This Is The Real Life Mirkwood From Lord Of The Rings

This one goes out to the hobbits who faced trials and tribulations to defeat the greatest threat that Middle Earth has ever known and, of course, to all of our Lord of the Rings fans. We've found a piece of J.R.R. Tolkien's fabled world residing here in our own: Mirkwood. Well, not the Mirkwood, but it's the closest thing our Earth has to the fictional forest.

Mirkwood was less featured in LOTR but was a big part of The Hobbit. Being that they're the same universe, the forest is the same nonetheless. Back when Bilbo Baggins was a "professional burglar," he traveled through Mirkwood with Thoran Oakinshield and his dwarves on their quest to take back their once-home, the Lonely Mountain, from the evil dragon Smaug. In those days, Mirkwood, according to Lord of the Rings Fandom, was home to the Spawn of Ungoliant, the giant spiders that almost made a meal of the hobbit and his pals. The forest has also been the home to wood-elves, the Nazgul, and even orcs. It was a dark forest before the fall of Sauron. Don't worry, though; it returned to its natural state — thick, lush, and green — after Sauron was defeated in the Third Age.

You aren't likely to run across any troubling creatures from this world in the Mirkwood, but you'll definitely see how it inspired Tolkien if you ever visit.

Enter the Puzzlewood

The real-life Mirkwood can be found in Gloucestershire, England. Puzzlewood, as it's called in this realm, is actually a popular destination within the Forest of Dean. It's mostly popular for miles of twisting paths and its beautiful tree and rock formations. (Also, no orcs.) You'll find that the rocks, covered with thick moss, and the dense foliage transport you to J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional world, and there's a reason for that.

Tolkien was known to spend a lot of time in the Forest of Dean in general and Puzzlewood in particular. According to Atlas Obscura, the wood served as inspiration for the Mirkwood landscape in Tolkien's books. The Forest of Dean may have inspired several other locations as well, such as Lothlorien. You won't find Puzzlewood in any of the Lord of the Rings movies, since the filming took place in New Zealand, but other productions have used the area. It was featured in both Merlin and Dr. Who at different points.

Puzzlewood isn't nearly as big as Mirkwood, but its 14 acres are only a small portion of the Forest of Dean, which itself covers over 24,000 acres and is definitely worth the visit. With the number of tourists that come through, however, you might want to leave your staff and robes at home.