Hobbiton today (above), just as it should be...
In 2003 (below), a sheep field where you had to use a fair bit of imagination. According to the tour guides at Hobbiton now, people pay a visit even if they have not seen the films. Anyone who took a trip to 'Hobbiton' 15 years ago would almost certainly have seen the films! However, the tour guides all those years ago did have the New Zealand knack for giving you your money's worth, bringing the site to life with tales from the film-making, whipping up some excitement. After all, nobody back then thought the village would be resurrected. You thought that was all you would get so it seemed precious and worthwhile visiting.
In 2003 it may have been a muddy field we saw but we were allowed inside Bag End, though you could hardly compare it to Bilbo's beautiful hobbit hole you see on the screen - it was like stepping into a broom cupboard made of plywood with an earth floor.
in 2003 it may have been pouring with rain but we saw the party tree with ribbons still hanging from it, decorated for the filming of Bilbo's one hundred and eleventh birthday party.
We have all raved about our visit to Hobbiton since we got back home. It was one of the highlights of our trip which we have since dubbed 'The Greatest Hits Tour'.
Hobbiton today is the kind of place you visit and don't want to leave. When you do have to, you are thoroughly prepared to believe that hobbits exist.