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Walking Middle-Earth: The Barrow-downs

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Everard Took returns with a new set of walks, starting with a visit to the Barrow-downs and Prancing Pony. Our stuffy guide once more reveals his love of the landscapes of Middle-earth, but he is also preoccupied by a suspicious loss…

Kai Greenwood (@LostDunedan)

A long, circular route starting at the village of Bree and taking in the ancient ruins on the old downs.

Distance: 13  miles
Difficulty: Moderate, long distance and some small hills to climb
Dangers: Fog can descend quickly. The wights are gone however, (although the author bears no responsibility etc etc).

Map of Barrow-downs

It is the dawning of the Fourth Age. Four hobbits set out on a quest beyond all imagining, and succeeded against the odds in destroying the one ring. Sauron is defeated, and King Elessar has taken his rightful place on the throne of Gondor.  The orcs are gone, fear is gone, and peace and prosperity is promised for all Middle-earth! Truly we live in a blessed Fourth Age!

Everard Took's notebook by Kai GreenwoodWhich is all very well, but it isn’t going to help me find my missing notebook. Now, I swear I had it stowed safely in my backpack whilst going on this latest series of walks, yet when I went to check some old notes, it was gone. Most perplexing, (and I suspect foul play), but please keep an eye open for it. Thank you, kind readers.

Anyway, welcome back to this new series of walks around Middle-earth in which I will be venturing far(ish) and wide(ish). 

This trail begins in Bree, at the Prancing Pony Inn (1). Stroll through the town and out of the south gate, pass over the causeway and follow the lane between the fields. You will soon see a footpath that cuts west across common land to meet the ancient North Road, the Greenway, with its cobbles overgrown with grasses and dandelions.

It is not these cobbles that we have come to see, but other stones far more dramatic. In the west rise the Barrow-downs, topped with tombs and menhirs from the ancient Kingdom of Cardolan. What was once a peaceful resting place of men became for years a fearful, shunned land, infested by cold-hearted wraiths known as Barrow Wights. Few who entered these downs returned, and those who did were said to be changed, carrying a shard of terror in their souls for ever more.

These days though, it’s a lovely place for a stroll.

Follow the well-worn path between Skull Mound and Goby Ridge (as the hobbits of Bree have named them). This track, trodden by the curious, leads directly to the Great Barrow (2). The tomb is open, and though all burial goods have been removed, the wight that Frodo encountered here is also gone, so pay your respects to the Last Prince of Cardolan and then amble northwest to the Sunken Circle (3).

Now, I am not one to cast aspersions, but how Frodo et al got so lost at this point in their journey is beyond me. The gateway to the downs, a clear gap between two steep-sided hills, is due north of this place, and even in a fog it isn’t difficult to find. If you want to find a pea in your porridge, just poke your finger in, as my Isobel used to say! Still, all was well in the end for Master Frodo, so no harm done.

What Frodo should have known is that moss, growing on the side of the standing stone, shows us the direction we need to go! Follow the moss (or your compass) northwards to pass over the ruined Cardolan boundary ditch (4) and onwards to the East Road (5).

Prancing Pony Pale Ale

Ah, the East Road! There is something comforting about setting a hairy foot on this ancient route. It runs for miles beyond the northern reaches of the Old Forest, past Buckland, over the Brandywine… to home. How many hobbits have walked this road? How many ponies, and dwarves, and men? 

More importantly, how many barrels of Prancing Pony Ale have made the journey to ease hobbit thirsts in Bucklebury and Bywater and Brockenborings? A de-sobering thought.

The Shire is a long way off though, too far for today. Turn instead to the east where the lights of Bree will be visible between the poplars that line the road. Brightest amongst them are those of the Prancing Pony Inn. Many a weary traveller has looked with relief upon this view after the slog through the wilds. I can imagine the pleasure the lights must give them, the promise of a warm bed and a dry roof and a full tummy.

There’ll be no peaceful night’s sleep for me though. Not until I find my bloody notebook. 

Everard Took 


Kai GreenwoodRead more at www.kaigreenwood.com

Twitter: @LostDunedan

Text and Maps © Kai Greenwood 2022

The post Walking Middle-Earth: The Barrow-downs appeared first on The Fantasy Hive.

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