CREOLA, OH — These days, it’s easy to “feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,” even for those not carrying a Ring of Power.
Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who spoke those words to his wizard friend Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings” books and movies, had to visit the elves to recover.
Fortunately, modern travelers have Magical Earth Retreat (www.magicalearthretreat.com), a new lodging experience in the Hocking Hills that offers cabins designed to resemble the most luxurious of hobbit holes.
The project was put together by the Schwarby family, who own a commercial development company based in Florida. Family matriarch Karina Schwarby said the company was searching throughout the country for a site for its first vacation rental project, but never even considered Ohio.
“I thought it was all flat, like this,” she said, stretching out her palm.
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“I wanted to build in Montana, but my family said “We are an East Coast company.”
The Schwarbys eventually heard about the Hocking Hills through a relative in Cleveland.
After their first look, they were hooked.
“Our first visit (in 2018) was to Ash Cave,” Schwarby said.
“We were stunned. My children said, “This is the place.””
Today, Magical Earth Retreat is about an eight-minute drive from Ash Cave, which I, too, consider the most magical natural feature in the Hocking Hills.
The family was already considering partially underground cabins, which are kept at a constant temperature by the earth around them, for reasons of economy and ecology, Schwarby said.
The Lord of the Rings inspiration
But the idea for the “hobbit hole” look arose from another family trip, she said.
“We went to New Zealand and saw the site where “The Lord of the Rings” was filmed,” Schwarby said.
“That gave us even more inspiration. It was very magical.”
But even visitors who don’t know a hobbit from a Klingon will still likely enjoy the comfort and beauty of Magical Earth Retreat, which opened in the spring.
What to expect
Each of the site’s four individual cabins is set into the hillside, with plenty of light streaming in from the exposed side like a walk-out basement — or a hobbit hole.
Sleeping options range from a king bed with double bunk beds to a single queen.
Inside, each cabin is decorated with its own color scheme and fixtures, but each includes a kitchen area with range and matching retro-look mini fridge, microwave and Keurig coffee machine. (I know Bilbo didn’t have a microwave, but if he did it would look like this — trust me.)
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The rough-sawn cedar ceilings and walls are lovely, and exude a delightful hint of cedarwood smell.
Each cabin also has a large-screen television, decorative electric fireplace and Wi-Fi.
Each also has its own wood-fired red-cedar hot tub just outside the hobbit-inspired front door — another feature Bilbo could only dream of.
Guests will also find thick cotton linens, sheets and guest robes.
A redwood sauna pod with its own great view is also available to guests for an additional charge.
“We tried our hardest to give you that five-star feeling out in the woods,” said Ron Schwarby, Karina Schwarby’s son and business partner.
Because of their placement in the hill, the cabins have a gorgeous view of the property’s little pond and the valley below. And the retreat’s pretty firepit lounge areas are a great place to gather at dusk to organize a Fellowship, or just have a glass of wine.
Dusk is also a good time to view the cabins from below. Twinkling with fairy lights, the cabins, set stacked into the hill, will certainly bring Hobbiton to mind for fans of “The Lord of the Rings” books or movies.
The Schwarbys also hope fans might be inspired to visit by the new Amazon Prime “Lord of the Rings” prequel, “The Rings of Power” (www.amazon.com/Lord-Rings-Power-Season/dp/B09QH98YG1), debuting in September.
Rates at Magical Earth Retreat begin at $375 a night, with a two-night minimum stay.
The Schwarby family said it isn’t done with the Hocking Hills, by the way. The second phase of their project — which will feature “Moroccan-style” cabins — is already underway. And planning has begun for phase three, with luxury treehouse accommodations elsewhere on the property’s 13 acres.
For more information about things to see and do and other places to stay in the Hocking Hills, visit www.explorehockinghills.com.
Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.