Join me each Thursday for some Tough Travelling with the Tough Guide, hosted by Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland,‘ we will set out on a quest to track down the biggest tropes and clichés in fantasy fiction.
| Well Travelled Roads |
Rare is the fantasy adventure that stays close to home. Most require a long adventure down some well travelled roads…
There’s one place which will undoubtedly crop up numerous times in this week’s Tough Travelling – Middle Earth. Though there are countless other roads, paths, ways and trails across innumerable worlds in fantasy fiction, this week I’ve decided to start off and remain in Middle Earth to take a journey across its most travelled roads. This week I bring to you:
| A (Tough) Traveller’s Guide to the Roads of Middle Earth |
The Great East Road
From Tower Hills travelling east through The Shire and Bree to Rivendell
Originally thought to have been a Dwarven road running from the Iron Hills in the east to the Blue mountains in the west, there is still much to see and enjoy along The Great East Road. We start our journey at Emyn Beraid, or Tower Hills; a hilly range upon which Gil-Galad built three glorious Elven towers. These White Towers were a site of pilgrimage for the Elves and once housed one of the infamous palantír. A donation is not compulsory but is advised when visiting.
From here we journey eastwards through The Shire where travellers are sure to enjoy all the home comforts and famous spirit of Hobbit hospitality in the fair towns and villages which mark the route. Those who wish to visit The Green Dragon or The Ivy Bush should take the turn towards Bywater and from there can also reach Hobbiton.
Continuing along The Great East Road we meet the Brandywine River which can be crossed by the Bridge of Stonebows, to take us just north of Buckland. Avoiding the Barrow-downs to the south we make our way east to Bree, a bustling town of Hobbits and Men situated at the intersection of The Great East Road and The Greenway. No trip to Bree would be complete without a visit to The Prancing Pony, where visitors are encouraged to stop for refreshment.
As we continue our journey, travellers are reminded to don their insect repellent as we pass just south of the Midgewater Marshes. From here we have spectacular views towards the old Dúnedain fortress of Weathertop and the distant Weather Hills. We cross the River Hoarwell at ‘The Last Bridge’ on the final leg of our journey to the hidden valley of Imladris, where we will meet our journey’s end at the “Last Homely House East of the Sea”, Rivendell.
| 2. |
The Old Forest Road
From Rivendell through the High Pass and Mirkwood to the River Running
Travellers who find themselves at Rivendell may continue along The Great East Road and meet up with the Old Forest Road at the borders of Mirkwood. Leaving Rivendell, we venture north east towards the High Pass, or the Pass of Imladris, in the Misty Mountains. This pass, under which unlucky tourists would find Goblin-town, is prone to orcish blockades. Travellers are urged to carry a weapon and to remain vigilant at all times.
Emerging west of the Misty Mountains, our journey continues along the road to the Old Ford which crosses the River Anduin. A simple ford is all that remains of the stone bridge which once spanned the river so prepare to get your feet wet! Look to the north for views of the Carrock and Mirkwood, once Greenwood the Great, can now be seen in the distant east.
Crossing through open countryside, the route meets the Old Forest Road at the borders of Mirkwood. Travellers intent on visiting Beorn’s house should turn north midway between the ford and the forest. Just north of the road’s entry point into the forest is Rhosgobel, the home of Radagast the Brown.
The Old Forest Road is treacherous – overgrown, disused and a favourite haunt of Goblins – and covers more than two hundred miles. Impassable marshes have formed at the eastern end of the path so travellers wishing to go further must skirt either north or south of these to emerge from the forest. Those wishing to travel to Esgaroth, or Laketown, and thence to Dale and Erebor should skirt north of the marshes and follow the River Running northwards where it meets the Long Lake and Esgaroth.
| 3. |
From Fornost Erain, or Deadman’s Dike, through Bree to Tharbad on the Greyflood
The Greenway was once part of the North-South Road, a great highway which once ran from the capital of Arnor, Fornost Erain, to the capital of Gondor, Minas Tirith. The Greenway is now a somewhat overgrown and grassy road which in later years was much travelled by the Black Riders in their hunt for The One Ring.
We begin our journey at the ruins of Fornost Erain, which is now more commonly known as Deadman’s Dike, a popular spot for intrepid archaeologists. After a thorough exploration of the ruins our route takes us southwards through Bree-land into the lively town of Bree, where travellers are encouraged to stop for a pint of ale and a good dose of town gossip.
As we leave Bree our tour takes on a rather ominous air as we travel through Andrath, a narrow defile between the Barrow-downs to the west and the South Downs to the east. It is here that the Witch-King of Angmar, known then as the Black Captain, once established a camp. Travellers are encouraged to stay on the path and to not venture into the Barrow-downs which are known to be haunted by Barrow-wights.
As we travel south another road meets The Greenway; travellers wishing to return to The Shire may take this road to Michel Delving and there meet The Great East Road. Continuing along The Greenway we travel through fenland to approach our destination – the ruins of Tharbad which once forded the River Gwalthó, or the Greyflood. The bridge is ruined and impassable and the Greyflood may only be crossed at the traveller’s own peril.
| 4. |
The Old South Road
From Tharbad on the Greyflood through Dunland and the Gap of Rohan to the Fords of Isen
Adventurous travellers who have managed to cross the Greyflood at Tharbad, much like Boromir on his journey from Gondor to Rivendell, can now begin the next leg of the journey on what was once the North-South Road. Travellers are likely to require either a change of clothes or medical attention at this point.
South of the Greyflood, The Greenway becomes the the Old South Road and from here travellers can enjoy the glorious views as we pass west of the southern Misty Mountains through Dunland, a sparsely populated area mostly inhabited by herdsmen and hillmen. The terrain through Dunland is hilly and travellers are advised to wear sturdy walking boots.
After more than one hundred and fifty miles of hillwalking we begin to approach the Gap of Rohan, an opening which runs between the Misty Mountains to the north and the White Mountains to the south. Travellers wishing to travel to Isengard may do so by turning north before crossing the River Isen. Those wishing to take the next leg of the journey on The Great West Road may cross at the Fords of Isen.
| 5. |
The Great West Road
From the eastern bank of the River Isen through Rohan and Gondor to Minas Tirith
Our journey starts just south of Isengard, on the eastern bank of the River Isen on the next stage of the ancient North-South Road, The Great West Road. From here we will travel just north of the great fortress of Helm’s Deep before continuing along our path towards Edoras, the seat of the Kings of Rohan. Travellers who wish to take a tour of the Golden Hall of Meduseld or take the Paths of the Dead will have to leave The Great West Road here.
Continuing our journey, we travel along the footings of the White Mountains, which lie south of our trail, before meeting the River Glanhir. This marks the border between Rohan and Gondor. From here we travel through Anórien, otherwise known as the Sun-land, where the loud rush of the River Anduin can be heard even before the great island fortress of Cair Andros appears on the horizon. The dark mountain range seen in the distance is in fact the border of Mordor – the Mountains of Shadow.
As The Great West Road passes south west of Cair Andros, the road curves south. Here travellers are urged to stop and take in the first and utterly spectacular views of our destination – Minas Tirith. Continuing down the road we arrive at the city itself where visitors are wined, dined and treated to the favourable hospitality of the people of Gondor. Travellers wishing to extend their journey may take the South Road to the great city and port of Pelargir or alternatively make their way east to Osgiliath and thence on to Mordor. Guided tours of Mordor are available by request through Orcish Outings Ltd.