I love a good book. When I’m not traveling or exploring London, I can usually be found reading. And when I find something that allows me to combine the two, I get really excited. Which is why I want to share 9 places to travel in the UK where you can be inspired by some of the country’s most famous writers. If you’ve ever dreamed of going on a literary tour of England, Scotland, or Wales, this is a good place to start.
Literary Tour of England, Scotland, and Wales
From poets to playwrights, novelists to social critics, these writers have all left a literary legacy in Britain. They’ve also left a physical one in the shape of their homes, places they’ve immortalized in their writing, or centers that have been established in their honor. I’ve visited all these places and they’ve given me a better understanding and appreciation for the work of these leading figures. I hope they do the same for you.
1. The Bronte Sisters – Yorkshire
Given Jane Eyre was one of the first British novels I read as a child, I’ll start with the Bronte sisters. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne lived and wrote in 19th-century Yorkshire and produced some of the most enduring titles in British literature. They’ve long been associated with Haworth in West Yorkshire, where there’s a dedicated Bronte Parsonage Museum in their former family home.
But visiting Haworth on a literary tour of England is just the beginning. The sisters’ novels were set across Yorkshire, not least in the moors that cover much of the region. When I think of Wuthering Heights, images of the moody landscape always fill my mind. A visit to Bronte Country wouldn’t be complete without a circuit of the area.
2. Walter Scott – Scottish Borders
North of Yorkshire, the Scottish Borders are another region rich in literary ties. The protagonist of this region’s story is Walter Scott, who lived and wrote some of Scotland’s most legendary titles here. His novels were set across the country, but The Bride of Lammermoor, which takes place in the nearby Lammermuir Hills, gets into the local spirit.
Visiting Walter Scott’s home in the Scottish Borders is a real treat. Abbotsford House is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Scotland, from its fairy-tale turrets to its stunning gardens. The library is enough to make me want to move in, and the grounds are a delighht to explore.
There are more Scott-related attractions in nearby Selkirk, where he was sheriff, and at Smailholm Tower, which his family owned.
Selkirk has a model courtroom with him presiding as judge, and the tower has great views over the local countryside (and was the setting for Scott’s ballad The Eve of St John). And that’s to say nothing of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, which is the largest dedicated to any writer in the world.
3. Henry James – Rye
Back in England, Rye in Sussex is not only one of the prettiest towns in the UK, but was also home to American expat writer Henry James. It’s not hard to see what attracted James to Rye in the late 19th century. With its cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses, this place could inspire even the most reticent writer to pick up a pen.
And speaking of homes, those on a literary tour of England can visit Henry James’ house in Rye. Lamb House is a joy to explore and has some of the prettiest gardens in town (you can even see the graves of James’ beloved dogs here).
I’ve been twice, and on each visit I’ve imagined him sitting down to write The Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl in the Green Room.
The house even made an appearance in James’ work, standing in for Mr. Langdon’s home in the novel An Awkward Age.
4. Charles Dickens – Rochester
Not far from Rye, Kent’s Rochester is a great place to travel for Charles Dickens connections. Dickens lived and wrote here, and many of the houses and high-street buildings feature in his work.
From the Six Poor Travellers House, which inspired a short story, to Restoration House, which became Miss Havisham’s house in Great Expectations, there are a lot of places that bring Dickens’ work to life.
And that’s to say nothing of the fact that the Swiss Chalet he used as a study sits in the garden of Eastgate House (which itself featured as Westgate in The Pickwick Papers and as the Nun’s House in The Mystery of Edwin Drood).
In fact, the whole place is so excited about Dickens that nearly every other shop on the high street is named after a character from his novels or life.
5. Jane Austen – Winchester
No list of places to visit on literary tour of England would be complete without a mention Jane Austen. She’s on the currency, after all. And while her novels were set in places as diverse as the Peak District and Bath, Winchester is one of the best places to visit for Jane Austen connections.
Austen lived in Chawton, which is just outside the city. Her home is now a museum and visitors can see everything from her writing desk to her personal effects. She died in Winchester in 1817, and there’s a brass plaque and exhibition next to her grave in the city’s cathedral.
6. Dylan Thomas – Swansea
Out in Wales, 20th-century poet Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea. The city has many Thomas connections and there’s a Dylan Thomas Centre with all kinds of information and exhibits on his life and work.
I visited a few years ago and learned a lot about Thomas and his poetry. From “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” to “And Death Shall Have no Dominion”, his verses have endured and captivated audiences for generations.
7. William Shakespeare – Stratford-upon-Avon
William Shakespeare is the most famous British writer of all time, and the best place to get a better appreciation for the bard’s work on a literary tour of England is Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare lived and worked here, and the whole town is dedicated to him. Visitors can tour the houses where he and his family lived, see his plays performed on stage, and take in the surroundings he lived in.
From Shakespeare’s Birthplace to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Hall’s Croft to Shakespeare’s New Place, there’s no shortage of historic houses in Stratford-upon-Avon connected with the bard and his relatives. And that’s to say nothing of The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Swan Theatre, and The Other Place, which are some of the best places in the UK to see his works live.
8. Beatrix Potter – Lake District
Up in the Lake District, Beatrix Potter brought Peter Rabbit and other animals to life for children in a way that endures to this day. Her 17th-century house at Hill Top is one of my favorite places to visit in Cumbria, not least because it feels like a cozy place to write (and because the garden reminds me of Mr. McGregor’s notorious plot).
But it’s in exploring the rest of the Lake District that I really start to understand Potter’s love of the natural world and passion for bringing animals to life. The hills, lakes, and natural landscapes are stunning in this part of England, and it’s inspiring to be in the place that inspired her to put pen to paper (and many others—writer John Ruskin and poet William Wordsworth had houses here that visitors can tour, too).
9. Arthur Conan Doyle – London
I have to end this list with London, not least because the UK capital has so many literary associations. From the Bloomsbury Group to Graham Greene and beyond, this city has inspired both writers and their settings alike.
But if I had to choose one writer that really captured London, it would be Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. His fictional detective has won the hearts of fans all over the world and inspired films, TV shows, and spin-offs ever since. From the museum on Baker Street to the art in the tube station, Holmes and Doyle will forever be celebrated in London.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this literary tour of England, Scotland, and Wales. There are so many places to visit and be inspired by the women and men who have brought us beloved books, plays, poems, and writing. I love how their memories and legacies have been immortalized in museums and the way their homes have been preserved, and I hope their legacies live on as their work has.
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