Last Updated on June 11, 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Between dramatic coastline, rugged moorland, and bustling big cities, Britain is home to a myriad of inspiration. So whether you’re in search of some thriller settings or simply want to be whisked back into the England of old, here’s your guide to the best literary locations in the UK that bookworms will fall in love with.
As the first UNESCO literary city, it should come as no surprise that Edinburgh is easily one of the best literary locations in the UK. Not only did JK Rowling write much of the world-famous Harry Potter novels in the city (and as a result, there’s plenty of wizarding magic to be found around), but other great authors such as Ian Rankin and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle all lived in the Scottish capital at one point or another.
Some of the best inspirational destinations in Edinburgh now are Dean Village (the ever-so-pretty former mill community turned district of Edinburgh) and Arthur’s Seat (which offers breathtaking views of Holyrood Palace and the rest of the city).
If you have a little more time to spend exploring Scotland, then be sure to take a day trip to Roslin. Home of Rosslyn Chapel, this ruined ecclesiastical building even featured in Dan Brown’s ‘the Da Vinci Code’. Convinced you to plan a trip? Check out our top Edinburgh travel tips to help you make the most of your visit!
Hardy country, Dorset
For those who are looking for a country escape with all the trimmings: chocolate box villages, winding country lanes, and the salty sea breeze, Dorset is a must-visit. After all, it’s here where Thomas Hardy once lived (both of his Dorset properties are owned by the National Trust and can be visited today) and it’s even where the iconic writer set his fictional ‘Wessex’.
In a city where Jane Austen once frequented and where Georgian architecture can be found in abundance, there’s a plethora of literary locations and connections to uncover. For example, did you know that Bath was mentioned as far back as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales? Or that the city now has over a dozen bookshops?
With its abundance of coffee shops, bookstores, and walking routes, visit Bath today and you’ll soon discover that the city makes for the perfect weekend break, especially since Bath is easy to reach from London in just a couple of hours! Alternatively, Bristol airport offers great flight connections and is only an hour or so away.
Pretty and close to London, The Cotswolds are the England of old that you’ve been dreaming of. While the driving is not so easy on account of the many narrow lanes crisscrossing through this area of outstanding natural beauty, the villages, towns, and hamlets at the end of each road more than makeup for the fact!
Of course, no place is filled with quite as many hidden gems, secret locations, and literary connections as the UK capital of London. But there is perhaps nowhere London’s bookish past quite comes to life as in the Bloomsbury district, which is best-known for its connections with the Bloomsbury Group.
This set of connected individuals lived in the city during the first half of the 20th-century and included writers and philosophers such as Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and Giles Lytton Strachey. Head to Bloomsbury today and you can expect to find a whole host of wonderful and independent bookstores; these include Persephone Books, Skoob Books, and Judd Books.
The book town of Wales is close to the English-Welsh border. Filled with books galore, you’ll find all kinds of bookstores, specialising in children’s fiction, poetry, thrillers, and more. Elsewhere in the picturesque town, even the ruins of the castle are home to an honesty bookshop of sorts, with open-air shelves and cases filled to the brim with tomes and novels.
On the fringes of the Cotswolds, the pretty town of Stratford-upon-Avon is all timber-framed houses, ancient museums, and historic pubs. And that’s not all! Instead, Stratford also happens to be the birthplace of Shakespeare. Today, in and around the town, you can see several of the houses where Shakespeare once resided, as well as visit his final resting place in the town’s centuries-old church.
Though not a city or a town, Greenway more than deserves its place on this list of literary locations. After all, this was the home of the one and only Agatha Christie, one of the bestselling authors of all time. The mastermind of detective novels such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, Greenway in Devon was the writer’s retreat and home.
Now owned and managed by the National Trust, you can visit the house and gardens where the world-famous author once lived (for a fee or free if you’re a National Trust Member). Most notable is the recently renovated boathouse which not only offers views of the River Dart Estuary, but is also the setting for a Christie novel.
The Lake District
A forever favourite of locals and visitors alike, the Lake District (as its name would suggest) is characterised by its many bodies of water, craggy peaks, and little towns and villages dotted across the region. A favourite of many a writer over the ages, some of the most famous authors to have found inspiration in the Lake District include Beatrix Potter and the iconic poet Wordsworth.
Of course, no guide to the best of literary locations in the UK would indeed be complete without a nod to the city of Oxford, which is often charmingly referred to as the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’. Home to buttery stone architecture, many historic pubs, and one of the most famous universities in the world, you can’t go wrong by booking a weekend away in Oxford.
As well as being the filming location for many scenes in the Harry Potter movies, the city also served as inspiration for much of the Alice in Wonderland books because Lewis Caroll (real family name Dodgson) was a student of Christ College. Oxford also served as literary inspiration for books such as the Narnia Books and JRR Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings.
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