Fantastic for Nature Lovers – Karawatha Forest.

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This place is truly at my back yard. Karawatha forest was here a long time before I arrived but it is only in recent months that I have started exploring and enjoying this wonderful bushland. Initially it was a great area to walk my dog Buddy and for us to enjoy the natural area while both of us enjoying fresh air and great exercise.

Recently, while my friends were visiting, we went to the forest a couple of times to explore plus we joined a 2 hour guided walk through the bush one Sunday morning. These guided walks are conducted regularly. You can find the information on the website. When I was growing up on the northern beaches of Sydney this type of area was “my back yard” and although I had spent many hours there I realised there was just so much more that I learned on this guided walk. Karawatha Forest contains mainly open eucalypt forest with areas of heath, wetland and woodlands.

There are plenty of bushwalking paths which are well-signed making it very easy to explore and design your own walks.

Karawatha Forest Park is about 18 kilometres south of Brisbane’s CBD, is approximately 900 hectares in size and is one of the largest areas of remnant bushland within the city. Karawatha Forest Park has a range of walking tracks and trails and you can download maps from the site of the Karawatha Protection Society to see the wetlands, track locations, grading and length of the tracks.

We were delighted when we arrived at the area known as Poet’s Rock with its sandstone ridges and scenic outlook over the forest and in the distance we could see Brisbane city.

Due to the large size of Karawatha Forest Park, and the variety of habitats it contains,this forest is a very important refuge for over 200 species of wildlife, including a number of threatened or endangered species such as the greater glider, squirrel glider and rare frogs. The forest also supports rednecked wallabies, swamp wallabies and eastern grey kangaroos, possums, bats, parrots and owls. The birdlife is the most visible in the forest – over 100 bird species have been found.

Inside the Karawatha Forest, just off the Acacia Street entrance there is ample parking, which is a few meters from the Discovery Centre which is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am – 4pm. The Forest Discovery Centre is so well thought-out. Interactive exhibits teach you about the local wildlife – from frog calls, to invasive weeds and a bird’s eye view of the forest. There are books and craft activities for children to engage with, plenty of buttons to press and lots for the older visitor too. They have packed a lot of information into a small space and delivered it in a fantastically accessible way.

Adjacent to the discovery centre there are large picnic areas with free bbq’s, picnic tables and benches, lots of grassy places to relax or play. There are plenty of public toilets and there is an amazing nature play area for the kids.

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Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre has been really well planned and there’s something there for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds so whether you’re a young family, backpacker or seasoned bushwalker there’s plenty to enjoy. You could easily bring a picnic and spend all day or just pop in for a quick walk.

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Grass Tree

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An Oasis in a Busy City – Roma Street Parklands

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In Brisbane we are blessed with so many beautiful gardens and Roma Street Parklands is no exception.

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This oasis in the heart of Brisbane with spectacular subtropical plant displays, sweeping vistas and unique artwork, Roma Street Parkland is the perfect place to go exploring – and it is only a short walk from Brisbane’s CBD.

The Parklands which is set on old Queensland railway land has been carefully developed into a very attractive and well manicured parkland that would scarcely betray its former use.

The Parkland is extensive with lovely gardens, a lake and a rainforest area. There are also excellent children’s play areas.

Join one of the leisurely and informative guided walks leaving from The Hub twice daily to experience these beautifully designed and meticulously kept grounds. There are many different sections and themes, fantastic waterways and features, flowers, native and imported, rainforest, water dragons in abundance. The walks are undulating so be prepared for short uphill sections. I could roam and enjoy this parkland for hours, And… It is free!

Or maybe for a Gold coin donation, hop onto the Parkland Explorer, the trackless train for an exciting journey through the parkland’s misty fern groves, past rocky peninsulas and the Lakeside Meadow. This little train operates between 10 and 12.30 each day with its drivers and conductors who are regular volunteers of the Parklands.

The parkland provides well-maintained picnic spots and free electric barbecues so you can prepare your own food. There is also a casual restaurant which you will find between the parking area and park.

There are two playgrounds designed for children of all ages, one at the Children’s Garden and the other along Weeping Fig Avenue.

We drove in to the Parklands as there is plenty of on street pay parking however it is easy enough to walk from the city or the Roma Street train station.

The ground staff and volunteers at Roma Street Parklands are to be congratulated for putting such a wonderful space together. It brings happiness and joy to all who visit. Well Done. Roma Street Parkland is open seven days a week.

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Devonshire Tea in the mountains at the Winery

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Only about an hour and a half drive from my place in Brisbane and less time from the Gold Coast is the lovely area Cedar Creek, Mt Tamborine.

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There are a few wineries in the area but we chose Cedar Creek Winery. We were initially drawn to this place to see the area and of course sample the wine. When I told my friends that the winery serves Devonshire tea, they said, they had never had one. In fact, they had never heard of Devonshire Tea and thought it may be High Tea. However, it is not. Devonshire teas have been around for as long I can remember. While growing up, a special treat with my family on a Sunday afternoon, was to take a drive in the “country” and stop at a country home with tea rooms for Devonshire tea. In those good ole days, Devonshire tea was served with a pot of tea however now days coffee is also very popular.

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A Devonshire tea is a form of a morning or afternoon light meal, consisting of tea and scones, clotted cream and jam. Traditionally a speciality of Devon and Cornwall, Devonshire teas are offered in tea rooms in those two counties, as well as in other parts of England, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, which includes here in Australia.

The restaurant with its peaceful and relaxing surroundings is set in a lovely woodland area overlooking the lake with its abundant birdlife.

It was a cool wintry day and being as we were up in the mountains there was the winter “look” all around including the beautiful coloured leaves and the bare trees.

We followed our Devonshire teas with a wine tasting at the Cellar door which is right next door in the same building. We tried several whites, reds and bubble. All were quite nice.

From the cellar door, we ventured upstairs to the Arthur Hamblin Gallery to see a good selection of paintings of diverse Australian scenery.

Then our next stop was the Frogs Hollow which is home to a diverse range of wildlife, with over 23 species of frogs and many species of rainforest insects. We loved the experience, but you need to be patient and look for the frogs. The more effort you put into looking for the frogs and observing them, the more you will get out of the experience. There are a lot more frogs there than you first realise.

Here at the winery also, they have purpose built Glow Worm caves with guided tours throughout the day. We chose not to take the tour this time and spent extra time exploring this very charming and picturesque setting.

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Breathtaking Views from Elephant Rock

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Whenever I have friends visiting, especially when they are from overseas, I not only get to be tour guide but also a tourist in my own town. And this is exactly what has been happening here in Brisbane over the past couple of weeks. My friends are visiting from Hawaii and I am enjoying exploring with them.

On this particular day we drove to the Gold Coast to have lunch at the Currumbin Beach Surf Life saving club. It is always a great place for locals and visitors. It was a glorious winter’s day of about 24C, with beautiful clear blue sky, stunning beach and great surf.

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Looking South towards Coolangatta

After only about an hour’s drive from my home in Brisbane, we arrived at Currumbin beach. We arrived early enough to climb up the iconic Elephant rock which is adjacent to the Currumbin surf club. The stairs up to the top are extremely narrow and quite steep but certainly worth taking the time to climb up to see the spectacular views along the beaches, both north to Surfers Paradise & south to Coolangatta.

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Currumbin Surf Club and Elephant Rock

In the surf club restaurant, we chose to sit out on the balcony overlooking the beach and surf where the views are spectacular and the atmosphere surreal. It is the only place on the entire Gold Coast that actually extends out over the high tide mark. There is no other club literally sitting in the ocean to give you an experience like this.

 

Although the menu is simple it is extensive and we all chose delicious well presented meals.

 

After lunch we drove a little way up the beach to where there were many surfers and lots of activity.

 

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Currumbin is a great place to learn to surf. It is also great for the locals and experienced surfers. The signs at the beach tell people not to swim as there are so many people learning to surf. The beach is safe but is not to be underestimated as it is at the mouth of a very large river/creek and at times can have very strong currents/sweeps and rips. This is why there are permanent life guards stationed there.

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This beautiful beach is immaculately clean and unspoilt and close to good parking plus has showers and toilets.

Currumbin Beach has its own unique cafe culture, with all the cafes facing the ocean offering a wide variety of coffee and cuisine. The village atmosphere is evident here, locals and tourists mingling for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

We walked over to the rocks where the surfers were jumping into the surf with their boards. It was super. This is known as the Alley, the famous Alley, where most days the water can be filled with surfers looking for that perfect ride. Linda and I could have stayed there for hours watching. Our phone cameras worked overtime taking many great shots of the guys diving in to the quite aggressive waves.

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It was the most perfect winter’s day, and surprisingly not too many people there considering it was school holidays. 

 

Scenic and Relaxing – McLaren Falls Park

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Not far off the highway and only a short 10 minute drive from Taraunga is McLaren Falls Park which is 190 hectares of parkland set alongside Lake McLaren.

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We drove up early enough to enjoy coffee at the café before our bush walk however the café was closed when we arrived. My friends did say that the food is great at the café and very reasonably priced.

 

Right by the café is the information kiosk where we parked our car and walked to the falls through the rainforest. We grabbed a map here at the information centre however we soon noticed that the roads through the park were well signed so we did not really need the map. There is plenty of parking by the information centre and around the park areas.

We set off for our walk up to the falls, which in fact was only a very short but pleasant walk with gorgeous ferns, tree ferns, vegetation and abundance of bird life along the way. The falls are not high and are really a small waterfall.

 

After taking many photos we did some more exploring. From the falls we then walked to the picturesque lake with its magnificent reflections coming from the colourful trees by the waters edge.

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It was autumn and the park was particularly stunning with the leaves changing colour. The serene setting with its resident ducks and black swans was breathtaking.

 

McLaren Falls park is a certainly a great place to spend a few hours or in fact a few days. On a sunny day it would be a great spot to clamber over some rocks and go for a refreshing swim. McLaren Falls park is also home to one of the best botanical collections of trees in New Zealand.

This park is vast. Not only beautiful, but so much to do, you can kayak, walk, BBQ, swim, check out the Falls, camp, see glow worms, enjoy the lake or take a picnic for a very relaxing few hours.

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There are some great walking tracks with interesting bushes and trees surrounding the area. If you are a camper you have the opportunity to book a spot to stay a night or 2. There is also a hostel in the park however I did not see it.

Tranquillity in this Beautiful Sanctuary, New Plymouth, NZ.

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Only a short drive from downtown New Plymouth is the charming property, Tūpare. We parked in the car park and walked down the wide path with lovely over hanging branches of all colours to a lovely English type cottage. The Chapman-Taylor house. It was like turning back the clock – lovely wooden beams with that British feel, looking out onto a glorious garden.

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Overlooking the Waiwhakaiho River, Tūpare which means garland of flowers is a premier landscaped garden with a unique homestead, originally developed by Sir Russell Matthews and his family from 1932.

 

Although this beautiful house was closed when we arrived as they were setting up for a private high tea, we were invited in for a personal tour. We were so fortunate as our friend Betty who took us to Tūpare is one of the Friends of Tūpare Her knowledge of the house and the gardens was exceptional. We had the pleasure of about an hour of a personalised tour of the house and gardens.

 

 

The Friends of Tūpare host free public tours at 11am on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from October to March and group tours can be organised on request.
This hidden gem is probably one of New Zealand’s best privately-established gardens, which has now been passed on to the district council for preservation. The council continue to do an awesome job, replacing trees and plants as necessary to maintain its splendor.

Established in the 1930s with over 50 years of family effort, the grandeur is awesome, with maples, fragrant roses, rhododendrons, lilies, hydrangeas, redwoods, grasses, there is so much to admire, irrespective of the season.

In 2002, the land was purchased for the New Zealand Community to enjoy. It is indeed a work of art, with such well manicured gardens, a public park with impeccable barbecue facilities where people can enjoy a picnic. There are four walking trails with differing levels of difficulty especially with regards to incline. The original gardener’s cottage is a delight to see and has much historical and photographic material on display. Truly fabulous. What is even better, there is no charge to view and partake in the walking trails

 

 

Tūpare is an absolute safe haven of stillness, tranquillity and botanical beauty. It radiates serenity and peacefulness

Tūpare was the home of the Matthews family. It is now owned and managed by the Taranaki Regional Council and is a Garden of National Significance.

It is terrific as you can walk as little or as much as you want. The walk down to the river is worth it and then up to the top. It would be fun to take a picnic and enjoy it down by the river.

A Natural Wonder that Dominates the area of New Plymouth, NZ.

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This mountain sneaks up on you. Driving in towards New Plymouth, suddenly we saw a beautiful snow capped wonder ahead. Viewed from a distance this spectacular volcano dominates and provides a spectacular back-drop. The summit was often covered in cloud but then when the clouds cleared the snow-covered “peak” (cone rim) was revealed and its true majesty could be seen. During the week that we were staying in New Plymouth I became mesmerised by this spectacular sight and found myself taking many photos of it from almost everywhere I was in the area.

 

 

It sounds like the locals mostly refer to this mountain as Mount Egmont, however, I was introduced to it as Mount Taranaki. I could see immediately why this beautiful mountain with its resemblance to Mount Fuji, provided the backdrop to the movie; The Last Samurai

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On the day we visited Mount Taranaki and the Egmont National Park we stopped for a coffee at Inglewood on the way up.  The weather was very cold which prompted a couple of folks in our group to purchase gloves and beanies. However, when we did arrive at the mount late morning the day had warmed up and the weather was glorious.

Upon arrival we were met by a local volunteer guide who specialises in bush walks in Egmont national park. John took us for a nature bush walk close to the visitors’ centre where he pointed out many of the trees and plant species, plus explained to us the need for so so many possum traps. In New Zealand the possums are a huge problem and unlike here in Australia they are not protected, in fact they are hunted/trapped and killed for different purposes. Possum fur is a  big industry in NZ.

 

 

 

After about an hour of exploring many of the walks through the bush we then stopped by the cafe at the visitors centre for lunch and to buy some local gifts.  The visitors centre has plenty of parking, information, including a model of the mountain and surrounds, and toilets. There is a water bottle filling station in front of information centre.

 

 

After lunch we made our way up towards the summit from the visitors centre.  There were great walking tracks and beautiful views even without climbing all the way to the summit. We weren’t up for the summit hike so we opted instead for some of the shorter walks around the visitors centre. The walk ways are well laid out which makes the walking so easy and pleasant.

 

 

First up was the Nature walk with the viewing platform on the way. This was a lovely quick 15 minutes walk through gorgeous forest and with great views looking up the mountain and also down towards the coast.  This walk was glorious in the sunshine. We loved the views, the birds and the flora diversity. There is trailhead signage indicating both distance and anticipated time durations. The mountain offers spectacular views, the more you give it, the more you will get in return. But don’t push yourself too hard, the mountain can be very tricky and treacherous.  The locals will tell you many people died because they underestimated it.

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The clouds came, the clouds went – Taranaki was stunning.

 

Simply Special and Beautiful – Tauranga Waterfont

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Now days when I travel I prefer to spend extended periods of time in the places that I am visiting. The joys of staying for days or even weeks are numerous but my favourite is that I can “live like a local”while I am there, albeit for a short time.

This is exactly what I did on my trip to the Bay of Plenty, NZ where I stayed in Tauranga for a week. We enjoyed day trips every day, some small trips and some big ones including our trip to Hobbiton.

While staying in Tauranga we visited the waterfront both in the day and one evening when we went to the Harbourside Restaurant for dinner.

 

 

This stunning waterfront plays a vital role in the city of Tauranga. And this is where I was introduced to Hairy Maclary and Friends. I had not read any of Lynley Dodd’s books, in fact I had not heard of Hairy Maclary nor the author prior to my trip to Tauranga. What an absolute treat. While the book about Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy was being read to me as I was sitting at the statues I felt like a child again. This is such a fun serious of books.

 

These larger-than-life public art display of sculptures allow kids of all ages to get up close to Hairy Maclary and his friends in this beautiful setting on the waterfront. There is a well-written information board explaining the history of Hairy McClary and friends which is relatively easy to read.

 

I have seen many bronze statues, where people do not spend much time near them, whether in a park or museum, however, here people actually lingered, touched, petted, sat and wandered around the scene enjoying it from all angles. Young and old were all enchanted by the bronzes.

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Just a little way along the waterfront is this piece of interactive art, “Wings to Fly”, mural on the Strand.

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Are they a pair of angel wings? Or the wings of a hawk? Could they be wings of a tattooed vulture? I just stepped into the middle of the wings and became an Angel for a moment.

If you have the time when you are visiting the Bay of Plenty pop in to visit the Waterfront with its surrounding beautiful backdrop where there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops at the adjacent road.

 

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The waterfront is truly a delightful place to stroll, relax, people watch and just take in the picturesque surroundings.

A Disused Quarry To A Paradise – Te Puna

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Well what a lovely surprise Te Puna Quarry Park was. The transformation of this disused quarry to spectacular gardens and walking tracks was commenced in 1997 and all work and maintenance was carried out solely by volunteers. Now there is something for everyone to enjoy: picnic lawns, panoramic view, sculptures, bush walks, a butterfly house, specialized gardens and much more.

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This park is a credit to the dedicated volunteers who have created a very special attraction for the community and visitors to the area. There is plenty of parking including overnight for self contained vehicles and caravans.

If you are a lover of gardens, nature and art I highly recommend Te Puna. There are ponds, tree ferns, cymbidium orchids by the thousand, native tree plantings and exotics such as vireya rhododendrons – a wild garden rich in spectacular contrasts. Special garden areas include irises, cacti and succulents, an Australian area, a native Arboretum, a Bonsai corner, a South African area and a Palm Grove. There is a butterfly garden where monarch butterflies happily fly free.

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Monarch Butterfly

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The track was steep in places so I was pleased that I was wearing sneakers/walking shoes. Definitely worth making the time to visit Te Puna with it’s wonderful panoramic views, from the gentle walk on the formed pathways taking one through all sorts of flora suitably grouped into their botanical origins and backgrounds which includes areas specifically devoted to orchids, fuchsias, herbs and much more.

The many fascinating sculptures crafted out of stone, wood, metal and ceramics situated throughout the gardens make for an interesting cultural touch as one meanders round the different pathways and comes across these works of art or man-made surprises.

The quarry park also has divine views of Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. We soaked in the great views at many places but they were best as we climbed higher.

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This is where I saw my first “Silver Fern”growing.

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The park is dog friendly too, but only on a leash. There are plenty of benches and grass areas to rest throughout the park; there are also a few drinking fountains and toilets.

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It is free to enter this lovely spot, but worth while leaving a donation when you leave. Take a picnic and make a day of it.

From ponds to panoramic views, from gardens to butterflies, this old Quarry has become a magical place of distinctive beauty. You will love this place. I did.

A Stroll through the Beautiful Shire

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Lyn, the Happy Hobbit

I went to Hobbiton. Although I have not read any of the books nor seen the movies, when I had the opportunity to visit, I was excited. And, I was not the slightest bit disappointed. It was 3 hours of awesomeness.

We drove from Rotorua through lush countryside to Hobbiton in Matamata which took about an hour.

We arrived with enough time before our booked tour to enjoy a simple but delightful lunch at the Shire’s Rest cafe. After lunch we lined up to wait for our bus which swept us off to the Shire. On the way to the site, we watched a feature presentation on the television in the bus.

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We drove through beautiful sheep grazing countryside of the Alexander farms to the location of the set. It is virtually impossible to see the set from the road as it takes several minutes drive in to Hobbiton after passing through security gates.

We were overwhelmed by the beauty of the place.

 

 

 

 

The sets are beautiful, and the amount of detail that was put in to them is mind boggling. If you’re a photographer, there are an infinite number of great shots waiting for you here. Our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. She had a great sense of awareness of when to share her information and when to set the group free to explore an area on their own. She was happy to take photos for us. She told us the details of building the set, how Peter Jackson came to find it and stories about the filming.

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Hobbiton itself is magical and it makes you appreciate what a genius Peter Jackson is. The attention to detail is incredible and it doesn’t feel like a film set in any way. It really felt like we had fallen into middle earth. It was a fantastic trip through the world of J.R.R. Tolkien and you don’t need to be an extreme fan to enjoy this.

During this guided captivating 2 hours tour, we felt transported to the Middle Ages amongst Frodo, Sam, Gandolff and Bilbo Baggins in Bags End Shire and the Green Dragon.

The mill and the Lake look so picturesque and the views are stunning

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Hobbiton is simply stunning – beautiful gardens, gorgeous flowers, huge trees (one of them is fake) and the fascinating hobbit holes which feel so real and authentic that you could easily believe people are still living there and that it is a real community.

 

An absolute must do, the set is amazing. The whole place makes you feel like you are part of the movie. Meandering up & down seeing all the hobbit holes all the way to the Green Dragon Inn where we were treated to a choice of either a cup of ale, cider or non alcoholic ginger beer or in my case a dark alcoholic ale.

 

 

We loved every second of the tour. It truly was magical; like stepping into a different world. We strolled around the shire like happy little Hobbits for an afternoon. And, if you are not already a fan, you just might become one.

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