Anyone for a literary road trip? Britain's most enticing book-based haunts to visit

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Katharine Busby
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Want a themed getaway without the cheesy holiday reps and fancy dress? Then give yourself a bookish tour of the UK and work on your smug intellectual face for when people ask of your holiday plans.

Come see our round-up of the UK's most exciting literary haunts.

Images: REX

  • Jane Austen’s house

    This beautiful and simple Hampshire house was home to Austen for the last eight years of her life. There is now a museum on site too, so you can visit the house and cottage garden, and then take a look around the Learning Centre to find out more about the writer. Bonnets optional.

  • Hill Top House

    The Lake District’s Hill Top House is the former home of Beatrix Potter, and many of her most famous characters “lived” at the property in their stories – from Jemima Puddle-Duck to Tom Kitten. This year would have been Potter’s 150th birthday so the National Trust (who the writer left the house to) has a number of dedicated special events taking place.

  • Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

    The Scottish poet – often referred to as “Scotland’s favourite son” – is truly celebrated at this impressive museum, which covers 10 acres of land in South Ayrshire and includes Burns Cottage, where he was born.

    If you’re a mega-fan of the writer, you can even get married on the site or hold your own private Burns Supper in the cottage itself – haggis had better be your thing.

  • The Boathouse

    Visit the place where Dylan Thomas wrote the play Under Milkwood, along with poems such as Do Not Go Gentle. The boathouse is on a beautiful piece of coastline in Laugharne, Wales, so you could make a walking day of it - and there’s a tearoom for your obvious tea-and-scone needs.

    The attraction also houses a picture gallery, with many of the paintings (all for sale) inspired by the area’s beauty and history.

  • The Brontë Parsonage Museum

    This well-maintained house museum in West Yorkshire is run by the Brontë Society and honours the life and works of Emily, Charlotte and Anne. The house was the home to all three sisters (and their further three siblings) and artifacts on display include the writing desk that Charlotte, author of Jane Eyre, worked at. Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were also written here so for any Bronte fan, this attraction is a must. Try not to whistle Kate Bush out loud as you look around.

  • Ashdown Forest

    This is the forest said to inspire the writings of AA Milne when he came up with Winnie The Pooh and his gaggle of woodland pals. Within this Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty in East Sussex, it’s easy to identify areas described within the books, and a leaflet – Pooh Walks From Gills Lap - is available at the Ashdown Forest Centre (or you can download it from the centre’s website). Collect twigs as you go and you can have your own Pooh Sticks competition.

  • JM Barrie’s birthplace

    The childhood home of JM Barrie in Kirriemuir, Angus, is said to have been the inspiration behind Peter Pan, the writer’s famous tale of never growing up. You can go inside the house and get a feel for his upbringing as a number of the rooms have been recreated to look as they would have done in the years Barrie lived there from his birth in 1860.

    Sadly there is no indication that Peter himself takes visitors on flying tours.

  • Wentworth Place

    It is said that the poet John Keats spent his most productive years living at this Hampstead house and wrote Ode To A Nightingale while sat under a tree in the garden. Today the house is a museum dedicated to the poet and hosts a number of events as well, from live poetry evenings to family activity days. This is definitely one for romantics so grab your other half and you can quote verse to each other all evening.

  • The Elephant House

    What could be better than a place that serves lovely food and drink while also having a great view of Edinburgh castle? Certainly JK Rowling agreed that this was a winning combination, as much of Harry Potter was written in it – the author is said to have taken inspiration for Hogwarts from the hilltop castle in her sight.

    So settle down with a coffee to enjoy the birthplace of the boy wizard.

  • Holy Trinity Church

    It’s unlikely you’d go on a Shakespeare-inspired trip to Stratford-upon-Avon just to see the Bard’s grave but it should be on your list. The poet and playwright is buried next to his wife, Ann Hathaway, at Holy Trinity Church, which was also the location for his baptism.

    The church welcomes visitors and on the Saturday closest to St George’s Day each year, hosts a huge pageant in honour of Shakespeare when hundreds of people visit the church with flowers to celebrate his life.

  • Winchelsea Church

    The brilliant comic and poet Spike Milligan died at the end of February 2002 and was buried at this East Sussex church a couple of weeks later on March 8th. He had once said that on his gravestone he would like the inscription “I told you I was ill” but when he was buried the Chichester diocese refused to allow the wording.

    Eventually a compromise was reached, with an Irish translation of the famous quip being allowed instead.

  • Bunhill Fields

    London’s Bunhill Fields isn’t only the resting place of John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. It also houses the graves of Daniel Defoe and William Blake, so if you’re a book buff this is an important point on your literary map.

    Handily, the burial ground is round the corner from Old Street so you can go and tell the hipsters about your intellectual tourism afterwards.

  • Highgate Cemetary

    Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy should head to this North London cemetery to view the grave of the book’s author. There are often Adams-related events taking place, such as talks about the writer, and so it’s worth checking the website before you visit to see if there’s something on.

    Oh and watch out – Beadle’s about; TV presenter Jeremy is buried here too.

  • Castle Howard

    Some of the biggest successes in TV dramas are, of course, adaptations of famous books, and Brideshead Revisited is now always associated with Yorkshire’s Castle Howard. The castle is epic and there is plenty of information about how the filming happened and the locations used.

    It’s also a great place to visit in general, with beautiful gardens and places to eat and drink, so you can take your non-bookish pals too.

  • Stokesay Court

    Shropshire’s Stokesay Court was one of the main locations for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement. The mansion itself was used as a temporary hospital during the First World War but is now a privately owned – and lived in – home.

    Tours are available, allowing you the chance to see the rooms where the film was made and imagine you’re Keira Knightley.

  • Cornwall

    The BBC’s recent serial adaptation of Winston Graham’s Poldark gained thousands of viewers just on the back of its breathtaking scenery. But enough about Aiden Turner with his top off; the programme was made in various locations around Cornwall, which the Corporation have handily listed on the link below.

    From Truro to Charlestown, you can set yourself an entire Poldark itinerary – be sure to include a clotted cream ice cream on the beach too.

  • The Roald Dahl Museum

    You’re never too old for Roald Dahl – surely there’s no age when the Twits are not funny? And this museum, located in the Buckinghamshire village where Dahl lived and wrote, even has a Twits café (where you can dine on a Roly-Poly sausage roll, no less).

    It also houses three galleries dedicated to the author and a Story Centre, offering children activities designed to bring out the writer in them.

  • The Sherlock Holmes Museum

    If you can’t guess the address of the Sherlock Holmes museum then you can’t really call yourself a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth. For, of course, it is at 221b Baker Street, London.

    Step inside to get a glimpse of Holmes’ study on the first floor and view plenty of artifacts associated with the detective novels. Sightings of Benedict Cumberbatch sadly not guaranteed.

  • Seven Stories

    This incredible centre dedicated to children’s books in Newcastle-upon-Tyne has a huge programme of events for children to get involved with – from themed days to author visits – particularly in the school holidays.

    It also has a huge attic where story times take place, along with dressing up as favourite characters. There are also two main galleries housing temporary exhibitions with masses of information on their subjects as well as hands-on activities for smaller people.


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Katharine Busby

Katharine Busby is a writer and editor. She knew she was a feminist when she realised it didn’t mean chucking away her lipstick, but having the choice to do so should she wish.