World Book Day – The UK’s Best Real Life Literary Locations

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World Book Day gives us the perfect excuse to lose ourselves in our favourite novel, play or poem. For true bookworms, it is also an opportunity to make that long-awaited pilgrimage to the country’s most inspirational literary locations – where award-winning writers were inspired to create some of the greatest ever works of fiction.

So in honour of our nation’s favourite books, we have put together the ultimate guide to Britain’s literary landmarks.

Pack a paperback, hit the road and immerse yourself in the best of British literature.

Jamaica Inn, Cornwall

Cornwall is the eternal star of Rebecca Du Maurier’s novels, and Jamaica Inn is no exception. Her famous tale of murder and mayhem is set in the brooding Jamaica Inn on Bodwin Moor – and it is still standing today. Du Maurier stumbled across it one night in 1930 after getting lost in the fog while out on the moor. Captivated by the inn’s intense atmosphere and the innkeeper’s chilling ghost stories, she got to work on her most celebrated novel.

Hike across the moors for yourself (fog machine optional) and reward yourself with a pint and a pasty at the real life Jamaica Inn…just remember – don’t trust anyone.

Chesil Beach, Dorset

Chesil beach

Chesil Beach: Star of Ian McEwan’s 2007 Booker-shortlisted novel

Ian McEwan has a real gift for making us feel the most profound misery through his tragic characters and their depressing lives. If you’re into that sort of thing, you absolutely have to visit Chesil Beach in Dorset – the eponymous location for his 2007 Booker-shortlisted book.

The beach is stunningly beautiful in its own right, but after you have read the book you will curse McEwan for ruining your seaside holiday.

Alternatively, win a few Instagram ‘likes’ by snapping a picture of “On Chesil Beach, on Chesil Beach”.

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Fancy solving a real life literary mystery? On 3 December 1926, Agatha Christie left her home in Berkshire following a row with her cheating husband, and simply disappeared. Her car was found abandoned by a lake in Guildford, Kent a few days later, and a national manhunt attracted the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle (who hired a spirit medium to track her down). After 11 days, she was finally spotted in Harrogate, North Yorkshire – hundreds of miles from home – claiming to have amnesia.

No one has ever figured out where she went or what she did during those ‘lost’ 11 days – can you retrace her steps and solve Christie’s greatest mystery?

Whitby Abbey, Whitby

Whitby Abbey: Where else would Dracula stay?

Whitby Abbey: Where else would Dracula visit?

For maximum effect, go after dark, alone, and bring plenty of garlic. That’s right – Whitby Abbey is the real life inspiration behind Dracula’s Castle. During a visit to the Yorkshire town of Whitby in 1890, Bram Stoker spent some time walking around the looming ruins of the ancient abbey, and in his mind a story started to take shape… the rest is horror history.

Whitby Abbey is one of those places you’ve probably already had a dozen nightmares about, without ever actually visiting it. The shadowy arches are home to actual bats, while a steep set of the crumbling steps leads right into the sea, perfect for bringing shipwrecked vampires to the shore.

The ruins are still standing today, while Dracula’s “grave” is situated nearby.

Laugharne, Wales

Dylan Thomas loved Wales, and Wales loved him right back. He was born in Swansea and lived all over picturesque West Wales, but it was in the small town of Laugharne where he was truly inspired.

From a boathouse nestled in a tiny glen beside the glassy water of the Taf Estuary, he wrote the iconic Under Milk Wood, and it is not hard to see why. Laugharne is one of the most calming nooks in all of Carmarthenshire – the perfect place to loll among the daffodils and catch up on your Welsh literature.

Winchester, Hampshire

One of England’s prettiest cities, Winchester has been responsible for inspiring some of the greatest novels every written. From her Winchester home, Jane Austen dreamed up the love story between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, a scheming young character called Emma, and many other iconic characters and stories which would go on to become global classics.

Visit Austen’s home (now a museum) in Chawton, and make some time to indulge in a long walk around the countryside, just as she did.

Incidentally, Colin Firth also hails from Winchester, so if you hang around the lakes long enough you may be lucky enough to recreate a certain scene from the BBC adaptation…

Alnwick Castle (AKA: Hogwarts), Northumberland

Alnwick Castle and the River Aln

Alnwick Castle: The wizarding world of Harry Potter

OK, so this is cheating a little – J.K. Rowling wasn’t technically thinking of Alnwick Castle when she wrote about Hogwarts, but thanks to the films, the castle has become synonymous with Harry Potter.

The huge castle is open to the public for most of the year, and even hosts the odd Harry Potter themed day – bring your wand and recreate the magic for yourself.

Haworth, West Yorkshire

This way to Wuthering Heights

This way to Wuthering Heights

The West Yorkshire village of Haworth was home to the Bronte sisters for many years, and it was in the Haworth Parsonage where they wrote most of their books. You can’t miss the connection when you visit – almost every landmark has a ‘Bronte’ association (the Bronte Waterfall; Bronte Bridge, etc), while the old Parsonage is now a museum.

There is no real-life Wuthering Heights, but it is widely assumed that Emily Bronte was inspired by Top Withins, a desolate and rural farmhouse approximately 3 miles outside of the village.

Best enjoyed with a friend named Cathy.

Kirriemuir, Angus

This unassuming “wee red toonie” in the east of Scotland was where Neverland was born. The hometown of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, it features in many of his novels including Auld Licht Idylls, The Little Minister and A Window in Thrums. It was here that he wrote Peter Pan, and the rugged, lush landscape of Neverland was based on the local Angus scenery.

Kirriemuir has some of the clearest night skies in the UK, so you can map your own route to Neverland. According to Barrie, it is near the “stars of the milky way”, “second to the right, and straight on till morning”, and most easily spotted at sunrise.

Top 10 UK Tips for Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, loving sons and daughters around the country are searching for new and unusual ways to make 15 March extra special for their mums. If you’re still struggling for ideas, here’s our guide to the top 10 locations in Britain to spoil your mother for Mother’s Day. We hope it gives you some inspiration!

1. Start with a slap-up brunch in Manchester

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Does your mum loves a full English breakfast? How about a sophisticated Eggs Benedict, some healthy porridge and fruit, or perhaps an indulgent short stack of pancakes? Whatever she’s into, brunch is always a great way to get your Mother’s Day off to a good start. Manchester is something of a hub of brunch spots, from traditional greasy spoons to trendy little cafes. Recently refurbished celebrity hangout the Koffee Pot is known for its big breakfasts and mugs of tea, Moose Coffee is the place to head for pancakes, and Home Sweet Home does a mean Eggs Benedict. Albert’s Shed is great for canal-side dining, whilst North Tea Power do a great coffee and some lighter brunch options.

2. Sample a slice of culture in Norwich

Is your mum a culture vulture? Did you know that Norwich is the first (and so far only) English city to be declared a world UNESCO City of Literature? The award recognises this East Anglian city’s literary heritage, along with its ongoing commitment to culture. For anyone who loves culture and the arts, Norwich is a fantastic destination, and boasts a huge range of galleries, museums, theatres and music venues throughout the city.

3. Experience a Victorian Highlands spa town

Proving that southern England doesn’t have a monopoly on spa towns, the charming town of Strathpeffer – some 20 miles north of Inverness – is a magical hidden gem. For the Victorians, this Scottish hideaway was the location of invigorating spa baths and even a peat bath. Today it’s a conservation village, and you can take your mum to the historic pump room to learn about the town’s history. Once you’ve had your fill of quaint Victorian charm, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the surrounding hills, or discover the nearby Pictish hill fort.

4. Delight in some fine art in St Ives

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The seaside town of St Ives, Cornwall, has long served as both home and inspiration to some of the world’s leading artists, including Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and – perhaps best known – Barbara Hepworth. Today, St Ives remains a thriving hub of art and is the perfect mother’s day destination if your mum is a fan of the visual arts. Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum are not to be missed. You’ll also find a host of galleries and buzzing workshops thriving in this delightful town, including the New Millennium Gallery, the Uys Gallery, ArtSpace Gallery and the Porthminster Gallery.

5. Explore the great outdoors in south Wales

If your mum loves getting outdoors and enjoying some spectacular scenery, she’ll love a mother’s day trip to the Brecon Beacons National Park in south Wales. Along with landscapes that offer some of the most extraordinary natural beauty in Britain, you can also discover something of the region’s magnificent industrial heritage, ancient ruins and mysterious caves. For a lakeside nostalgia trip, head for the Brecon Mountain Railway. Take your mum to see the amazing waterfalls, explore the Blaenavon World Heritage Site, or experience the magical beauty of Llanthony Valley.

6. Grab a Sunday market bargain in North Yorkshire

Shopping may not be everyone’s favourite pastime, but if your mum loves hunting out a few hidden gems in a Sunday market, why not take her to the largest one in northern England? The racecourse at Catterick, North Yorkshire, is home to a massive Sunday market with a fun, fairground atmosphere. You can buy just about anything here, from fancy cheeses to stylish clothing and electronic gadgets. Then, when you’re done with the market stalls you can choose an indulgent treat from one of the huge range of caterers, from chilli sausages and hog roasts to ice cream and doughnuts!

7. Take high tea in style in the Lake District

What more traditional way to spoil your mum that with the elegance of taking afternoon tea? Enjoy delicate, finger cut sandwiches, freshly baked scones with real clotted cream, the finest teas and perhaps even a glass of Champagne. There are lots of city locations for afternoon tea, of course, but the restaurants and cafes of the Lake District offer a special combination of high tea and stunning views. For a choice of beautiful and luxurious lakeside locations head for Coniston, Windermere, Ambleside, Ullswater or Derwent Water.

8. Discover the gardens and parks of the Peak District

Buxton Gardens

For glorious gardens, stately homes and picturesque parkland it’s difficult to beat the gorgeous Peak District. From the magnificent Chatsworth to Lyme Park, Rode Hall, Calke Abbey and the Pavilion Gardens, there are some fantastic places to explore in Derbyshire and the surrounding areas. For a Mother’s Day treat, the Heights of Abraham offers a fabulous cable car journey across the Derwent Valley.

9. Follow the fashion and sparkle trail in Birmingham

If your mum is focused on fashion, why not head to Birmingham? Its world famous jewellery quarter boasts more than 100 independent retail jewellers, and you can find immaculately hand crafted pieces at unbelievable prices. Then head down to the canalside and the former mail sorting office, which is now home to some of the world’s top designer names alongside some exclusive bars and eateries to make her day really special.

10. Search for sun in Eastbourne

Mid march is not necessarily the best time of year to head down to the sea, but if your mum is keen on a bit of early seaside fun it makes sense to head to the place that claims it’s the sunniest place in Britain. Eastbourne, in East Sussex, offers dazzlingly white shingle beaches, grand Victorian terraces and some good old fashioned pub grub.

Wales: Travel Highlights for St David’s Day

St David’s Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, and falls on 1st March every year, the day of his death in 569. It’s a great time to celebrate all things Welsh, and has been a national day since the 1900s.

Spring is a good time generally to travel to Wales – all the flowers are starting to come out, but the high summer crowds have not arrived. The weather is often ideal for walking, biking and getting about in the crisp but not freezing air as you absorb all that this spectacular part of the world has to offer. It’s a time of year when colours look gorgeously fresh as well, so it can feel very energising.

What to visit…

The Gower Peninsula

gower peninsula

The Gower Peninsula was the UK’s first place to become an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966. Surrounded by the Atlantic and the Bristol Sea, Gower’s truly spectacular landscape is dotted with castles, prehistoric stones, churches and other reminders of Wales’s rich past. All these are set against a breathtaking backdrop of beaches, valleys, woodland and stunning clifftop views.

Mumbles

mumbles

Mumbles is often referred to as the Gateway to Gower, as it marks the start of this stretch of coastline. It is a popular area of Swansea and an old haunt of Dylan Thomas. Cosmopolitan yet cosy, and with some great shopping and eateries, Mumbles is a fantastic area to visit because there are lots of things to see and do. There is a lighthouse that was constructed in 1794, a Victorian pier, Oystermouth Castle, and incredible sea views.

Pendine Sands

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This is a glorious seven mile stretch of beach on the Welsh south coast, along the shores of Carmarthen Bay. It reaches from Gilman Point at its western end to Laugharne Sands in the east. Pendine village itself is nearer the western end. Used as a track for motorbike and car racing in the early 1900s, the beach has been described as “the finest natural speedway imaginable,” and it was used as a firing range in the Second World War. The Museum of Speed is open in Pendine village in the summer.

Caerphilly Castle

caerphilly castle

Used as the backdrop for the popular TV series Merlin, and offering free entry on St David’s Day, Caerphilly Castle is one of western Europe’s great medieval fortresses, and the continent’s second biggest castle. It’s famous for its great hall, gatehouses and ‘leaning’ tower, and is surrounded by extensive artificial lakes. Work on building it began in the 13th century – as part of Gilbert de Clare’s campaign to conquer Glamorgan.

Fairbourne

Sunset and reflection on baech at Barmouth, Wales UK

This delightful village and seaside resort is on the coast of Barmouth Bay, in Gwynedd, south of the River Mawddach estuary and surrounded by Snowdonia National Park. The area boasts a two mile Blue Flag beach of golden sands, is accessible for wheelchairs and prams, and the beach is fronted by tank traps known as Dragon’s Teeth, which date back to World War II. At the same time, the popular narrow-gauge Fairbourne Railway links the village with Penrhyn Point in the warmer months, and the Barmouth Ferry leaves from the seaward end of the railway.

Caernarfon

caernarfon castle

The royal town of Caernarfon has been inhabited continuously since pre-Roman times, and is dominated by Edward I’s medieval fortress, where Prince Charles had his investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969. The castle is probably the most famous in Wales, thanks to its commanding presence and sheer scale. The town itself has everything a visitor could need, with plenty of good places to eat and stay.

Cardiff

cardiff

There are so many reasons to visit and enjoy the Welsh capital and its line-up of unique attractions, from its quality shops to the enticing blend of modern architecture and historic buildings. Cardiff Bay has entertainment for everyone. Stroll around Bute Park, take in Cardiff Castle, and visit the Doctor Who Experience – or perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to catch a game at the Millennium Centre?

Easy to get to and around, Cardiff really is a city with something for everyone.

Snowdonia National Park

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Located on the west coast, Snowdonia National Park covers over 820 miles of diverse landscapes, and is Wales’s biggest national park. It’s also home to the highest mountain to be found in Wales, as well as the biggest natural lake and an array of beautiful villages, such as Betws y Coed and Beddgelert.

This is also a great place to immerse yourself in Welsh history and culture, since over half the population is Welsh-speaking.

Other highlights

Ystradfellte

With so much to take in and experience in Wales, these highlights are just the start! From the waterfalls at Ystradfellte to Dylan Thomas’s house at Laugharne, from the Pembrokeshire coastal path to the red stone walls of Powis Castle and the majesty of Tintern Abbey – there’s something new to experience each time you visit.

Cottage of the Week – Captain Cook’s Cottage, Seaview, Isle of Wight

Nestled near the seafront in the delightful fishing village of Seaview on the Isle’s northern coast, this charming holiday cottage is the perfect place to relax, unwind and soak in the sights whilst you breathe the wonderful sea air.

Captain Cook’s Cottage is one of  several family-sized holiday properties set within the same development. Enjoy cycle rides, bird-watching, gentle walks, exploring coves and beaches, a host of nearby attractions and the quaint streets and gentle ambience of the village itself.

Sleeping 8, Captain Cook’s Cottage is the ideal retreat for larger families and groups – and when you factor in the other properties sleeping between 4 and 8, you’ll find the perfect setting for family gatherings and celebrations.

View more on the property listing on cottages4you.

Cottage of the Week – The Windmill, Tynlon nr Rhosneigr

Featured on Channel 4’s ’Restoration Man’ with George Clarke, The Windmill (ref 29567) has been the subject of a simply stunning restoration, which makes this a cosy and quirky place to stay. With stunning views over the surrounding countryside and full of original features, this property is oozing with character. Sleeps 4. Find more info and make a booking on the property’s listing on cottages4you.

Our top romantic spots for St. Valentine’s Day

When did you last send a Valentine’s Card? As far back as the 18th century, lovers gave tokens of their affection on this day, and despite the commercialisation it’s still a great reason for spending time with your loved one.

You needn’t venture far as the UK has all the stunning scenic locations, cosy eateries and dark starry skies to guarantee a good time. And what’s more in the winter season it really will be just the two of you.

Click on an image below to start the tour – and find some stunning last minute romantic accommodation on cottages4you.