A Literary Tour of the UK
If you like travelling, literature, and a holiday then a literary tour of the UK is just the thing to add to your bucket list. It doesn’t have to be all at once, I’ve only visited a handful of these places so far, but each has left a lasting memory.
I love the Bronte sister’s stories, their books are wonderful but it’s the three of them that I love reading about the most. Was there ever a more unlikely trio of successful writers? Before I left school I went to Haworth with my English Literature class and we had a private tour of the parsonage. The area was cut off by a snowstorm in March, and only our class was willing to clamber up the ridiculously steep hill to the parsonage. But because of the weather, I didn’t get to experience Haworth at its finest, so a few years ago I went back again. It’s a tiny little village so only a night’s stop, but the parsonage and the local moors.
I’ve yet to visit Hill Top but I think this is next on my list. When I was younger my family visited the Lake District and it is a panoramic vista. One of my favourite films is Miss Potter and I’ve been meaning to visit Hill Top ever since I saw it ten plus years ago. Beatrix Potter famously wrote children’s books, and there is a museum in the nearby village as well as her own home to visit. So you can get a lot done in one visit.
One of my favourite places in the whole world is Knole in Sevenoaks. It used to be a hunting lodge in the Tudor times, which Henry VIII occasionally visited. But later it was gifted to the gentry and eventually ended up in the hands of the Sackville-West family. Vita was the lover of Virginia Woolf and a writer in her own right, along with her brother Edward. The house is currently under renovation, but they’ve opened the front apartments which was where Vita and her brother lived when they were older.
The key locations in any Jane Austen film or TV series are the famous Royal Crescent and the Bath Assembly Rooms. The assembly rooms feature heavily in Northanger Abbey when Catherine Morland goes to town with her neighbours, and meets Henry Tilney – her future love. Bath loves its connection to Jane Austen, and you can visit various locations including the Crescent and the Assembly Rooms, along with the Jane Austen museum to get a real sense of the place.
So I have an interesting connection to Rudyard Kipling’s home. I fell in the pond. Yep, right in. There was a ‘stepping stone’ which was not a stepping stone but in fact, a mini waterfall, which I’d step on (I was about 6) and then slipped and fell straight into the pond. That’s my biggest memory of the place. But I can picture the house and I remember a lot of clutter and books, as though the curator had kept it authentic as a family home. Kipling’s back story is quite tragic, particularly regarding his son. I’ve never read any of his works, but I would be keen to get back to it.
If you haven’t read any Agatha Christie, where have you been? There are so many to read, not to mention watch adaptations of, and they’re always enjoyable. Agatha is another with a tragic backstory, regarding her marriage in particular. I would like to learn more about her time as a writer though, and how she managed to produce so much throughout her lifetime.
Not a famous literary home or museum, but a world-famous bookshop. It is the oldest LGBT bookshop in the UK, set up by gay socialists in 1979. It also featured in the movie Pride another one of my favourites, about the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group, who met at the bookshop between 1984-1985. It’s bursting with history, and fantastic books so well worth a visit when you’re next in London.
A while back I went to Edinburgh specifically to go on a Literary Pilgrimage. I visited the Greyfriars Kirk, The Elephant Room Cafe, and Spoon, the latter two being the cafes where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter. This was before all of her opinions came to light. But I also visited The Writer’s Museum, which showcases the work of three famous Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. When I visited there was also an exhibition about Ian Rankin. It’s a tiny museum and free to enter, full of manuscripts, handwritten notes, and facts about the three giant writers.
There are loads of other places in the UK with literary connotations that you can visit and I’ll be sharing them soon. Let me know if you have suggestions in the comments.