As a country England is spoilt for choice when it comes to book-inspired destinations. It is, after all, the home of literary greats such as William Shakespeare and Jane Austen as well as children’s authors like Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. Being able to combine literary history with travel is a great way to add a bit of education into a family trip. It seems more of us are looking for them too with more than half of Brits saying they’d chose to visit a literary destination, according to research by VisitEngland. To give you some inspiration, here’s eight literary destinations to visit with – or without – the family.
Stratford-Upon-Avon, William Shakespeare England’s most famous literary great, William Shakespeare, was born in 1564 in Stratford-Upon-Avon in Staffordshire. You can visit the house where Shakespeare was born and spent his childhood. Four other houses associated with ‘The Bard’ are also open to the public including his daughter’s and love interest, Anne Hathaway. Children are catered for with craft activities, activity trails and dressing up.
You can also look inside Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare was baptised and buried. See one of his works performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and adjacent Swan Theatre. The town’s half-timbered housing and riverside location makes it a picturesque place to wander around. For family-friendly events visit the Shakespeare website and for more on the market town go to the Visit Stratford-Upon-Avon website.
Cumbria, Beatrix Potter The children’s books created by writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter were inspired by her holidays to the Lake District. The National Park in Cumbria, Northern England is an idyllic scene of rolling peaks and is home to Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain.
See the author’s 17th century farmhouse, Hill Top where she wrote her tales. Meet the likes of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny at Beatrix Potter World where you can walk through 3D scenes from her books. Take a tour of the picturesque region and discover more about the author and her books on the Beatrix Potter trail. For more information go to the Visit Cumbria website.
Haworth, Yorkshire – The Bronte Sisters The three Brontë sisters wrote some of the most powerful novels of their time in the early 19th century. They penned the books in their father’s parsonage in the small village of Haworth, North Yorkshire which is now a museum. Learn more about the family, their talents and tragedies (the family of six siblings all fell victim to Tuberculosis), view where they wrote their famous novels and see some of their personal possessions. Visit the Brontë Waterfalls and the Brontë Bridge, considered to be the sisters’ favourite places and wander around the surrounding moors where Emily got inspiration for Wuthering Heights and the brooding Heathcliff and Charlotte envisioned Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester.
Whitby, Bram Stoker Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel, Dracula, has spawned hundreds of films, parodies and follow up books. But it was during a trip to the seaside town of Whitby on the east coast of North Yorkshire where Stoker was inspired by the scenery and town’s local myths and legends. The town’s medieval Abbey and dramatic, craggy coastline provides the setting for the first few chapters of the book while the title name was sourced from a book he found at the public library. See the sights which inspired Stoker by taking the 199 steps leading up from Tate Hill to St Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey. Head to the Royal Hotel on the West cliff and look down at virtually the same view Stoker would have seen in the 1890s. For older children (and adults brave enough) there’s the Dracula Experience. Make sure you try some of Whitby’s famous fish and chips too! Visit the Yorkshire website for more information.
Bath, Jane Austen Although she grew up in Hampshire, Jane Austen spent several years in the spa city of Bath and it is where she wrote Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Visit the Bath Assembly rooms which feature in her books and the Jane Austen Centre. Learn more about the author at the centre and the era she wrote about. There’s the opportunity to dress up and add to the experience at the centre’s Regency tea rooms. Just walking the streets of Bath will have you reimagining her novels. A great insight, especially for those studying her works. For must-see Jane Austen locations in England read my post here and for more information go to the Visit Bath website.
Alnwick Castle, Harry Potter You are spoilt for choice for Harry Potter inspired locations in the UK. From the Warner Bros studio tour to London’s Kings Cross station, the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland as well as JK Rowling’s home city of Edinburgh. But how about visiting Hogwarts itself? The first two Harry Potter movies were filmed at Alnwick castle near Newcastle. Take in the sweeping grounds and grand castle owned by the Percy family. You can do broomstick training and take a guided tour of some of the locations used in the Harry Potter films as well as other films and TV shows such as Elizabeth, Downton Abbey and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire – Roald Dahl The quaint village of Great Missenden in Southern England was where Roald Dahl lived for 36 years and aspects of which found its way into his beloved stories. It is now home to the award-winning Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. Aimed at 6 to 12 year olds, the story centre will help their imagination go into overdrive while the museum is filled with interactive galleries, a look at the history of Dahl’s life and it also has daily crafts. For Roald Dahl tours and walks around the village, set in the Chiltern hills, visit the region’s website.
Dorset, Enid Blyton The stories written by children’s author Enid Blyton during the first half of the 20th century continue to be enjoyed today and this year marks the 75th anniversary of her best-selling Famous Five series. The London-born author spent her holidays in Dorest on England’s south coast and it provides the setting for many of her books. The ruins of the medieval Corfe Castle in Purbeck, for example, was the inspiration for Kirrin Castle in her Famous Five series. You can explore the castle, run by the National Trust, which puts on regular events for children and wander the surrounding hills and area. Blyton would walk along the striking Jurassic coast, go to Brownsea Island (Whispering Island) and visit the seaside town of Swanage. You can take a trip on a steam train, like Blyton would have done, on the Swanage’s heritage railway and retrace Blyton’s footsteps on the Enid Blyton trail. Go to the Visit Dorest website for more inspiration and look out for the Enid Blyon garden parties happening across all four RHS gardens throughout 2017.
Have you been to any of these literary destinations before and which ones would you like to visit or recommend going to?
*Disclosure: I am working with VisitEngland as part of the Year of Literary Heroes, looking at the best travel across the country for those who love books. Check out the #bookengland tag to discover more and share your experiences.
** Pictures courtesy of VisitEngland and Pixabay
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