The Gaffer’s Elite: Realms and Settlements

Gaffer Gamgee

Ranking all things Middle-earth

Hullo friends!

It’s Friday today and that means another post from the Gaffer’s Elite! Now I had announced a “favourite characters” ranking last week, but in the meantime I thought there’s just one more post I need to do before getting to that.

Undoubtedly, one of the most appealing things about Middle-earth, and the reason why we keeping going back to these films and reading the books, is due to the vast variety of locations the stories take place in.

In 6 films, Peter Jackson and his creative team have visualised much of Tolkien’s fertile creativity and sublime imagination. Suffice to say, the combination of visual effects, set design and New Zealand’s natural breathtaking countryside, have given us a wealth of fantasy locales unlike any other.

So without further ado, here are some of my most cherished environments from the films…

11. Minas Tirith

Minas Tirith

It’s a vast and magnificent piece of workmanship, but who would want to live so close to Mordor? And whilst the majesty of its courtyards and stonework is unequalled, it feels more like a fortress than a city where you’d find yourself spending a quiet afternoon. In addition, heights are a big no no for me…

10. Lothlórien


It feels like a slightly sinister version of Rivendell. There’s such a strong sense of “elvishness” in the starlit mallorn trees of this land. The silver and blue tones give testament to Andrew Lesnie’s exquisite cinematography. Undoubtedly, the music helps to instill that sense of witnessing a real land of the Elves.

9. The Grey Havens

Grey Havens

Alas! We’ve barely had time to savour the sunset-crested towers of the Grey Havens. I love the sea; especially coastal areas. So the fact that such an emotional scene in the story takes place in such an environment was naturally going to be more attractive. I’d just wish there had been more time to explore the quays and the anchored ships; the hallways and the courtyards. The Grey Havens imbues truly magical qualities of a fantasy setting.

8. Erebor


Impressive, majestic and desolate. Although we get a glimpse of the Lonely Mountain settlement in its days of glory during the prologue to An Unexpected Journey, Erebor in the following 2 films is equally striking. It’s vast halls and complex network of bridges and passageways, give us a strong sense of the Dwarves’ culture and their impeccable skill in stonework. It couldn’t be a more appropriate home for Thrór, as King Under the Mountain; and it still retained its glory once Thorin took to the throne.

7. Edoras


I love Anglo-Saxon culture. And yes, it’s thanks to the Professor himself. It was therefore natural that I would find the home of the Rohirrim to be so captivating and alluring. In addition, the unique New Zealand location is jaw-dropping; and the set built to accommodate the Golden Hall and the rest of the capital are as extraordinary. Those sweeping panoramic shots in The Two Towers are absolutely gorgeous. Bring me my horse and let’s ride forth to Edoras!

6. Beorn’s House

Bilbo and Gandalf meeting Beorn

Somewhat akin to Rhosgobel, Beorn’s house has a strong element of the natural world in its design. Its interior seems more similar to a stable than a house, but it is nonetheless attractive. However, the real beauty lies within the surrounding environment. The vast expanse of grassland with the foggy hills in the distance is spellbinding. No wonder they call it Paradise …

5. Bree



It seems like a dodgy place with some unsavoury characters living there, but its appealing nonetheless. We’ve only seen Bree at night, and the rain mixed with the warm light emerging from its houses evokes a particular atmosphere which is hard to pin down. It’s that sense of hidden things and undercover jobs; the comforting beer for the weary traveller, and the warning signs of mischief brewing.

4. Rhosgobel


Believe it or not, Radagast’s shabby abode is one of the top favourites. Practically made up of a single room with a giant oak tree trunk acting as one massive column, I could easily see myself in the wizard’s shoes – alone and at peace with Nature. True, it resides on the borders of Mirkwood, but with enough light to seep through and Sebastian the hedgehog for a neighbour it’s pretty much satisfactory. And having a fireplace without a chimney is just the cherry on the cake.

3. Rivendell


A perfected version of Lóthorien. Not that the latter had any imperfections, but Lord Elrond’s residence feels more welcoming and safe. Removed from the relative danger of Moria and Isengard, the Elves of Rivendell have much to boast about. The unparalleled sophistication of the buildings, huddled within a secluded and protected valley, is one of the most striking concepts about this geographical part of Middle-earth.

2. Lake-town


I’m simply stunned by the shabbiness of Lake-town. It evokes a sense of Victorian London – with its rotting timbers, foggy alleyways and snow-covered rooftops. It’s also home to a most favourite character of mine – Bard the Bowman. Not just from the outside, but even the few sets we’ve seen from the inside are strongly appealing. Think of the Master’s Hall with the rays of light streaming into his kingly bedroom and lofty office…

1. The Shire

Hobbiton (The Shire)

Well, of course it is. It’s home to the hobbits and an idyllic place to live in. Peaceful, cosy and breathtaking. Not just Hobbiton, with its Lake and Green Dragon pub all within mesmerising walking distance to Bag End, but what fragments we’ve seen of the area beyond is equally enthralling. This would undoubtedly be the one place I’d choose to live the rest of my life. No question. And I’m sure I am in full agreement with a large amount of fans.

As always, let us know where you would rather live?

Next time, we’ll be looking at favourite characters.

Copyright of images belongs to Warner Bros., MGM Studios and New Line Cinema


22 thoughts on “The Gaffer’s Elite: Realms and Settlements

  1. Of course, the Shire had to win. I’m still impressed at what an impression The Hobbit seems to have made on you though 🙂

    1. The Hobbit trilogy certainly sealed my favourite spot in Middle-earth. The Shire was always second or third preference, but seeing the Unexpected Party sequence, I was sold (0_0)

  2. Basically, yes, I’d go along with most of that.

    I might have put Minas Tirith much higher on the list, but the hostile neighbours, as you mention, and also the slightly deranged landlord would count against it. I’m not so sure about Lake Town, which seems rather cold and slippery, what with the ice and the fish oil, or even Erebor, because although I don’t particularly suffer from vertigo, I wouldn’t be too happy about all those walkways and staircases that don’t have any handrails. Lothlorien, I think, would be unsatisfying: too much like drifting permanently through a daydream, or on mild sedation. I definitely agree with placing the Shire at No.1, because, in addition to being obviously idyllic, it is also a working environment: the inhabitants live good, active lives, with neither wistfulness for the past nor fear for the future.

    I think Orthanc would also have been quite appealing, *before* Saruman turned Isengard into an open-cast mine: good for the security-conscious, with extensive gardens and commanding views on all sides.

  3. Minas Tirith (despite being on the doorstep of ____ neighborhood like Mordor) did have its gates rebuilt in Mithril, thanks to my boys down in Erebor. If that doesn’t raise its resale value, what will?

  4. Great post, as usual! Funny how you mention Minas Tirith as more of a fortress than a city, because that is exactly what it was created to be. Osgiliath was originally the main city of Gondor, with Minas Anor (Tirith) and Minas Ithil (Morgul) the fortresses on the west and east. For me, Ithilien would be a wonderful place to live, especially if I was Faramir married to Eowyn. He definitely had a good thing going there.

  5. A real thought-provoker, that one. I’d have to say, personally, I’d go with one that goes, sadly, unmentioned; Dol Amroth. A pleasant mixture of Numenorean and Elvish (Legolas himself says that Imrahil’s line has some Elvishness to it), and a nice coastal area. Albiet, Corsairs for neighbors would be one of the less appealing aspects of the area, but all in all, I’d settle for it. Decisions, decisions… 😉

  6. Rivendell is my absolute favorite, then the Shire and Edoras kind of tie for second place. After that, I think probably Dale — I love abandoned, ruined places, so I’d love to just kind of wander around there once Bard (a most-favorite character of mine as well) led the people of Laketown there. And then of course it eventually gets restored and looks like it could be a comfortable place to live.

  7. All the above mentioned are my favorites… but I’m surprised there is no mention of the woodland realm… and even Isengard (before turning evil)

  8. I agree I could very happily live in The Shire for the rest of my life. One day when I have the money I will definitely visit the set in New Zealand, but who knows whether I’ll return!!

    I loved Rivendell, it does have a more homely feel to it in comparison to Lothlorien. Edoras is just stunning with that landscape. I do like Minas Tirith, but it does feel a bit cut off from the rest of Middle Earth, and it’s a long way to travel back to The Shire!

  9. I can’t really agree with your placing. For me, Edoras is way up there along with Shire and Rivendell! I had a wish to see more of the Shire since we mostly get glimpses of Hobbiton.

    1. Please don’t hate me for this! Edoras is spectacular – considering its pretty much a real location. Again, it’s so hard to decide!

      1. There are no reasons for hating you 😛 We all value different aspects of all things! If I had made an identical list it could have been of totally different reasons! It is very interesting to know how others think. 🙂

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