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Forget Wellington's red carpet premiere for The Hobbit movies - Gandalf and his hairy-footed friends have been hanging out in Middlemarch.
The Middle-earth characters were part of a tour in the Strath Taieri yesterday, organised to promote Middlemarch as a visitor destination in its own right.
Nineteen tourism industry professionals took a train from Dunedin to Middlemarch for the day-long tour.
Middlemarch Promotion Group chairwoman Lynnore Templeton said it displayed everything Middlemarch and the surrounding area had to offer, from landscape filmed for The Hobbit movies to high tea at Pukerangi.
"It was really successful: we took them through some of the things we've put in place in terms of packages we can offer and different activities," she said.
The trip included lunch and a presentation at the town's community centre, a museum visit and an encounter with Gandalf and his hobbits at the railway station.
Parts of the heritage trail were explored and accommodation facilities inspected.
Visitors were taken to the base of the Rock and Pillar Range to see walking trails developed by the Department of Conservation, and saw a sheepdog demonstration.
On the way back to town, the tour bus was held up by cowboys on horseback in a surprise hijacking, Mrs Templeton said.
"The aim of the day was to showcase to Dunedin tourist operators and influencers just what the Strath Taieri has to offer visitors to Otago, and what a great place it is for Dunedin people to get away from it all.
We are 60 minutes from Dunedin and have a totally unique, amazing landscape with a lot to offer," she said.