farthing Stone, the center of the Shire, and where three of its four farthings meet geographically.
Broadway Tower is a folly, an ornamental building built with no practical purpose. It is rumored to be the inspiration for Amon Hen, the site of the battle between the Company of the Ring and Uruk-hai. Amon Hen holds the Seat of Seeing, an ancient chair and observation point enabling the user to see great distances (seen at 00:23 in the clip below), much like Broadway Tower, whose observation deck permits visitors to see 16 counties on a clear day.
Broadway Tower was also used as a retreat for members of the Arts and Crafts Movement, including William Morris. Tolkien admired Morris’s fantasy stories and was even said to draw inspiration from Morris’ fantasy novel, The Well at the World’s End (1896). The novel includes a character called ‘Gandolf’ as well as elves, dwarves, and kings, who go on a journey in a pseudo-medieval landscape.
The Rollright Stones
The Rollright Stones actually refer to a group of prehistoric megalithic monuments situated on the border of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire in the Cotswolds. The first, named Whispering Knights, is a dolmen erected in the early/middle Neolithic period to mark a burial place. The second, named King’s Men, is a stone circle from the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age. The third, a monolith, is possibly a Bronze Age grave marker. There is a myth that the stones once had been a king and his knights who were turned to stone by a witch called Mother Shipton.
Regarding Lord of the Rings, the Rollright Stones are thought to resemble the Barrow-Downs, an ancient site that marked resting places for the men of the Northern Kingdom and Dunedain.
Bredon Hill in Worcestershire has featured in the works of many authors, composers, and artists. Its name comes from bre, a Celtic word meaning hill, and don, an Old English word also meaning hill. Two megalithic stones on the hill known as the King and Queen Stones are steeped in lore. Legend states that passing between the stones would cure illness, the effects of a witch’s enchantment, or even help a woman through her pregnancy.
Trollshaws, roamed by trolls in The Lord of the Rings, is theoretically based on Bredon Hill. Bilbo and his companions were captured by the trolls William, Tom, and Bert who then tried to cook them. Gandalf distracted the trolls long enough for them to be turned into stone by the sun. Years later, Frodo comes across this location and finds the stone trolls on his way to Rivendell. These stone trolls perhaps allude to the King and Queen Stones on Bredon Hill.
While this village in the Cotswolds didn’t serve as explicit inspiration for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, he did stay at the Red Lion with his son Michael.