12 of the UK’s Most Inspiring Literary Destinations

12 of the UK’s Most Inspiring Literary Destinations

We’ve travelled to the homes, landscapes and cities that have inspired some of the UK’s most prolific literary legends. From the seaside town that inspired Dickens, the moody moors that birthed Dracula and the city that gave us Harry Potter, follow in these writers’ footsteps.

the footsteps of the UK’s most celebrated authors, from
Virginia Woolf’s Sussex to Shakespeare’s hometown and the city that
bore Harry Potter. We’ve had a nosey around writers’ former homes
and romped across the real-life landscapes that inspired their
novels to find these destinations worthy of a
literary pilgrimage

Must-visit places for book lovers


United Kingdom

J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, Phillip

High-flyers are ten a penny in Oxford,
and sure enough, the city has inspired a host of literary household
names. Many of them were academics at the University of Oxford,
including J. R. R. Tolkien (who dreamed up Middle Earth while
teaching Anglo-Saxon history at Pembroke College), C. S. Lewis,
Oscar Wilde, William Golding and later Helen Fielding and Philip

Visit Oxford Botanic Gardens to sit on Will and Lyra’s bench
from the His Dark Materials trilogy, find the doorway to Narnia
along St Mary’s Passage or pay your respects to The Oxford Dodo
(which made its way into Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland) at the
Oxford Museum of Natural History. Worked up an appetite exploring?
Stop by The Eagle and Child pub on St
Giles’ where The Inklings literary discussion group once gathered
in the Rabbit Room.


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Arthur Conan Doyle, John Keats, Virginia Woolf, Charles

The English capital has a roll call of great writers and, with
them, more literary locations – from the bougie Bloomsbury of
Virginia Woolf and co. to the down-and-out Dickensian London – than
we could hope to visit in a year, never mind cram into this
round-up. Stealing the spotlight is Sherlock Holmes, whose
character is as captivating today as when Arthur Conan Doyle
created him in 1887.

Baker Street
is now a museum, and many of the detective’s
favourite haunts – The Langham hotel, Simpson’s
in the Strand
restaurant – remain. John Keats’ Hampstead home
is another must-visit; it’s where, inspired by birdsong on the
Heath, the Romantic poet drafted Ode to a Nightingale. If you get
your kicks from memorials, head to Poets’ Corner in Westminster
Abbey where the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and Jane Austen are


United Kingdom


Lit lovers typically gravitate towards the Southbank’s Globe
Theatre, where actors have trodden the boards since 1599 (with a
pinch of salt; the theatre you see today is a reconstruction built
in 1997). Hardcore Shakespeare fans make the
(read: two-hour drive from London) to the
playwright’s former home of Stratford-upon-Avon, where you can
swoon over Anne Hathaway’s cottage before snagging tickets for a
Royal Shakespeare
show. Nevertheless, we want to make much ado about
Shakespeare’s Way, a footpath that opened in 2006, mimicking the
route that its namesake would have taken between his places of work
and birth. We’re not suggesting you walk the full 240km, but the
stretch between Kew and Shakespeare’s Globe is particularly lovely.
If travel be the food of love, journey on.

East Sussex

United Kingdom

A. A. Milne, Virginia Woolf

A. A. Milne hatched the idea for Winnie the Pooh when taking his
son, Christopher Robin, on walks around Ashdown Forest – that’s
Hundred Acre Wood to you and I. An hour’s drive south of London,
you can stroll through the forest to Gills Lap where “the whole
world spread out until it reached the sky” and pass by Owl’s Tree
before playing a game of Poohsticks à la Pooh, Piglet et al. at
Posingford Bridge. Should your writing tastes lean toward the more
adult, the Sussex landscape also features heavily in the writings
of Virginia Woolf. Though she’s often considered a London writer,
Woolf and her husband Leonard moved to Monk’s House near Rodmell in
1919, where her writing lodge – a room of her own – overlooked
Mount Caburn. Of course, she would go on to drown herself in the
River Ouse at Lewes in 1941. If this piques your interest, read To
The River by Olivia Laing.


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J. K. Rowling

A wealth of patriotic Scots have waxed lyrical about the wild

– from Sir Walter Scot’s heroic exclamations (“Land
of brown heath and shaggy wood / Land of the mountain and the flood
/ Land of my sires! What mortal hand / Can e’er untie the filial
band / That knits me to thy rugged strand”) to Nan Shepherd’s
introspective Living Mountain. Yet it’s the Scottish capital’s
wizarding pedigree that has us under its spell. Be prepared to
contend with a gaggle of Potterheads if you drop by Edinburgh’s
The Elephant House café, where J. K. Rowling wrote
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – by the time she was
writing the Deathly Hallows she was holing up in one of The Balmoral‘s Grand Suites.
It’s believed that the turrets of George Heriot’s School were a
forerunner to Hogwarts, while Greyfriars Kirkyard is home to the
gravestones of a certain Thomas Riddell and William McGonagall.
Coincidence? We think not.


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Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens

Dickens spent much of his childhood around Chatham Dockyards,
holidayed in the seaside town of Broadstairs (where he wrote David
Copperfield while overlooking Viking Bay) and spent the last decade
of his life in Gads Hill Place in Gravesend. Making something of a
heel turn, the Grade II-listed building that inspired Bleak House
is now a high-end wedding venue and guest house. A few miles and
several centuries away, we encounter the Kent (14th-century
Canterbury, to be precise) of Geoffrey Chaucer. The so-called
“Father of English literature” wrote the Canterbury Tales in which
a hodgepodge of 29 pilgrims travel from Southwark’s Tabard Inn to
Thomas Becket’s shrine at Canterbury Cathedral. The shrine was
destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538, but there’s a candle now in its
place – especially dramatic at evensong.


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Brontë sisters, Bram Stoker

Together with their clergyman father and dissolute brother, the
Brontë sisters lived and wrote in the family’s parsonage in the
town of Haworth. Visit today (it’s now open to the public as a
museum) and you’ll see why Charlotte, Emily and Anne had such
fervent imaginations – it’s a pretty cramped spot compared to the
brooding moors. Several walking trails take you past landmarks that
wormed their way into the sisters’ novels – a highlight being Top
Withens, a ruined farmhouse which inspired Wuthering Heights. Over
in Whitby, the haunting 13th-century ruins (there are, apparently,
a lot of ruins in Yorkshire) of the abbey gave Bram Stoker his cue
for Dracula. Today you’ll have to ascend 199 steps to reach Whitby
Abbey, but the North Sea vistas make it well worth the climb.

Lake District

United Kingdom

William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter

Such is the beauty and tranquillity of the Lake District that it
has inspired countless thinkers, artists and writers – chiefly
those of the Romantic predilection. It was on a walk across
Grasmere that Wordsworth spotted “golden daffodils… fluttering and
dancing in the breeze… tossing their heads in sprightly dance” and
thus penned his most famous poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.
Visit Dove Cottage (the poet’s former home) for daily
readings or the 17th-century Hill Top house, where Beatrix Potter
wrote and illustrated her much-loved children’s storybooks – bonus
points if you spot Peter Rabbit in the garden.


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Daphne du Maurier

Cornwall’s craggy coastline sets the scene for ancient myths and
modern tales, spawning the legend of King Arthur – born in Tintagel
Castle – along with Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poetry and Winston
Graham’s Poldark series. Yet few 20th-century writers set as many
tales in the area as Daphne du Maurier, who lived in Fowey, first
in Ferryside house and later on Menabilly estate (which inspired
Manderley in her bestselling work, Rebecca). Today, the desolate
moors, creepy creeks and gothic mansions that inspired du Maurier
to put pen to paper have changed little. Travel across Bodmin Moor
to Jamaica Inn or walk the South West Coast Path from Helford to
Frenchman’s Creek.


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Thomas Hardy, Enid Blyton

Of English literature’s greats, none are so entwined with God’s
Own County as Thomas Hardy. Conjuring rural Britain of the 1800s,
his novels – Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles
– paint a picture of society in flux against a backdrop of Dorset’s
villages and the dramatic Jurassic Coast. “He looked and smelt like
Autumn’s very brother,” Hardy writes in The Woodlanders. “His face
being sunburnt to wheat-colour… his hands clammy with the sweet
juice of apples, his hat sprinkled with pips, and everywhere about
him the sweet atmosphere of cider… at its first return each
season.” Indeed many of the author’s so-called “Wessex” towns can
be mapped onto real-life locations in the South East – Shaston, for
instance, is a thinly veiled reference to Shaftesbury. Farther
along the coast, readers can trace the fearless footsteps of The
Famous Five – the ruins of Corfe Castle (partly demolished by
Parliamentarians during the English Civil War) inspired Enid
Blyton’s Kirrin Island.


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Jane Austen

Sure, Jane Austen is typically linked with Bath, where she is
the focus of various attractions and festivals. Nevertheless, the
Pride and Prejudice author’s brief stint in the spa town (from 1801
to 1806) was an unhappy one, which is why we’re spotlighting
Chawton Cottage instead. Having moved to this Alton estate in 1809,
she wrote six of her most famous novels including Sense and
Sensibility, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The cottage now
serves as Jane Austen’s House Museum and
is a 90-minute drive south from London.

South Devon

United Kingdom

Agatha Christie

Born in Torquay, the creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple
spent much of her married life accompanying her archaeologist
husband Max Mallowman on digs across the Middle East. Yet every
summer from 1938 to 1976, the Queen of Crime would return to the
to complete and edit her books. Plan your visit in time
with the annual International Agatha Christie Festival and follow
the Agatha Christie Literary Trail which links 20 local landmarks –
the Imperial Hotel, Beacon Cove, Princess Pier – that inspired her
works. Set on the wooded banks of the River Dart, Christie’s
magnificent Greenway mansion is now open to the public –
peek inside the boathouse which sparked the idea for Dead Man’s
Folly, or check in to the self-catered apartment on the top

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