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If you have ever felt like escaping to Tolkien’s Legendarium of Middle Earth, then you only need to pop over to the Cotswolds in the UK!
It’s highly considered that The Bell Inn Moreton-in-Marsh was the inspiration for The Prancing Pony in the town of Bree. This is one of Middle Earth’s most popular pubs featured in the Lord of the Rings!
You may not find any halflings awaiting Gandalf or curious Rangers keeping watch in the corner here. But, you will find a cosy pub with a corner dedicated to Tolkien and there’s even a map of Middle Earth.
As a huge LOTR and Hobbit fan myself, I just had to check this out on my visit to the Cotswolds.
So, here’s a complete Hobbits guide for The Bell Inn Moreton-in-Marsh and everything you need to know about the Tolkien connection!
What is The Bell Inn Moreton-in-Marsh and Tolkien Connection?
Of course, it’s commonly known that J. R. R. Tolkien was a resident and academic at Oxford. As a professor of English Language and Literature, he would tutor students at both Pembroke and Merton College.
As an author and literary enthusiast, he would become part of the ‘The Inklings’ literary discussion group.
They would gather in ‘The Eagle and Child’ pub in Oxford. Here, they would discuss the value of fiction and fantasy narratives in the 1930s and 1940s.
His fellow ‘Inklings’ included the likes of C.S. Lewis who would become a close friend!
But, what is not so commonly known, is that Tolkien’s brother lived in Evesham. A small market town in Worcestershire that was the ancestral home to Tolkien’s mother, Mabel Suffield.
Unlike his brother, Hilary Tolkien had an interest in agriculture over academia! So, he bought a small orchard and market garden on the outskirts of Evesham in 1922.
J. R. R. Tolkien and his family visited his farm and stayed many times. According to him, ‘Worcestershire was more like home than any other part of the world’.
On many occasions, while he was an academic at Oxford, Tolkien would arrange to meet his brother Hilary in Moreton-in-Marsh.
It was the perfect meeting point as it was located halfway between the homes of the two Tolkien brothers!
They would meet up at The Bell Inn Moreton-in-Marsh and have a lengthy catch-up over a pint in a tiny corner of the pub.
Fun fact: Hilary Tolkien had a dog called Bilbo Baggins. Apparently, he called him Bilbo when he was good and Baggins when he was bad!
Finding Tolkien’s Corner at The Bell Inn
As the two Tolkien brothers almost always sat at the same table to meet. Today, The Bell Inn has immortalised this little corner of the pub.
It’s very easy to spot as soon as you walk inside. You’ll instantly spot a huge map of Middle Earth against the back wall!
Just to the left of that map, you’ll find a little snug with curved seating and a round table tucked away in the corner.
If you are a Tolkien fan, this is the best seat in the house! You can follow in his footsteps and have a pint where he would have sat all those years ago.
Above the table hangs a hotchpotch of photos. Some are of J.R.R Tolkien himself, some are portraits of his family and others are Cotswolds locations that inspired Lord of the Rings.
Many people say that this very pub inspired a small part of his legendarium! Tolkien was known for using ‘real-life’ places as a muse for Middle Earth.
The Bell Inn is thought to be the inspiration for The Inn of the Prancing Pony in the town of Bree!
Is The Bell Inn really the inspiration for Tolkien’s Prancing Pony?
Although there is no evidence or records from Tolkien to suggest that The Bell Inn inspired The Prancing Pony.
It is commonly agreed upon that this cosy Cotswolds pub was indeed the place.
So much so, that a local Tolkien Society Group called The Three Farthing Stones Smial awarded the pub with a blue plaque!
It hangs proudly outside the pub as attribution that this pub was the inspiration for The Prancing Pony in The Lord of the Rings.
Although many would disagree with this statement. According to the Smial group, there are too many overwhelming comparisons between this pub and the one in Middle Earth for it not to be the case.
What are the similarities & connections between them?
So, why do Tolkien fans feel that The Bell Inn is the inspiration for The Prancing Pony at Bree?
Well, mostly it comes down to the similarities in the layout of both pubs.
But, there are also many other factors to consider as well. Like, how Moreton has similar features to the town of Bree.
Here are some of the main similarities between The Bell Inn and The Prancing Pony as described in Tolkien’s works;
Moreton-in-Marsh is similar to the town of Bree
When Tolkien first introduces the town of Bree, he writes;
“The village of Bree had some hundred stone houses of the Big Folk”
Which is very similar to Moreton-in-Marsh. Typically, most of the houses on Moreton’s main High Street are built in traditional Cotswold stone.
But, there is also a connection between the two towns having a curfew tower.
In The Lord of the Rings, Bree is described as a curfew town that is controlled by a gate;
“The gates were closed at nightfall; but just inside them were small lodges for the gatekeepers.”
Moreton also has an eerily similar 16th-century bell tower across the road from the pub. It’s locally known as the ‘Curfew Tower’.
Traditionally, this monument would have played a major role in the town years ago.
It’s thought to have been a lock-up for drunks and criminals who would spend the night here. This is because there was no other way to confine them back then!
Both towns are built on a major road and near a ‘meeting of ways’
Just like Bree, Moreton is built on a major road and is near a crossroad;
“For Bree stood at an old meeting of ways; another ancient road crossed the East Road just outside the dike at the western end of the village”
The Prancing Pony was close to Eriador’s major crossroads outside the town. This crossroad was a meeting place of the Great East Road and the Greenway.
Similarly, Moreton-in-Marsh is based on the ancient Roman Road of Fosse Way which runs from East to West. This Roman Road then meets the roads from Oxford and Worcester which run North to South!
So, Moreton is also a place where four shires meet.
Did you know? The Four Shire Stone is a real monument on the A44 road just two miles away from The Bell Inn in the Cotswolds!
They are both coaching inn’s with a courtyard, three stories and lots of windows!
As the Hobbits approached the inn at Bree, they were taken aback by its size;
“The houses looked large and strange to them. Sam stared up at the inn with its three stories and many windows”
This is similar to The Bell Inn which is also made of traditional stone for the “Big Folk”. It has three large stories and many windows!
Another similarity is that The Bell Inn also used to be a coaching inn years ago. In the courtyard, you can still see the stables which used to house the horses overnight.
As you approach the pub, you’ll see a large archway to the right of the front door that leads to a courtyard. This is similar to The Prancing Pony description;
“There was a wide arch leading to a courtyard between the two wings, and on the left under the arch there was a large doorway reached by a few broad steps.”
Although the entrance door to The Bell Inn is located at the front of the building nowadays. Years ago, when Tolkien used to visit, the entrance could only be accessed via that archway.
You’d walk through the tunnel and enter the pub via a door on the left by walking up some steps.
There are also two wings at either side of the arch, like at Bree, which is now the hotel’s accommodation wings.
The two pubs have cosy ‘Hobbit rooms’ to book!
Talking of accommodation, you can book your very own room here for the night. Similar to The Prancing Pony.
If you remember in Lord of the Rings, the landlord Barliman Butterbur talks to Frodo and the Hobbits about rooms;
“If you wer en’t hobbits, I doubt if we could house you. But we’ve got a room or two in the north wing that were made special for hobbits, when this place was built. On the ground floor as they usually prefer”
They didn’t actually end up sleeping in their rooms due to Ringwraiths who were searching for them. Aragorn, fortunately, came to the rescue!
However, just like in the books, The Bell Inn has its very own accommodation you can book for a getaway. There are even rooms on the ground floor.
They are not tiny at all and very much made for “Big Folks”!
So, why not escape to Middle Earth and have a pint?!
Those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to similarities between Bree and Moreton-in-Marsh.
But, they are certainly enough to convince me that this gorgeous pub was Tolkien’s inspiration for The Prancing Pony!
Although the landlord wasn’t Barliman Butterbur, he was a lovely person who I had a quick chat with about it and it really made my visit.
As a huge Tolkien fan, having a pint here was the perfect end to my road trip in the Cotswolds.
If you’re also a fan of Tolkien or just love Lord of the Rings, I would highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area.
It’s a great way to escape the everyday and gives you a portal into Middle Earth! You could even have a second breakfast with their delicious menu of traditional pub grub.
Where is The Bell Inn Moreton-in-Marsh & opening times
If you did fancy stopping by the town of Bree, you only need to head to Moreton-in-Marsh. This is in the county of Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds.
It’s around a fifteen minutes drive from the popular town of Bourton-on-the-Water. Or, a 45-minute drive from Oxford.
There is plenty of free parking located off the main road of the town. Pretty much the whole High Street will have parking spaces outside the shops. But, there is a public pay and display car park you can find by the train station.
It’s actually quicker (and more economic) to get the train and there is a direct railway service from Oxford to Moreton-in-Marsh. It will get you here in around 35 minutes.
If you’re thinking of heading out for a walk in the Cotswolds, Moreton-in-Marsh is easily accessible on the Monarch’s Way trail.
This will take you over to Batsford Arboretum, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Stow-on-the-Wold. It makes a great stop for a pick me up on your walking tour!
You can find The Bell Inn on the main road in the town. The address is High St, Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 0AF.
This is just inches from the famous Toy Shop with a white pony hanging over the shop as a sign! Can you get any more LOTR?
The Bell Inn opening times are 11 am – 10 pm, 7 days a week.
Even more Lord of the Rings locations in the Cotswolds
As well as The Bell Inn, there are plenty more locations in The Cotswolds that are thought to have inspired Tolkiens’ legendarium. They make perfect additions to any road trip!
Just down the road is the Four Shire Stone on the A44. This is thought to be an inspiration for a similar stone marker in the books. This is where the counties or shires of Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, and Oxfordshire meet.
Or, why not head down the road to Stow-on-the-Wold? The church there has a yew tree-flanked door that is supposedly the inspiration for the Doors of Durin in the Mines of Moria!
Even the famous Broadway Tower has been compared to Amon Hen Watchtower.
Lastly, who could forget Oxford? You could spend a whole day chasing Tolkien locations and connections in the city!
I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting Hobbiton in New Zealand. Click here to get a sneak peek of what it’s like to visit Bag End!